Five people who ended their lives from workplace abuse

Workplace abusers tend to follow predictable patterns of behavior:

  1. The abuser initially repeatedly reprimands the better than average target for trivial matters and those that would be described completely differently by the target. The bully repeatedly puts the target down.
  2. The abuser convinces others that the target is incompetent, so others can begin to shun the target and unwittingly participate in the emotional abuse.
  3. The abuser drives the target to report the problem to the bully’s boss or to Human Resources and then escalates the bully behavior.
  4. The abuser makes their tactics so outrageous that the target’s support system (family and friends) doesn’t believe the target and can’t offer advice. Then these family and friends become tired of hearing the target obsessively repeat issues that can’t be resolved.
  5. The target is now very much alone and increasingly vulnerable to suicide. Targets try everything...
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How race determines access to legal representation

A form of institutional and interpersonal racism, people of color are far less likely to obtain legal representation due to these factors, according to Rights on Trial:

Their search for lawyers: inadequate information and networks, a lack of trust in the legal profession, and high cost (including fees for initial assessments). Payment for attorneys falls into three categories:

Contigency fee, paying the bulk only if a client prevails, and contingency fee plus, an upfront fee designed to screen serious clients or an hourly fee added to funds from the award if the case prevails.

Crucial factors to make economic sense: potential damages, which excludes low wage earners given their average annual earnings; potential to win, which often requires smoking gun evidence; minimal work in case of loss.

Hourly fee, guaranteeing payment regardless of outcome.

Crucial factors to make economic sense: clients understanding the unpredictability of recovery; clients with money. It’s a backup...

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How to stop sheepwalking at work

Seth Godin defines sheepwalking as "the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line." These are the people who don't question their purpose at work, who color inside the lines, and are compliant with managers who lead by fear.

"The fault doesn't lie with the employee, at least not at first," says Godin in his book Tribes.

But what happens when you instead build or work for an organization that treats people with respect and trust? Simply put, "when you hire amazing people and give them freedom, they do amazing stuff," explains Godin.

A simple test for sheepwalking
Godin says that a thermostat is far more valuable than a thermometer. Here's the difference:

  • A thermometer points out when something is broken. "They criticize or point out or just whine," says Godin.
  • A thermostat, on the other hand, changes the environment based on the outside world. "Every organization needs at least one...
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How the adversarial conflict escalates between employers and employees

Plaintiffs often look to law or organization policy to object to management decisions, especially with new managers feeling threatened by high performers. They observe race and/or gender bias and attempt to resolve it through their employers’ internal channels: meetings with HR or higher-ups or ethics hotlines. Sometimes employers analyze and tackle claims at the source and help managers learn from mistakes to prevent future cases. Most of the time, they either assume managers handle the claim or simply don’t investigate or investigate only to understand if the employee has a legit legal claim and to re-position the claim as a miscommunication and meritless.

Because of this encouragement to report problems, plaintiffs report surprise to hostile reactions from employers when they report, assuming they will be receptive. With no resolution or with termination — and without awareness of the asymmetry of power in the workplace and legal system — employees contact...

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What your therapist doesn't know about workplace abuse might hurt you

Targets report that quite often, their therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist has a minimal at best understanding of workplace abuse — and they often feel blamed for the abuse, further adding to it.

Without understanding what workplace abuse is, therapists have a harder time grasping how workplace abuse affects targets and why it happens in the first place. That lack of understanding translates into the inability to see it in other clients' stories, losing their ability to build awareness of the issue by naming it for their clients.

Without understanding the basics, therapists might not make potential connections between targets' workplace abuse and possible childhood abuse to help targets develop insights and fresh perspectives to help with recovery.

What targets can do
If your therapist isn't knowledgeable of workplace abuse, you can help him or her help you by teaching him or her the term "workplace abuse." Ask her to learn more about it.

Mental health...

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How the legal system favors privileged groups

Those with legal representation (aka money) are most likely to have successful case outcomes. “Plaintiffs who do not have a lawyer [“one in four plaintiffs”] have their cases dismissed at a 40% rate compared to 11% for plaintiffs with lawyers,” say the authors of Rights on Trial. More privileged social groups obtain better results, ironic in an area of law intended to protect disadvantaged groups. Case dismissals often result from plaintiff misunderstandings (read: no education from a lawyer) and can cost plaintiffs court fees. Plaintiffs can also lose on settlement or all counts of summary judgment, when the defendant argues that there is no material issue of fact to be decided on and aggressively sets a deadline.

Settlement is the most common outcome of cases “with an estimated median of $30,000. Plaintiffs win something 60% of the time,” the authors say. Trials are rare and “return a victory for the plaintiff one time in three,”...

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Study shows prolonged exposure to workplace abuse can lead to suicide – and it can happen to anyone

Researchers have finally found that workplace bullies can drive their targets to suicide. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that targets of abuse at work are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who were never bullied. 

Researchers defined bullying as harassment, badgering, and freezing out that:

  • Occurred repeatedly over a period of time.
  • Involved two parties in which one had a higher ranking than the other.

It happens so often that there’s now a term for it. “Bullycide” happens when the cause of suicide is attributable to the victim having been bullied.

 

How workplace abuse can lead any of us to suicide (“bullycide”)

Researchers also tested to see if qualities of workplace bullying targets warranted uninvited psychological assaults. They found nothing: zero data to support reason to blame the victim. In other words, targets are not...

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The financial blow to targets of workplace abuse

We know that when employers abuse workers, it's only a matter of time before the employer uses constructive discharge (managing an employee out) or termination to maintain their power and disregard employees' power. Afterall, with Montana being the only state to ban at-will employment, employers don't need just cause to push out or fire an employee so long as their motivation isn't (blatantly) discriminatory (and even then... well, that's another story).

When employees lack adequate time to find new jobs, they either take a pay cut in their haste to escape the abusive environments or simply leave without the safety net of another job and the health insurance that goes along with it.

Granted when choosing between their health and a paycheck, choosing their health and any paycheck can often be the best outcome. As often highly ethical and competent employees, targets' energy and time are better spent with employers who deserve them. 

Still, it's the targets — not the...

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The history of discrimination law in the U.S.

In 1966, when the EEOC started collecting data on the race and gender composition of workplaces, white men were overwhelmingly overrepresented in power positions. African American men and women and white women were dramatically underrepresented in them relative to their numbers in the labor force.

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 fostered some progress for white women, white men still retain power in the U.S. private sector workforce. Discrimination continues — and at an unchanged rate. There are major earning disparities between racial and gender groups. According to the authors of Rights on Trial, in 2014, median incomes were:

“Asian American men: $59,766
White men: $58,712
Asian American women: $48,419
White women: $44,236
African American men: $41,167
African American women: $35,212
Latino men: $35,114
Latina women: $30,289” (almost half of the median income for Asian American men)

Yet the early years of Title VII seemed promising. Back then, the...

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Discrimination law doesn’t actually dismantle social hierarchies

Instead, it preserves managerial authority, dominated by white men, and reproduces hierarchies by focusing on individual harm — rather than disrupts hierarchies.

Are civil rights truly rights if we have to pay to get them through the legal system? Does law disrupt social hierarchies or perpetuate them? Authors Ellen Berrey, Robert L. Nelson, and Laura Beth Nielsen dig for the answers to these crucial questions in Rights on Trial.

Their finding: employers, agencies, and courts often re-inscribe the very hierarchies discrimination law was designed to attack, making discrimination both an intentional and structural problem. Civil rights law doesn’t actually affect social change by correcting discriminatory behavior at work because it upholds the bias through stereotypes that created the discrimination in the first place.

Here’s the reality about use of and access to justice:

Most targets don’t involve the legal system. Only a tiny fraction of targets approach...

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