workplace bullying

Greed Driving a Culture of Corruption at Wells Fargo

I’ve commented on Wells Fargo in the past. Consequently, I’m not completely surprised by the new information on the fraudulent accounts opened at Wells Fargo. A disturbing trend I’ve noticed in the financial sector is a tendency for companies to push their employees towards unrealistic sales goals – oftentimes leading to some form of illegal activity. The fake accounts opened by bankers on their clients’ dime is a total breach of trust – but I don’t lay the blame solely at the feet of the employees who engaged in this behavior. The culture that encouraged this behavior is rooted in greed and disregard for their customers. Wells Fargo, more than any other of the ‘big banks,’ has been able to maintain a veneer of caring for customers after the financial crisis. However, it turns out that they aren’t any different than their peers in the banking industry – demanding so much of their employees, that many felt they had no choice but to cheat the system. You can get more information on this at The New York Times.

Image: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via NYT

To Call Out on Your Way Out - Or Not

I mostly agree with the advice NYT’s Workologist gives to this employee who experienced bullying that forced him/her to resign from their job in this article. The employee was able to find a better job very quickly after resigning, and is considering sending an email to his/her former employer (and/or the boss’s boss) about what really transpired. While it can be good to focus mainly on the future, rather than past drama, it’s important that upper management knows what happened. As I’ve stated over and over again, workplace bullying is not something that should just be ignored – it’s a systemic problem that, if left unchecked, can lead to potentially life-ruining circumstances. Writing an angry note after the fact can feel cathartic, but instead of sending it or deleting it entirely, I would argue that the employee in this letter should send a measured, even-toned, fact-based and objective letter from a private, non-work email address to the bullying boss’s supervisor. The point is that when workplace bullying is involved, someone should be notified – it’s less about payback, and more about protecting the workers who still have to deal with the bully on a daily basis.

Image Credit: NYT Workologist Graphic, Gracia Lam via NYT

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance: A Scathing Report

An investigation was commissioned by Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care "to examine and report on issues related to the governance and management" of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA). The investigators' report exposed a top heavy management team led by a bully CEO, governed by a negligent and neutered board of directors and a rat’s nest of toxicity. 

As the Faas Foundation is one of CKHA's top donors, we are very concerned on how this disturbing report will negatively affect CKHA's ability to attract and retain health care professionals and donors. This report could also affect the community, in terms of attracting employers and jobs to the area, because health care is a major factor in decisions to locate.

Over the last decade, I have met many CKHA employees and must emphasize that were it not for their passion, dedication and professionalism; patient care would have been severely compromised. 

These people worked under horrible conditions: "The CKHA organizational culture has been frequently described by both hospital and medical staff to be one of fear, intimidation, distrust and an unsafe environment in which to voice their opinions without retaliation. A hierarchical and centralized decision-making management style that also lacked in transparency was also frequently described."

My intelligence is that that the CEO and his cronies on management and the board are feverishly working on a public response to discredit the report. The public and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care should not get sucked in by this. I can attest to the investigators’ findings, as I have witnessed the CEO in action and have spoken with many employees. Additionally, I was interviewed by a consultant commissioned by the CEO, where I clearly voiced my concerns about the climate, which were consistent with the report’s findings. The report by the consultant who interviewed me made zero mention of the critical comments expressed by myself and others he interviewed, and based on my experience, his report was typical of the 'snake oil salesmen' who tell the CEOs what they want to hear in order to gain additional assignments.

Based on my extensive research and as an expert in organizational culture and dynamics, the situation at CKHA is unfortunately more common than not. 

Thankfully, a Ministry-appointed Supervisor will be selected "to restore robust governance and administrative/clinical leadership to ensure sustainable and appropriate oversight of patient care and financial management." 

To the citizens of Chatham Kent - do not lose faith in what I consider to be a wonderful institution with incredible people who have managed to provide superior patient care under very trying circumstances. Please embrace them and continue to support them - with new management and governance, your investment will pay huge dividends.

To employees everywhere, if you are working in an environment similar to that of CKHA, make your voice heard in a safe way - citing this case study.


Workplace Culture in Pop Culture

The idea that our popular culture is forming a microcosm of the way we process our work-lives is really interesting. The fact that, as this article points out, every one of this summer’s blockbuster movies was really about workplace issues is reflective of how massively our work impacts the rest of our lives. Whether it’s the new Ghostbusters struggling with starting a business, or Jason Bourne facing retaliation for standing up to corrupt bosses, we’re seeing our work play out on the big screen more and more. It’s just one more reason why we really need to examine our workplaces and their cultures critically – we spend most of our days at work, and spend a lot of time with the people we work with. Building emotional intelligence and transforming our work environments into healthy spaces for everyone seems like a no-brainer, but the resistance to cultural transformation is ingrained into many organizations. Solving problems at work isn’t as exciting, dramatic or easy as it may seem on the big screen – it takes effort, time and an earnest desire to make the organization work for everyone. Read more on this really interesting idea at The New York Times.

A Psychologically Dangerous Workplace

This is one of the most egregious workplace cultures I’ve heard of. Abbott Pharmaceuticals’ operations in India seem to display criminal levels of workplace neglect, bullying and stress. Based on this article, it seems as though almost all of their practices are designed to prioritize profits over employees and customers, to a literally dangerous point. From hosting sham free clinics to have doctors prescribe only their medication, to putting employees through so much strain that they feel the need to commit suicide – this is a seriously harmful way to run a business. Plus, the bullying that’s clearly going on there is insidious – for example, demanding employees transfer thousands of miles from their homes is completely underhanded and no real way to treat anyone, let alone the people who work for you. You can read more about Abbott Pharmaceuticals at The New York Times

Photo: Friends visit a place where one Abbott employee committed suicide. Photo Credit: Atul Loke for NYT

Journalistic Integrity Lost?

I’m glad someone is comparing the recent Fox News sexual harassment scandal to the News of the World phone hacking scandal of 2011. In my book, The Bully’s Trap, I make reference to the scandal – mainly because it was apparent that, at the time, the Murdochs were only paying lip service to culturally changing their organizations. The current sexual harassment scandal is evidence of how little actually changed across the Murdoch holdings after News of the World closed down. While there’s still some hope that they may turn things around in the wake of this present scandal, I’m afraid to say that it looks like their journalistic integrity as an entire organization could be lost. You can read a fuller comparison at The New York Times.

Photo Info: Rupert Murdoch with Rebekah Brooks, former chief of News of the World. Photo Credit: Olivia Harris/Reuters via NYT

Is WikiLeaks Just One Giant Cyberbully?

A unique case of “bullying” that’s outside the norm can be found in the behavior of WikiLeaks. Obviously, their organization functions outside of the law, but the argument they make is that their information leaks serve the public good. It’s worth it to weigh that argument without taking either side; however, it’s also important to note whether or not WikiLeaks maintains the same balance that the media should in terms of political criticism and objectivity. In the past, WikiLeaks has both revealed and hidden sensitive information that put people in harm’s way, and the flip-flopping doesn’t exactly speak well of them. However, the most recent DNC leak is problematic. Yes, the information was in the public interest. However, the high probability of Russian involvement in procuring this info, linked with Julian Assange’s close ties with Russia and documented dislike for Hillary Clinton, beg the question – is this the most bizarre form of cyber-bullying in history? If not, I ask the simple question – why has there been no attempted hack of Trump’s campaign or the RNC? I’m not advocating hacks of any kind, but it is interesting that WikiLeaks, which purports to be all about transparency, fails to point that own scrutiny at itself. You can read a well-written op-ed about this in The New York Times by documentarian Alex Gibney. 

Image: Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Image Credit: John Stillwell, Reuters

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

I wanted to take a moment to respond further to the stories of workplace sexual harassment that have been coming forward more and more in the past weeks. Many, from various talking heads to Eric Trump, seem to be suggesting that all a woman (or man) needs to do to dispel sexual harassment is go to human resources. Firstly, this point of view totally ignores the reality that many workplace cultures subtly encourage employees not to file harassment claims. Additionally, as I’ve discussed in my book, in many instances of workplace bullying (including sexual harassment), HR can oftentimes be part of the problem – either because they don’t have the power to effectively resolve issues, or because they are actively taking part in creating issues. Blindly directing targets of sexual harassment to HR is not only foolish, but potentially harmful in the modern workplace. Unless HR is completely trustworthy in the given organization, targets need to gather substantive evidence of their harassment to back themselves up when they finally make their situation known – otherwise, HR can end up empowering the bully or harasser further, sometimes unintentionally. As opposed to encouraging more women to speak up about harassment, which is valuable, I suggest another option: we need to encourage HR officers to grow backbones. In many workplaces like Fox News, where ongoing harassment seemed to be an open secret, where was HR? Where is HR when an employee is showing clear signs of domestic abuse, sexual harassment or mental issues? Many of the workplace bullying cases I see day to day could be avoided – if HR was empowered to help employees effectively, and had the real intention to do so. 

Expanding the Inquiry at Fox News

It seems that in the fallout after the exit of Roger Ailes, Fox News is expanding its inquiry into what others within the organization knew about the sexual harassment allegations. However, it’s worth noting that the inquiry isn’t expanding into a full-scale cultural investigation – it’s still limited to Roger Ailes. While the Murdochs have to realize that they’d appear negligent not to expand their investigation to see who else was aware of Ailes’s behavior, they should open up their organization to the positive changes a comprehensive cultural review would bring to their organization. Not only would many employees probably feel better about the whole situation, but it would portray a positive image to viewers who might feel confused or deceived by Ailes’s harassment and subsequent departure. You can read more on this at The New York Times.

Image: Fox News at the 2016 DNC. Image Credit: Eric Thayer for NYT.

Donald Trump Knows Nothing About Sexual Harassment

At the risk of sounding exhaustive, Donald Trump’s statements on sexual harassment are clearly inane – he’s talking about a subject that he obviously knows nothing about. His suggestion that a woman should change her career (regardless of her actual ability to do so) in the face of harassment shows a fundamental lack of empathy and serious regard for an issue that should concern both women and men everywhere. In fact, protections should be in place that prevent a target of sexual harassment from having to switch jobs or careers at all – that’s the whole point. Additionally, Eric Trump’s later attempt to save face by implying that “strong women” don’t allow themselves to be harassed is thinly veiled victim-blaming – plus, his suggestion to go to Human Resources doesn’t take into account that, in many cases, HR can be part of the problem. Targets of sexual harassment in the workplace need to gather documented evidence of the issue so that they have substantive protections when filing a claim, with HR or legally. By continuing to stand with Roger Ailes, Donald Trump is showing how little regard he has for sexual harassment as a problem in and of itself – and how little regard he must have for working people everywhere. Maybe Ivanka is staying “mum” on this subject because she knows her family is wrong on this one, despite being at the center of this debacle. You can read more on this at The New York Times

Image: Donald Trump and his children in 2014. Image Credit: Shawn Thew/European Pressphoto Agency via NYT