Guest Post: Civility in the Face of Bullying

The following is a guest post by Jay Remer, known across Canada as The Etiquette Guy.

Bullies seem to rule the world today. Thanks to the abuse of power that fuels their egos, society feels the heavy burden of injustice and discrimination on many levels. There is little or no time set aside for dialogue or discussion. Every day we see news headlines demonstrating this sorry and frightening state of affairs. The rhetoric of fear used by today’s leaders to gain and maintain control over their employees and constituents has led many of us to step out of the fray and become bystanders. This is exactly what helps perpetuate the culture of bullying that is so prevalent.

Now is the time to stand up to bullies and take action. If we put ourselves in other people’s shoes to understand what it feels like to work in an environment where the deck is stacked in favor of aggressiveness, to feel oppressed, and to carry these feelings back to our homes and families, we would understand why we become frozen and unable to know how to make things better.

I have written about The Golden Rule and Common Sense for many years. We are inching closer and closer towards an Emotion Revolution, when we will understand how feelings drive our behavior and injustice will no longer be tolerated. A time when we understand that diversity, inclusion, and equality are essential to living the fulfilling life we all deserve – as a right, not as a privilege.

The question arises – what steps can we take to make that change? How do we go about moving from the awkward and uncomfortable position of the bystander into the role of resister and activist? Naturally, most of us are reticent to take on such a mantel for fear that we will lose our job, our friends, and even our families.

These changes must begin at home where our support systems are usually the strongest. As we build foundations of trust within the family, we can continue them into our communities. At work, leaders must understand that their employees’ engagement and productivity is dependent upon the support they are provided.

High-stress jobs, such as the armed services (including the RCMP), health care, and education, require far more support than they presently receive. We have all heard the old argument: that people who enter these professions should know ahead of time that the jobs are high stress. This argument does not mean that appropriate support is not essential. 

No one is going to argue that first responders and others are very susceptible to PTSD. For those of you unfamiliar with living with this painful condition, I can assure you that the agony endured on a daily basis is at time unbearable, hence the hundreds of suicides victims commit annually. Psychological and physical support must be improved and increased significantly to realize any real improvement. The change needs to be systemic; the old band-aid approach no longer is sufficient.

Most of us have experienced or have friends who have experienced difficult situations at work. These difficulties can take on a whole range of manifestations, none of which are enviable. What we can do about these issues is found within the Six Pillars of Civility, a framework I have devised that incorporates the essential life principles needed to create and maintain a sustainable and healthy society and a psychologically safe and fair workplace.

Our elected officials and corporate leaders must take the lead and be held to the highest standards. Inclusivity should be the goal of any healthy organization, where diversity is valued and recognized as an engine for creativity and innovation and is an automatic part of any workplace.

I was criticized lately for a stance I took on the radio about equality. I stated that I was baffled by the need to have such discussions anymore. Not everyone agrees with me, nor does everyone believe equality is realistic or appropriate. Some early scientific studies suggest that men and women have clearly differing skill sets, thus justifying such companies as Google to hire a widely disproportionate number of men for programming and other high-tech jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The work currently being carried out at Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence provides quite a different and enlightened understanding of the subject. If we are to achieve cultural changes within organizations, we must treat everyone equally and with respect. Our communications must be honest and open. Remember the etiquette rule espoused by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, where he advises us to never speak ill of someone not present to defend him or herself. 

Human beings have many more shared qualities than divergent ones. While both are essential, focusing solely on our differences allows us to fall into the trap of tossing out the baby with the bathwater. I suggest that we must refocus our attention on positive virtues, on encouraging others to achieve their best with the support required for the job at hand, and on insisting, either vocally or by the written word, that fairness must replace bias; that humility must replace bullying; and that honesty and civility must replace the distractions, diversions, and denials that allow bullies to run the show. The time to begin is now – first with us, then with our families, our community and our places of work. Imagine what a different world we would be leaving our children and grandchildren!

Illustration credit: Mike Shapiro/For Capital Business

How the Workplace Bullying Institute and Bullying Expert Barbara Coloroso Used Media and Search Engine Optimization as Weapons

We have just distributed the release below to the press about my recent court case against author and bullying expert Barbara Coloroso. As pointed out in the release below, the Toronto Star published an article about the dispute which favoured Coloroso and portrayed me in a negative light.  Coloroso was the source of the article but perjured herself by denying it under oath.  The article has been highly ranked in Google search results of my name for years now, and was linked to multiple times by the website of the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI).  The director of the Institute is Dr. Gary Namie, who is a friend and colleague of Coloroso.  I can now better appreciate how the media and SEO can be used as powerful weapons by bullies. And who would know more about this than so-called bullying experts?

WBI represents itself as the first and only non-profit that deals with eradicating bullying in the workplace. Clearly they shouldn’t be in the business of advising people who have been bullied, but even more worrying is the fact that Namie, the WBI founder, is also the national director of a national grassroots legislative movement to enact an anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. While the bill has been brought before state legislatures numerous times, to date none have passed and they have been unsuccessful in bringing the matter before Congress.   


A five-year legal battle with a co-author has ended in defeat for Barbara Coloroso.  The bestselling author and bullying expert admitted to perjury on the eve of trial, and agreed to a settlement requiring her to make a cash payment and written apology.

 The litigation arose from a 2010 agreement between Coloroso and Andrew Faas, a Canadian philanthropist and retired senior executive, to collaborate on a book on bullying in the workplace for HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. However, Coloroso refused to complete her share of the book, accusing Faas of plagiarism.  Both HarperCollins and Faas were willing to address Coloroso’s concerns through the editing process, but Coloroso declined.  HarperCollins terminated the agreement, as no finished manuscript was delivered.  Faas and Coloroso sued each other for breach of contract.  The action was commenced in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Court File No. CV-12-454927).

In 2013, Faas sought to publish his own book on bullying in the workplace, The Bully’s Trap, with a new publisher.  Unbeknownst to Faas, the publisher made The Bully’s Trap available for sale on its website before it was finished.  Coloroso purchased the book and claimed that it infringed her copyright.  The Bully’s Trap was immediately pulled from the website.  Only two electronic and paperback copies were sold during the six weeks that the book was offered for sale, one of each to Coloroso. Nevertheless, she claimed $5 million from Faas for copyright infringement.

Coloroso told a Toronto Star newspaper reporter Amy Dempsey about her dispute with Faas, and gave her a copy of The Bully’s Trap.  Dempsey wrote an article about the dispute, which the Toronto Star published on August 24, 2013.  The article favored Coloroso and portrayed Faas as a plagiarist, but did not reveal Coloroso as Dempsey’s source.  During an examination on March 5, 2014, Coloroso committed perjury by stating under oath that she “did not give the story to Amy Dempsey” and that she had no knowledge of how the Toronto Star had come to publish the article.She also denied sharing her copy of The Bully’s Trap with the Toronto Star, and denied any knowledge of who had done so. 

 Normally, the Toronto Star article would have dropped over time in the ranking of Google search results on Faas’ name.  However, the article still ranks at the top of the Google search results for Andrew Faas.  Faas commissioned a report from a search engine optimization forensics expert, who concluded that the article was highly ranked largely because it had been linked to multiple times by the website of an anti-bullying organization called the Workplace Bullying Institute. One of the directors of the Institute is Dr. Gary Namie, a friend and colleague of Coloroso.

The trial of Faas’ action and Coloroso’s counterclaim was scheduled to commence on Monday, June 12, 2017.  Dempsey was to be one of the first witnesses, and Faas’ lawyers intended to ask her who her source was. By letter sent on June 9, 2017, Coloroso admitted through her lawyers that she had given the story to the Toronto Star and had provided a copy of The Bully’s Trap to Dempsey, contrary to what she had previously said under oath.  The case settled without a trial.  Coloroso received nothing for her claims.  She agreed to make a $20,000 payment to Faas and to use best efforts to remove the Workplace Bullying Institute web postings, which have now been taken down.  Coloroso also settled a defamation action commenced against her by Faas in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Court File No. CV-16-551504) by providing Faas with a written apology for a mass e-mail that she had sent to more than 200 of Faas’ friends and colleagues.  While Faas is pleased with the outcome of the case, he says the harm to his reputation from Coloroso’s actions lives on, in the form of damaged relationships, loss of business opportunities, and interference with his many philanthropic endeavors. 

“Namie, Barbara Coloroso and the Workplace Bullying Institute should not be in the business of giving bullying advice other than how to bully,” said Faas.

Illustration credit: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

A Case Study on How Bullies Deflect by Destroying Whistleblowers

The Queen of Spin is at it again. After a hiatus where we were spared from listening to Kellyanne Conway spread misinformation all over the daily news cycle, she recently sparred with CNN’s Chris Cuomo in full exhibition of bullying as she masterfully manipulated, distorted and denied the truth. There’s no denying how perfectly she inhabits the role of Trump surrogate.

It’s hard not to imagine Conway as the adult version of the flawlessly blond, treacherous and manipulative bully Regina George in the 2004 movie Mean Girls. In the movie, Regina attacks her rival, Cady (played by Lindsay Lohan), by spreading the high school equivalent of misinformation. Until Regina’s final comeuppance (which requires being hit by a bus—what a metaphor!) she has absolutely no scruples about doing whatever it takes to get her way.

I have done extensive research on bullies and Conway (and her colleague Sarah Huckabee Sanders) are textbook examples of how bullies operate. Most appalling is their defense of outright lies and the assumption that people really are that gullible. Even more disturbing is the message that this sends to youth—that it is OK to lie to get your way. I watch with amazement as the Trumpniks use bullying tactics right out of the Steve Bannon playbook and try to turn victims into villains by recasting whistleblowers as leakers. (Something I discuss in detail in the chapter on whistleblowers in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire). This is so typical of how bullies operate, which is perfectly captured in yesterday’s piece by Joshua Green in New York Magazine, which crystallizes Bannon’s strategy on his bully boss’s behalf perfectly: “Attack, Attack, Attack.”

I wonder if Conway and company have considered the fact these mendacities have gone beyond bullying, beyond lying and are making them complicit in something that’s starting to look very much like treason.

Photo credit: CNN

How to Leave a Toxic Legacy

Bully bosses are notorious for being short-sighted—most can see no further than their immediate objective. Given how they manipulate and torture people, it might come as a surprise that many want to be liked—even loved. For a perfect example of this look no further than Donald Trump. In spite of his toxic tweets and abusive statements, he often displays the demeanor of a small child who is aching for adoration.

Ada Brunstein explores a similar type of boss in her recent New York Times essay, “In a Law Office, Coping With a Boss’s Toxic Trail.” In it, she discusses the daily abuse she and other young, female paralegals received from the estate attorney who employed them. The lawyer, whom she calls “Mr. S,” couldn’t understand why his employees disliked him and never stayed long. It couldn’t be the blatant disregard for his staff, his incessant smoking in the office, his temper tantrums or name calling, could it? In fact, his inability to retain staff ultimately hurt his business and did nothing for his legacy.

Leaders should ask themselves how they would like to be remembered. Their behavior reflects directly on how employees feel and why they feel that way and any issues on the boss’s part that impacts the workplace negatively needs to be addressed immediately. Leadership is no place for people who don’t understand—or care—how feelings drive organizational behavior.

Andrew Faas is the author of

Photo credit: BIGSTOCK


Much More Than a ‘So Called Judge’: Our Revolutionist of the Week

The jurist who Donald Trump sneered at as a “so called judge” after he issued a temporary restraining order on Trump’s immigration ban is this week’s Revolutionist of the Week. Judge James L. Robart of the Federal District Court in Seattle is a highly respected mainstream judge who was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed in a 99-0 vote in the Senate. This is the most positive endorsement any nominee can receive—and it happened during the contentious Bush years. His peers agree with those who confirmed him: he’s been called a “judge’s judge” by the lawyers who have come before him and is known for his keen intelligence and even temper according to Michael D. McKay, an active Republican and former United States attorney. Another former U.S. attorney described him as “strict” and absolutely committed to the independence of the judiciary branch of government.

It’s telling that Trump took the judge’s action so personally. Judge Robart’s ruling had nothing to do with the legality of Trump’s executive order, but rather he had to decide whether the people Trump banned had an excellent legal case in their favor, if affected individuals would suffer irreparable harm, and if the ban was against the public interest.  Clearly Judge Robart ascertained that the answer was “yes” to all three questions.

So why did Trump attack such a respected judge? Once again, Trump’s true colors as a bully are showing. In my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I devoted an entire chapter to describing the characteristics of a bully boss—and these characteristics are modeled by Trump on an almost hourly basis, validating my findings.  I take no pleasure in this though. When the president disrespects a most respected jurist this way, he continues to put democracy at risk. 

Credit: KVIA.com

When a Bully Moves into the Whitehouse, Resistance Matters

The American people are looking for ways to effectively protest. Unfortunately we can no longer rely on the mainstream media to provide necessary checks and balances, even though they are more necessary now than in any time in our lives. Perhaps this is why non-profit journalism groups are receiving an unprecedented flood of donations—Americans want to stay informed during what is beginning to look like an authoritarian regime from the incoming presidential administration.

As I discuss in my new book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye, Donald Trump is the textbook definition of a bully, so it’s no surprise that Americans are looking for ways to make their voices heard. And, like the bully that he is, he’s already made an unprecedented move to smother free speech by having his presidential inauguration committee block access to the Lincoln Memorial, and effectively most of the National Mall, with a massive omnibus blocking permit. To compound things, this is in effect days before AND after the January 20 inauguration. Hundreds of thousands of women have already made arrangements to join the Million Woman March during the inauguration. This effectively shuts them down. No wonder independent journalism groups are receiving such support. They will be desperately needed in the weeks and months to come.

Credit: Unidentified Photographer, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963

White Supremacists Were the Big Winners in Yesterday's Vote

Black Lives Matter protesters at a February 29, 2016 Trump rally, shortly before being escorted out of the venue.

Black Lives Matter protesters at a February 29, 2016 Trump rally, shortly before being escorted out of the venue.

For the GOP and the mainstream media, the elephant in the room is the white supremacist movement. The GOP leadership, Rubio, Cruz and the mainstream media should acknowledge this horrible reality. The reason there is a reluctance to confront this is the risk of alienating the extreme fundamentalist Christians who are at the core of this movement and view Trump as their savior.

For months, Trump’s outrageous hate-mongering comments run parallel to the white supremacist agenda, largely without real challenge. An example of this can be found in an article in the February 1 issue of The New Yorker called “The Duel” by Ryan Lizza, which analyzes what resonates with voters. The article reports: "Trump fans tend to express little regard for political norms. They cheer at his most outlandish statements. O'Reilly (Fox News) asked Trump if he meant it when he said that he would 'take out' the family members of terrorists. He (O'Reilly) didn't believe that Trump would 'put a hit on women and children' if he were elected. Trump replied 'I would do some pretty severe stuff.' The Mesa crowd erupted in applause 'Yea, Baby!' a man near me yelled. I had never previously been to a political event at which people cheered for the murder of women and children." Trump's comments and the barbaric responses of his racist followers is exactly what occurred in Germany in the early thirties.

This incident, and many others like it, where Trump's racist, hate-mongering comments and the racism of his supporters have been well documented; yet, the GOP establishment, the candidates and the mainstream media have been far too timid in challenging this. Trump and his racist supporters must be called out for who and what they are; if they are not, after November, Americans will likely be required to salute Trump by declaring "Sieg Heil", which I am sure many white supremacists did last night.

In my Monday blog post, "FALLING INTO THE BULLY'S TRAP - BULLYING IN REAL TIME ON PRIME TIME," I indicated that it is fortunate that Trump, unlike many bullies, is very transparent. There is no ambiguity on what he stands for and what he has the potential of doing. Even last night this transparency showed when he called himself “a unifier,” and went on to say of House Speaker Paul Ryan: “I'm sure I'm going to get along with him (Ryan), and if I don't, he's going to pay a big price.” This is a threat, and should be reacted to as such! This is also a reflection of what he will do to anyone who stands in his way.

If someone in the GOP were to, in very quick order, produce a documentary called "In Trump’s Own Words – How The Republicans Are Falling Into the Bully's Trap," it would more effectively expose Trump and white supremacists for who they are, and the huge damage they have the potential of doing.

My ninety-seven year old mother lived through the horrors of the Nazi regime in The Netherlands. She indicated her hope that Americans will not have to reflect, with regret, on the poem by Martin Niemoller:

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Replace “communists” with "undocumented immigrants,” “trade unions” with “dissenters,” and “Jews” with “Muslims.” Niemoller's observations hold great potential for regretful reflection during a Trump presidency. 

Photo: Reuters, taken from The Daily Mail

Falling Into the Bully's Trap: Bullying in Real Time on Prime Time

As an expert in bullying, I am as astounded by how a bully has entrapped so many in such a short period of time. What is even more astounding is the lack of understanding and appreciation on how dangerous bullies are, and in this instance the potential of turning a democracy into a dictatorship.

Bullying is all about power and control. Bullies are calculating masters of deflection who deceive and manipulate to achieve their ends. Donald Trump, now partnering up with another renowned bully, Chris Christie, has and continues to bully his way to the most powerful position in the world. Christie's endorsement of Trump validates what Trump is leveraging: anger at, disdain for and distrust in the establishment candidates. Trump’s bluster and outrageous statements continue to resonate because he is perceived to tell it like it is. What is missing is an effective offence that convinces the populace that most of what he preaches is a blatant distortion of the facts, and how dangerous he is.

Until the Republican debate on Thursday night when Marco Rubio took on Donald Trump, the mainstream media and the other candidates allowed Trump to go unchecked. Predictably, Trump, using childish school yard bullying tactics, shifted his focus from Ted Cruz to Rubio. Rather than challenging political positions, tried to discredit him by ranting about things like Rubio sweating and drinking too much water, as though they were akin to treason. Unfortunately, Rubio, rather than being more substantive in challenging Trump on his bigotry, racial slurs, intolerance of dissenting viewpoints, inconsistencies, and inflammatory and extreme positions, fell into the bully's trap by taunting Trump on things that have nothing whatsoever to do with his character, capability, qualification or temperament to be the leader of the free world.

An opinion piece called 'Trump Agonistes' in the February 27 - 28, 2016 Wall Street Journal, provides a balanced perspective on how Trump’s competitors are trying to expose his weaknesses. More importantly and worrisome is how Trump is unable to tolerate any kind of criticism or dissent.

To illustrate this, consider a disturbing piece on the front page of last Saturday's New York Times called ‘To Fight Critics, Donald Trump Aims to Instill Fear in 140-Character Doses’ by Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, reports how Cheri Jacobus, a Republican political strategist, was viciously and personally attacked by Trump, his campaign manager and Trumps followers: "For days they replied to his posts with demeaning, often sexually charged insults aimed at Ms. Jacobus, including several with altered, vulgar photographs of her face." This example is a classic case of how a bully retaliates and is why so few have been courageous enough to expose him. Yes he is feared because people do not want to endure his wrath and this is perfectly understandable. To date, his wrath has just been an articulation, what should be feared is what he could potentially do if he is elected.

Usually bullies are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Fortunately, Trump is more transparent in that what you see and hear is what you get. By being transparent, Trump is also predictable. This predictability offers the populous a view into what could happen if Trump becomes President.

Consider – his threat to sue the New York Times for trying to expose him. As President, will he dilute the first amendment?

Consider – his promise to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants. If he is unsuccessful, will he, as Hitler did, find a final solution?

Consider – his position on Muslims. Will we see a return of internment camps?

Consider – his intolerance of anyone who opposes him. Will we see a return of McCarthyism?

Consider – his high regard for Vladimir Putin. Will he become a Putin?

Consider – his refusal to denounce the endorsement of the KKK. Will they influence the government's agenda?

Consider – his position on free trade. If Canada and Mexico resist, will they be annexed?

Consider – his comment "I love the uneducated.” Will we see a U.S. version of Hitler's Brownshirt movement?

Consider – his obsession with winning. If four years from now, his power and control is at risk, will he abolish the next election?

As indicated at the outset, I am a bullying expert and I know what bullies are capable of and the horrors and damages they can inflict. I also believe in thinking in time. Pre-World War II, in Europe many fell into the bully’s trap. In the early 50's, many in the United States fell into the bully’s trap as well.

All that I can now do is implore Americans to think in time to prevent history from repeating itself.

After the Mizzou Protests, Students Ask Themselves: Now What?

I also want to ask – “Now what?” – in regards to the Missouri student protests. The grievances of the students are valid, and as a former student activist and undergraduate student body president, I’m sympathetic. However, I worry about how these protest tactics would translate when enacted in a work environment. Prejudice exists in the workplace, but the protest tactics used by these students would get them fired, rather than instituting a positive change in thinking. We should be focusing on teaching college students about influencing change through compromise, and equipping them to better create psychologically safe spaces in the business environments they’ll be entering. If college is supposed to prepare students to enter the workforce, then this is one area where universities are leaving them woefully underprepared. Read more on the Missouri Protests' impact on students at NPR