Thursday, August 29, 2013

Woman at Work


Today I'm taking a break from blogging as I work on a book chapter (already overdue—oops!) about workplace bullying with HR as both target AND bully. Good stuff. (Well, you know what I mean.)

It's been like, a million years since I've written an academic paper, so please keep your fingers crossed as I wrestle with the APA style guide.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Fool For You

Earlier this month, Personality and Social Psychology Review published an article titled, “The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations,” which concluded that religious people are less intelligent than atheists.

According to the Huffington Post, lead author Professor Miron Zuckerman of the University of Rochester and team drew from sixty-three scientific studies going back to 1928 to form their conclusion.

For purposes of the study, intelligence was defined as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience.”
Well, that sounds like a pretty good definition. I won’t quibble about it.
And I won’t even quibble about the focus on what the authors call “religiosity,” which is defined as “involvement in some (or all) facets of religion, which includes belief in the supernatural, offering gifts to this supernatural, and performing rituals affirming their beliefs” although I know for a fact there’s a marked difference between someone like myself—who professes to have a personal relationship with Jesus—and someone who is merely “religious.” (Go ahead and get mad if you disagree. That’s your prerogative.)
But I’ll say this. While reading the various reviews of the study, two things immediately come to mind.
The first is 2 Timothy 3: 7, in which Paul describes a type of person in the last days who is “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
The second is the song "Fool For You," by Nicole Nordeman, which contains the lyrics:
I’d be a fool for you
Oh because you asked me to
A simpleton who’s seemingly na├»ve
I do believe
You came and made yourself a fool for me

And I honestly don’t care who thinks I’m less than bright for wanting to “chant a dead man’s name” or for believing that he can “walk on waves,” to quote two other lines from Nordeman’s song. So be it.

It’s an interesting study, though.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Power in the Workplace—Hate the Game, Not the Ball

Today I read an article titled "The 7 Types of Power That Shape the Workplace," inspired by the book What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues, by Nicole Lipkin, and to be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment. The reason is, the article just barely scratched the surface of what power is, how it’s used and misused, and why people are so attracted to it. (I guess I’ll need to read the book, huh?)

Power in the workplace is a topic that interests me greatly. You can’t advance one iota in the workplace without becoming keenly aware of power differentials and how power is used as both a force for good and harm. I’m of the  opinion that desiring power is not in and of itself bad. I've always sought power in my jobs. Why? Because with power you can actually make an impact and get stuff done. Without it, you can’t.

And it does no good to pound your fists against your chest while crying out against the unfairness of it all, as I've seen some younger workers do (metaphorically speaking, that is) because somebody had more power than they and had the authority to expect certain things. 

(I once had an employee tell me she didn't understand why she had to be the one to proactively keep her manager in the loop, when if her manager wanted to know something the manager could just ask. Yes dear. But your manager has the power, and she requested that you proactively keep her informed, okay?)

That said, power must be used responsibly. Sadly, however, many of us don’t have the maturity or the character to do that, I’m afraid. The saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a wise saying, indeed. 

I know what I’m talking about. When I was in the fourth grade, I was removed from my post as Line Monitor (and stripped of my shiny badge, too) for bossing around the first graders (“Get back in line, you!”). I’d gotten a taste of the Capital P, and it was some heady stuff, man.

Workplace bullying is all about power. Despite what some experts will claim, I maintain that some targets have what Lipkin calls “referent power,” defined as “the ability to convey a sense of personal acceptance or approval. [Referent power] is held by people with charisma, integrity, and other positive qualities,” which I  believe their bullies envy. I always urge targets of bullying to remember this, because their bullies are pulling out all the stops to make the targets feel like crap, as though they’re deficient somehow, when the opposite is usually closer to the truth.

In Why Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely, Dr. Robert Aziz writes a very, well … powerful article about power and its debasing characteristics. In the piece, Dr. Aziz also makes an excellent point that I know for a fact to be true about the manager bullies I’ve encountered—they’re just not very competent. Not as managers, anyway. And that incompetence leads to bad management that often includes abuse of power, absent actual malice. 

(Not that this is a complete comfort to the poor souls toiling under these managers, but it helps a little to understand. As they say, knowledge is power, right?)

Monday, August 26, 2013

When Diversity Just Isn't Diverse Enough

Well, call me a “Negative Nelly,” but I fear we are smack dab in the middle of a good old-fashioned diversity backlash.

What's a diversity backlash? It's that thing you're in when you mention the importance of workplace diversity and people roll their eyes.

Only this backlash is a little different. 

People are okay talking about diversity in general … they just don't want to talk about racial diversity.

I think I know a little bit about diversity backlashes. When I entered the profession back in ’97, whaddaya know? Diversity backlash!

Back then, every other article I read about diversity centered on how the “traditional” way of viewing the issue—through a race lens—just wasn’t diverse enough. In fact, suggest that your organization could benefit from “diversity training,” and you were liable to get a dirty look, or perhaps a lecture about how you weren’t being progressive. Not everything is about race, you know.

What’s more, the literature began referring to how white people (especially white men) were gosh darn sick and tired of being characterized as the “bad guys” who needed to get “fixed” via “training.” Another approach to this issue had to be found.

Okay, fair enough.

So, the net was widened, and diversity began to include differences in marital status, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, caregiver status, political affiliation, religious affiliation, and other characteristics.

And then, the net got even wider, and we started talking about diversity of thought and diversity in learning styles, communications styles, and styles of resolving conflict.

And all of that is great. I’m a total fan. It’s fascinating stuff, and there’s a lot we can learn from each other by being open and watchful.

But none of that changes this—

Last week, I had a little email chat with attorney and employee advocate extraordinaire, Donna Ballman, she of the website Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home and author of Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards.

I’d asked Donna for some insight on racism from the perspective of white people (for another article I’m writing), but Donna had so much to say I might be quoting her all week!

For now, however, listen to this:

“In my 27 years of law practice [I’ve seen] every type of discrimination imaginable. I can say with 100% certainty that racism still exists. I had a guy in my office today whose boss used the n-word and other racial epithets. But, I also see white employees who are victimized by non-white bosses or coworkers. I also see color discrimination, that is, people of the same race but a lighter or darker shade discriminating against each other.”

Race problem, people.

So, by all means, let’s continue to attempt honest conversations about differences in personality and religious affiliation and sexual orientation or what have you.

But let us not forget—we’ve still got race issues. Big ones.

And gathering all of our differences, and then tying the whole bunch with a big old “diversity” bow, isn’t going to resolve them, either. In fact, I’d venture to say that some of us are actually taking the opportunity to bury our racism weeds deep within that bouquet, hoping nobody will notice them amongst all the pretty flowers.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bullied Kids Get More Cancer as Adults, Study Says

Well, yet another infuriating study about the long-term affects of bullying, albeit with a twist, has just been released.

According to Wolke et al, authors of "Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime, and Social Outcomes,” kids who are bullied, as well as those who bully, are more likely to suffer serious long-term healthcare issues such as diabetes, cancer, and obesity than children who haven’t been part of the “bullying cycle.”

However, let’s be clear. The bullying targets have a much harder time as adults than the bullies, with significantly higher rates of disease, job troubles, and poor relationships with family and friends.

Study co-author William Copeland, an associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine, was quoted by NPR’s Shots as saying, "What we saw for them was this really pervasive pattern where they were impaired across a lot of areas."

This is so sad, and it feels kind of hopeless. For a variety of reasons I’ve been thinking about the residual affects of childhood trauma, and I guess the good news is that studies such as this reinforce the need for early intervention. Of course, adults have to recognize the problem first, and many still don’t. Or won’t. I’m not sure which.

For example, I read through a bunch of comments to Shots' article and was somewhat surprised by those (presumed) adults who responded by blaming the victim, wondering out loud what he did to get someone’s ire up. (Was he too fat? Too socially awkward? Too disabled?) And then there are those who question the study’s validity, suggesting that perhaps there’s a correlation between being bullied as a child and a later higher incidence disease but no proof of a causal relationship.

I suppose they’re being good little scientists, but frankly I don’t give a flying fig whether there’s causation or merely a strong correlation. Because between the study, the testimonies of those who’ve been bullied as children, and my memory, I’ve got all the proof I need.

Still, others disagree. One commenter wrote:

“Could it be that weak children are bullied because they ARE weak (and then the weak also grow up to be weak adults)?”

To which I say—for God’s sake dude, put down that copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species before you hurt yourself! A “weak” child (whatever the heck that means) later grows into a “weak” (i.e., susceptible to disease adult)? And that’s more plausible than believing that someone who’s been abused could suffer ill health as a result? Come on.

Listen, I’m no therapist, and maybe a therapist could straighten me out.

But I tend to think that since humans are social beings, marked social disapproval (not to mention physical and verbal mistreatment) weighs heavy on a child and later contributes to (if not causes) all kinds of lingering feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-doubt. It really doesn’t seem that complicated to me. But again, I’m open to hearing something different from a qualified individual.

In the meantime, bullying is wrong, okay? It’s not a harmless activity that all kids must endure during the normal course of development and can then just forget about.

If you’re an adult with some authority and are receiving complaints about bullying, for crying out loud listen up and do something. It’s the only responsible response.