Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fireman Bullied at Tucson Fire Department

Last Spring, a Tucson firefighter began litigation proceedings against the Tucson Fire Department for their bullying activities against him. Adam Neal accused his co-workers of harassment that included “tying him up with duct tape,” according to an Associated Press article in the Arizona Republic.

Neal stated he endured daily abuse that his supervisors at the Fire Department said was “just part of the training.” Eventually, due to the stress induced by these workplace bullies, Neal required four days of inpatient therapy for depression.

As often happens, the claim was settled out of court. In this case, the settlement was $60,000 but, of course, the Tucson Fire Department had no comment.

From a bottom-line perspective, this case cost much more than $60,000. One of the additional costs includes the time wasted on non-productive activities:
-time devoted to bullying
-time lost due to low employee engagement of the bullies and their target
-time spent on preparing and defending the case
That’s only the beginning.

The next time an organization calls you requesting a contribution, you might want to think about it twice before donating your hard-earned dollars. Do a little research first to learn whether the organization in question has wasted its funds on bullying and other forms of harassment. Somebody has to pay the costs of bullying. But I don’t want to. And you probably don’t either.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Workplace Bullies in Training

Obsessive anti-social and paranoid behaviors are rampant among today’s young people. These disorders are not mere quirks, but are serious enough that they interfere with ordinary functioning. So reports Dr. Mark Olufson of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Dr. Olufson and co-authors published a study this month in the Archives of General Psychiatry, which found that if drug and alcohol abuse are included, one-half of more than 5,000 young people (19 – 25) surveyed have some type of psychiatric condition. Second only to drug and alcohol abuse, personality disorders were the single largest category.

The statistics are frightening when we consider that at least 25 percent of these young adults will not receive treatment, yet most of them will likely be in workplace environments, if they aren’t already. Is it any wonder that workplace bullying is a worldwide epidemic and is on the increase?

Antisocial and paranoid behaviors are two descriptors frequently associated with workplace bullies. It seems that future workplace bullies are in training on college campuses and elsewhere right now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Are Workplace Bullies Animal Abusers?

Will current attention and discussion on workplace bullies expose animal abusers? Think about it.

Workplace bullies are likely to have been schoolyard bullies. As very young children schoolyard bullies were probably cruel to animals. This is well researched and documented.

The path leading from small children who pull wings off butterflies to bullies in the workplace is logical, and why would we believe that a person who undermines and terrifies a fellow employee wouldn’t continue to abuse animals, especially convenient household pets? Or even worse, sponsor or breed dogs for pit fights? The thought sickens me.

More on this later.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Makes Bullies’ Brains Brighten?

Is it possible bullies can’t help being bullies? According to a recent study from the University of Chicago, behaving like a bully gives bullies pleasure.

Dr. Benjamin Lahey, a psychologist and co-author of the study had expected that bullies would be indifferent to the pain of others. Contrary to expectations, Dr. Lahey found that when 16- to 18-year-old boys observed videos depicting painful situations, both accidental and intentional, they registered brain activity in pleasure-related and pain-related areas. Additionally, their brain scans showed NO activity in the portion of the brain that helps regulate self-control.

Not only do bullies experience pleasure from seeing people in pain, but they are likely to respond to perceived “threats” or “insults” with knee-jerk, out-of-control behaviors—a dangerous combination that is positively reinforced every time they bully somebody.

What can be done? Dr. Lahey looks to the development of therapies to either treat or compensate for bullies’ lack of self-regulation.

For further work with students and communities regarding school bullying, visit the Olweus Bully Prevention Program site. This program began in Bergen, Norway, with the research of Dan Olweus, Ph.D., and is jointly supported in the United States by Hazelden (Minnesota) and Clemson University, where many people have been trained in the Olweus system and are now dispersed across the nation.

Thank you to Jackie Dishner, The Bike Lady, for drawing my attention to this study.

Jean R. McFarland, Ph.D. Author of Bullies Among Us, What To Do When Work's No Fun

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kitty's "I'm In Charge of Me" Mindset

Negative behaviors at work disrupt performance and tend to lower employee morale, often causing employees to feel they have no control over their situations. I suggest that if employees deal with negative behaviors at the onset, they more likely than not can maintain an “I’m in charge of me” mindset. One of my colleagues, Kitty Wiemelt, wrote these words in her October 01, 2008, blog. Please visit her at Balancing the Winds of Change. I believe you will be inspired.

Also welcome two more NSA colleagues:

June Liggins

Bonnie Mattick

Jean R. McFarland, Ph.D.
Author of Bullies Among Us. What To Do When Work's No Fun

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Blogathon: New Resources

Another Blogathon has begun: The 100 Day Blogathon. Following are the names and addresses of members who are great resources in a variety of fields. Check out their sites:

Mimi Meredith

Kitty Wiemelt

Jackie Dishner

Suzy Graven

Jean R. McFarland
Author of Bullies Among Us. What To Do When Work’s No Fun

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Job One: Banish Bad Apples

I’m delighted to announce that my new book, Bullies Among Us. What To Do When Work’s No Fun, is now available at Amazon Online and Barnes & Noble bookstores!

Here’s what one reader says:

” Jean McFarland’s Bullies Among Us needs to be put ahead of pivotal business books like Winning and Built to Last -– for the simple reason that winning cultures and sustainable growth cannot be fostered without first addressing bullying. Put another way, identifying and throwing out the Bad Apples is job one.”--Tricia Hamrin, UpFront Productions

Bullies, the worst of the Bad Apples, abound in workplaces all around the world. Look around you. Two out of every five Americans have experienced bullying at work. As though bullies don’t cause enough devastation through tormenting their targets, they also cost businesses billions of dollars each year in obvious and hidden costs.

Bullies Among Us tells you as a manager or as a target how to deal with the bullies in your workplace: Job One!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bullies and Nice Don’t Mix

Now, be nice! After all, you don’t want to burn any bridges behind you!

How many times in childhood did you hear the statement, “Now, be nice”? As an adult, how many times have you heard or thought, “Don’t burn your bridges behind you” —another way of saying, “Be Nice”?

Generally, when people are nice, they are treated nicely in return, but that’s not the case when you are the target of a bully. In my personal and professional experience, behaving nicely, pleasantly, or kindly to your bully simply elicits more bullying behavior directly aimed at you, the target. Bullies can view your pleasantries and niceness as yet another way that you surpass or threaten them, or they may see your behavior as a weakness. Regardless, your behavior fuels their desire to be rid of you.

Remember, bullies and psychopaths rarely think and respond as their targets would. More likely than not, reasoning won’t work and niceness will aggravate the situation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Higher Education Bullies. When will people learn?

Last week, I had a very meaningful conversation with a woman who, as the first female president of a 100-year-old state college, battled against two bullies for more than three years before she felt compelled to resign due to their complete undermining of her position and career. At the same time, despite attacks on all fronts, this amazing woman racked up numerous successes in developing, advancing, and promoting the college.

From the time Dr. Uma Gupta assumed the position of President of the college until her resignation, she was systematically bullied by the Vice President of Administrative Affairs and the Vice President for Academic Affairs in a detailed, joint plot to remove Dr. Gupta and make the VP of Academic Affairs interim president.

The two VP bullies lied to Dr. Gupta and lied about her, not only among administration and faculty, but also to students, campus-wide. They phoned her house during the night, and hung up without speaking. They pulled their cars in and out of her driveway in the middle of the night. They stalked her when she was on personal errands and shopping. They began sending emails via her college ID code. In a word, the bullies were relentless, but Dr. Gupta managed to deal with it until they launched an anonymous, mean-spirited blog, available to the entire campus and the world.

“At that point,” said Dr. Gupta, “it became so big, there was no way you could get your arms around it.” Despite the evidence against the VP bullies, for the sake of her family, the college, and herself, it was time to resign.

Today Dr. Gupta is a successful entrepreneur with particular focus on India. Her consulting company, Global Cube It, ( brings insight and expertise to three practice areas: global business development; internationalization of universities; and educational, spiritual, and service-oriented tours.

For Dr. Gupta’s official account of her experience as the target of malicious workplace bullies, visit

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Small Town, Big Bullies

Rosalea Hostetler contacted me a few weeks ago and began to tell me her story, but stopped in frustration, saying it was too much to talk about, to relive in a few communications. Now, she is writing her story of working endlessly to preserve the history and culture of her home county in Kansas.

The following is excerpted from an article by Rosalea Hostetler, (Harper, KS, USA) titled Bullying on the Prairie.

"You know how you sometimes have an “eureka” moment in life, when you “finally get it”? Recently I had that moment when it finally sunk in that the reason my journey for the past 40 years has been so hard in Harper County Kansas has been the incessant bullying. It took me my entire life to finally truly understand that I had been a target and of the brutal impact Harper County bullies have had on my life, my health and on the 501(c) (3) nonprofit I established to preserve the history, art & culture of the prairies for future generations. Tragically, this abuse of power has also nearly obliterated our small town. It is not Wal-Mart -- rather, it is the abuses bestowed by bullies in “leadership” on the good people, the talented people who do not have the energy or knowledge to fight such rotten apples."

"Because I have stood up to the bullies, told the truth and stayed the course, I have lost virtually everything once important in my life: my Mennonite church, my family ties, two husbands (also bullies) and school chum friendships. For years I was taunted as “the problem.” (I cried a lot in those days.) I’ve lost so much in my life that there is nothing left to lose so now I am ready to speak up wherever I can to tell the world about the horrors of small town bullies with the hopes of bringing Hope to our small prairie towns."

For more from Rosalea on this topic, visit her new blog:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bullies Among Us

This is the first announcement of my new book, which is scheduled to be published next month. It is titled—but what else?—Bullies Among Us. What to Do When Work’s No Fun and is a resource for targets of bullies and for managers of bullies and targets.

Among other places, it will be available in the bookstore of the Human Resources-Southwest Regional Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, when I co-present with Bonnie Mattick,, on workplace behaviors as related to employee engagement.

I am most grateful to Bob Kelly of and Vickie Mullins,, for their help and guidance in producing this book.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

International Workplace Bullying Conference

The Sixth International Workplace Bullying Conference came to North America for the first time when convened in Montreal, June 2008. During the Conference, the Founding Board formed a new organization, The International Association on Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace.

Founding Board members stem from
• The National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Denmark
• University of Quebec, Montreal
• Centre for Research on Workplace Behaviour, Wales
• University of Bergen, Norway
• Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki
• Portsmouth Business School, UK

The origins of the Board members testifies to the fact that Workplace Bullying is and has been taken very seriously in European countries, more so than in the United States. Yet, the problem is rampant here as well.

Cultural characteristics account for some of the difference in outlook and approach to workplace bullying. For example, overall, United States culture is more individualistic than that of any of the countries mentioned above. That people should take care of their own problems is common thinking. Also, Canada, Finland, Denmark, and Norway have been characterized by research as Feminine cultures, that is, more concerned about people and relationships than are Masculine cultures, such as the U.S., which focus on achievement above relationships.

However, the United States was represented at the Conference by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Ph.D., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, who was voted to the Inaugural Board of Directors of the new International Association. Dr. Lutgen-Sandvik has conducted in-depth research on workplace bullying.

The anti-bullying movement is gaining strength in the U.S. Thirteen states have introduced anti-bullying bills, some repeatedly. None have passed—yet. As was the case with legislation against sexual harassment, it’s only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, helping targets of bullies to take self-defensive action is key to their survival.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Political Parties Differ in Response to Bullying Question

In this year of the presidential election, it is interesting to note the difference among members of the three political parties in terms of workplace bullying. When asked who had NEVER seen or experienced bullying, 57% of Republicans responded, 43% of Independents, and 39% of Democrats. Would knowing these differences affect your choice of presidential candidate?

Source: Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby Interntional’s U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, 2007.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Workplace Bullying vs. Domestic Bullying

I recently corresponded with a woman who reports having been stalked for nine years by an ex-boyfriend, a doctor who works in a hospital. I don’t doubt her when she says, “I have a big load of problems.” Nor do I doubt that she is bullied, but there is a distinction between workplace bullying and “domestic” bullying. Stalking and domestic abuse are matters for law enforcement officials; whereas, workplace bullying isn’t illegal, yet. Thirteen states have introduced bills to make workplace bullying illegal. So far, none have passed, but I expect eventually a bill will pass into law, and others will follow.

This photo was taken in an artist’s shop in South Africa. It’s cute and funny, but it’s also a reminder to know where your kids are and what they are doing.

Childhood bullies grow up to be workplace bullies, and without their parent’s help and support, childhood targets can become adult targets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Bottom-line Wins

In response to a recent blog posting here, the question arose as to WHY do organizations put up with bullies. A key answer is $$$$. Yesterday, I spoke to a small business owner, who employs 50 people, regarding a workplace bully. The bully in this case is bullying the owner! Yes, it does happen.

To a large degree, the owner understands what is happening as a result of this bully. However, the owner has tolerated the bully’s behavior for four years because the bully pulls in high-level, critical sums of revenue. This individual is well known in the relevant industry for top-level sales, and probably for negative behaviors and personality, as well.

When it comes to the bottom-line (tangible factor) versus employees’ welfare (intangible), the bottom-line usually prevails. It’s easy to calculate the bottom-line, but not the effects of a bully on employee morale and productivity, in general.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Rat in a Glass Aquarium

The following quote is from a woman who told me of being bullied by the person in the adjoining cubicle—another woman who had been hired the same day and quickly developed intense jealousy toward my contact.

“The long-term effect of working under these conditions with such a toxic personality was that I began to feel like a lab rat in a glass aquarium. I suffered from mild depression, gained weight, and watched my blood pressure rise to the point that my doctor prescribed medication. I had no energy, no drive. I felt beaten and worthless and trapped--and it began to show in my work. After seven years, I was terminated, but ultimately, found other work where I thrived. She is still employed there, but reportedly, has driven off two of my successors in the same manner--one after only six months.”

This is just one more example of the devastating effects bullies have—psychological, physical, and financial—on targets and the companies they work for. In the United States, fifty-four million employees are bullied at work, both men and women. Yet, management turns the other way.

The toll should be too great to ignore.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I’ve Joined a Blogathon!

I never thought I would join a blogathon. I just couldn’t imagine having time to keep up with one, and, frankly, I still can’t, but I’m going to do my best.

I would like you to meet my fellow bloggers, a group of first-rate professionals, most of whom I have known for a long time through the Arizona chapter of the National Speakers Association:

Jackie Dishner, a travel writer, loves biking with “mental” components. and

Susan Ratliff is a trade show expert who shares great ideas for entrepreneurs to increase their visibility.

Andrea Beaulieu teaches how to find your authentic voice and live life at its best.

Mimi Meredith inspires people to build better lives, workplaces, and communities.

Beth Terry shares commonsense solutions to everyday work and life issues.

Vickie Mullins is a designer of logos and print collateral who shows her stuff.

Michelle May, a physician and author, helps you know how to eat for the right reason-when you’re hungry.

Stanley Bronstein, Mr. Achiever, motivates people to perform at their best.

Suzanne Holman, a productivity coach, helps you earn the millions that you deserve.

Suzy Graven, an inspiring speaker and life/business coach, offers a fresh perspective for women who feel stuck in their professional and personal lives.

Stephanie Angelo helps organizations raise productivity by reducing domestic violence

Quinn McDonald is a trainer, speaker, and life/creativity coach.

Arlene Rosenberg, a professional and personal development coach and consultant, provides tips and tools to help executives and entrepreneurs get to the next level in business.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bullies vs. Engaged Employees

We hear a lot about employee engagement—or rather about lack of employee engagement. It made me wonder whether bullies can be among the small group of engaged employees (about 25%) in the U.S. workforce.

Two thoughts on this:
1. Bullies usually are set on undermining and driving out other employees, their target(s), who more often than not are the best employees.
2. Engaged employees are described as motivated to help their organization succeed; looking for opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills; and appreciative of challenges at work. Engaged employees move the organization forward.

Logic says bullies cannot be engaged employees while actively undermining their engaged co-workers. More likely, bullies are in the “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” employee groups. Neither is concerned with advancing the organization.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fear Is Pent-Up Energy, So Use It

Several years ago, my university speech professor told me that the feelings we experience before presenting a speech—the knot in the stomach, shaky hands, and pounding heart—are no more than pent-up energy. Adrenaline floods the blood stream for fight or flight. Fight or flight implies action. We must take physical action to reduce the adrenaline and reduce the fear.

The targets of Bad Apples experience the same physical sensations when they think about meeting up with their tormentors. Consuming pent-up energy with physical activity just before seeing the Bad Apple will help a little, activity such as briskly walking from the back of the parking lot to the office building, squeezing your hands together as hard as possible, shaking your head and neck vigorously to relieve the strain, or slipping into the rest room and jumping up and down several times. These actions may seem silly, but they do help.

However, activities that help targets gain control have the longest lasting effect. One of these is self-education on bullying, bullies, and their targets. The more people understand, the harder it is to put them down. The second most important activity concerns staying connected. Bad Apples, especially bullies, try to isolate their targets, to cut them off from communication with and support of peers and superiors. It is crucial that targets talk with other employees, family, and friends about what is happening and feel assured of their support. Then they are empowered to take action and take control.