Tag Archives: bullying

Interview on WUSA9 Workplace bullying in higher education


Interview on WUSA9 Workplace bullying in higher education

Interview on WUSA9 Workplace bullying in higher education

Interview on WUSA9 Workplace bullying in higher education



By Thomas James



Bullying among children and teens in schools receive extra attention these days, but experts say bullying takes place in other times in our lives.

In fact, workplace bullying is happening at an alarming rate. Especially in higher education. Leah P. Hollis, Ed.D., Author of the book “Bully In The Ivory Tower” says 62 percent of people who work in higher education have experienced bullying versus 45 percent of the general population.

Dr. Hollis says, “I surveyed 175 schools and what I found in the return was that a number of people, especially in the entry levels and the middle management were talking about how they were the target of bullying either from the boss or the organization in general.

9 News Now’s Anita Brikman interviews Dr. Hollis about her survey and why workplace bullying is more prevalent in higher education than in other professions:

Anita: “What’s going on? Why at college and universities?”

Dr. Hollis: “What’s interesting is at a college or university we are all trained to be experts in our field to go out and do this wonderful research and create excellent knowledge. It also is an isolating experience so now when you have to manage people or collaborate or have team building you’ve already been protected by tenure perhaps or at least in a culture that supports being isolated and also supports a pretty big ego. So that doesn’t always make for the best management skills.”

Anita: “So in these case studies, who was saying they are being bullied? Younger educators bullied by tenured folks?”

Dr. Hollis: “Typically it was somebody at the entry level, your assistant director, it might have even been the director or just the manager of the department. Folks who are reporting up-line to Vice Presidents, Provosts, or even the Presidents. So bullying has to do with power and those with the least amount of power are the ones on the receiving end of bullying.”

To see the entire interview, including how workplace bullying in higher education affects students and how can we deal with workplace bullying across the board, click here.

Source: WUSA9.com

YOU’RE FIRED! But wait, my life isn’t a reality TV show….

 YOU’RE FIRED! But wait, my life isn’t a reality TV show….

YOU’RE FIRED! But wait, my life isn’t a reality TV show….

YOU’RE FIRED! But wait, my life isn’t a reality TV show….

By Dr Leah Hollis, author of Unequal Opportunity: Fired without cause? Filing with the EEOC…

Raquel had been a rising star in her company since her initial point of hire four years previous.  She had landed major clients, bonuses, and was recognized regionally and nationally for her work.  Despite the recession, Raquel’s life was laden with hard work and well deserved pay.  She had made the necessary sacrifices by delaying marriage, relocating three times, while reaping the financial rewards.  Raquel was at the height of her earning power.  Her performance record was so solid, no wonder she didn’t flinch when her boss retired. So of course, the new boss, Jacob would value her as a longstanding member of his team, even though she was passed over for his position.  Or so she thought.

All teams go through the aches and pains of adjusting to a new leader.  Raquel felt the tension between Jacob and the rest of the team was no different. Everyone was adjusting to his new communication protocols, and reporting expectations.  Therefore, when Raquel walked in to her weekly meeting with him, with the Director of Human Resources present, she could only anticipate a conference about one of her direct reports.  The meeting was short… not sweet…

“You’re fired….” Jacob blurted out.  “We are going in another direction. Budget cuts.”

Raquel was stunned.  Clearly this was a joke. She had earned letters of commendation the last three quarters straight.  Her slack jawed pause allowed Jacob to continue…

“You can have the next two hours to clean out your desk. We already cut off your internet service.  It’s 3 pm now. You should be out by 5 pm…”

Raquel had nothing to say…what was this some reality show?  When will the commentator come out…? Candid Camera… You’ve been PUNKED… something?!?

The HR Director did and said nothing.  Jacob got up and went to the window. “You have two hours…”

Raquel’s mind was spinning.  She just built an addition on her house with a second mortgage.  Sure she could call headhunters, but she couldn’t move.  Budget cuts?  But they just hired two staff member last week… Budget cuts?


Raquel’s story unfortunately is played out every day in this recession.  What Raquel’s manager and many other managers don’t realize is that Raquel and other jilted employees feel betrayed and start looking for ways to be heard. At this point, they have nothing to lose by pursuing a lawsuit. More than ever, employees know the federal discrimination laws, and know where to file a complaint either with the EEOC or an attorney.  Employees who are well educated or advanced in their careers are more likely to file a complaint. Because they command higher salaries,  possible damages and back pay rewards are lucrative.

What should employees do while on the job or after termination? Leah Hollis, President of Patricia Berkly LLC and author of Unequal Opportunity, Fired without cause? Filing with the EEOC offers several strategies for those considering filing a discrimination lawsuit.

While Raquel was still on the job, hopefully she took basic steps to document her performance by:

  • Keeping all records notes, letters, and emails that discussed her personal performance.  Organizations have a responsibility to keep staff updated about job performance expectations.
  • Keeping a copy of these performance records AT HOME. Similar to Raquel’s case, the
  • Internet, intranet, and computer access is often the first thing an employer shuts down. However, employees don’t have a right to proprietary information, only information on their performance.
  • Professionally confirming the boss’s expectations and objectives in writing shortly after meetings. If an employee has questions, or believes expectations are unfair, she should calmly and logically express these concerns when the expectations are established. Don’t wait for months down the road when unreasonable expectations can’t be achieved.
    • Reading the employee handbook, no matter how boring.  Know the rules that the employer is playing by. They are responsible for adhering to their own policies as well.


Raquel was terminated. Being fired is like being punched at recess by the school bully. Most people don’t see it coming, and feel knocked to their feet in front of the world.   Despite her emotional state, she took a deep breath, regrouped and considered her options:

  • Raquel did some soul searching.   Perhaps this was divine intervention.  Was this an opportunity for another career path or to follow other interests?
  • But, on the other hand, those copious notes regarding her job performance were worth their weight in gold as she considered a wrongful termination complaint. Her notes revealed a pattern of gender discrimination since her last boss retired. First of all, she was more qualified than Jacob.

Once Raquel assessed the situation and decided to pursue legal action with a formal complaint, she had two options:

  • A). To seek the EEOC/and state human relations commission to file a complaint. This option cost Raquel nothing.  They conduct the investigation and require the employer to explain why there was a termination.  The complaint must BE CLEAR.  Do you believe you were fired because of your gender, your race, your age (if over 40)?  You must be explicit with this claim and provide documentation of reoccurring instances where your membership in a protected class (gender, race, age, religion, background, pregnancy) was a compelling element in your termination. If the EEOC doesn’t resolve the matter in a year, the terminated employee will often receive a right to sue letter, and can proceed to option B.  At this point, seek an employee attorney since many will take the case on contingency.
  • B). Seek an employment attorney. Whether the employee comes straight to this option OR waits to get the right to sue letter from the EEOC, the complaining employee still needs to have her ducks in a row. The duration of the average lawsuit is 22 months, but in some cases, carries on much longer.  With a strong case, stay with it because it can provide vindication.

After 26 months of exchanging paper work, conciliation meetings and then mediation, Raquel had proven a clear case of gender discrimination. With the assistance of an attorney, she was awarded a year and half back pay, less attorney’s fees.  During the course of the case, Jacob faced two other gender discrimination complaints and resigned from his post before Raquel’s settlement was final.

In 2010, the EEOC reported close to 100,000 new discrimination cases.  Every day, about 550 small businesses are tagged with discrimination lawsuits.

Have you or some one you know experienced discrimination or unfair treatment at work (based on age, race, gender, religion or national origin)? We would like to hear your story.

For more detailed information on this topic and how people have handled various types of workplace discrimination, visit our website at www.diversitytrainingconsultants.com or check out Unequal Opportunity: Fired without cause, Filing with the EEOC on Barnes and Noble.com.

Workplace Bullying: Battling it out in higher education….

Workplace Bullying: Battling it out in higher education….

Workplace Bullying: Battling it out in higher education….

Workplace Bullying: Battling it out in higher education….


Workplace bullying is a documented phenomenon in corporate sectors and in Europe.  Workplace bullying is actually an extension of the school yard bullying.  Workplace bullying targets the people who are viewed as reasonable, empathetic or in the lower power position.  It is interesting then, that of late, several people have approached Patricia Berkly about their careers in higher education.  Workplace bullying is a critical issue that destroys the careers of many.  And as studies show, workplace bullying disproportionately affects women, people of color, the LBGT community and those over 40 in greater numbers.


Bullying means harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work tasks.. it has to occur repeatedly and regularly over a period of time (about six months)… it is an escalating process, the person confronted end up in an inferior position and becomes the target of systematic negative social acts. (Einarsen, Hoek, Zapf, and Cooper, 2003, p 22).


Therefore, when a seasoned colleague feels he or she is hanging on until retirement, enduring put downs and unreasonable criticisms from a newly appointed leaders, workplace bullying can be the reason.  When the department or division cowers in its tracks just to make it another semester because their ideas are not valued, workplace bullying may be at the root.


Patricia Berkly LLC is focusing on an original study on workplace bullying in higher education administration.  The goal will be to identify the cause of workplace bullying, the targets of workplace bullying and offer solutions to workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying… beyond child’splay


Workplace Bullying… beyond child’s play

By Dr. Leah Hollis, author of Unequal Opportunity: Fired without cause? Filing with the EEOC…

Our news is chocked full of stories retelling instances of bullying that leads to teen suicide.  A bully perceives the targets as smaller, weaker or different from the dominant group who welds its power at the expense of others. Once being facing a bully was almost a rite of passage.  A target of a bully was expected to stand up and fight back.  Fabled stories like the Karate Kid or Cinderella show how many of us like the underdog and cheer for him or her to prevail against  the bully.

However, when the fairy tale is over, the effects of a bully have far reaching implications.  The things we learn in grade school carry through to college and the workplace.  Therefore, workplace bullying is a rising trend feeding the all-time record high EEOC complaints for 2011.   Bullying as a form of harassment is a power play over subordinates and is a growing threat to American corporations.  Toxic work environments create turnover, reduced productivity and costly legal defense if the target pursues a claim.

We have all worked with that obnoxious personality who tells off color jokes has emotional fits, or simply pushes his or her way through meetings and procedures with little care for the staff.  These behaviors, once considered what we endure as a day in the life of work, can now lead a bully and his organization straight to court.  Unless the person being bullied is outside one of the Title VII protected classes, the person on the receiving end of bullying may have a claim of harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity pregnancy or religion. In addition, there are millions of people are bullied within class, woman bullying woman, or bullying within the same race.  Regardless of race, creed or color, harassment harms employee morale and engagement.  Bullying, regardless of who is the target, hurts the bottom line.


In any case, workplace bullying is particularly destructive to individuals and organizations.  Namie and Naime (2009) estimate that workplace bullying costs organizations over 64 billion dollars (yes with a B) a year. When one tabulates the cost of turnover, the cost of disengaged employees and even the cost of health care related to a toxic workplace, leaders and managers can ill afford to ignore this bullish trend in the workplace.

The problem is so severe that over 21 states have introduced Healthy Workplace Legislation to attempt to stem the problem of runaway bullying behavior. On April 30, several workers and advocacy groups urged the New York legislature to pass a Healthy Workplace Bill. Many victims of workplace bullying testified that they feared for their jobs if they did not succumb to the harassment of a boss. Others cried as they retold stories of debilitating health conditions and even suicide that was precipitated by a bullying boss.  The bill could potentially be presented for a vote in June, 2012.


In the meantime, organizations and mangers can implement basic safeguards to protect for a healthy workplace.

  1. Augment current anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies to include anti bullying polices for the workplace
  2. Include a civility statement at the point of hire to inform all staff of the importance of civility in the workplace
  3. Incorporate civility statements and expectations to performance evaluations
  4. Model civility as a leader or department head; typically it is the boss who is the bully
  5. Take any and all complaints seriously; investigate claims quickly


These cursory changes can help shift an organization to a more relaxed placed to work. The benefits yield lower turnover, and higher productivity.

Dr. Leah Hollis, President of Patricia Berkly LLC is a diversity and healthy workplace trainer based in greater Philadelphia.  Her book Fired without Cause, Filing with the EEOC is available on Amazon.com.  Her second study on workplace bullying in higher education is in progress for summer 2012.  She has been a contributor to ERE.net, Payscale, and AOLJobs/Huffington Post.

Definition of Bullying

Definition of Bullying

Definition of bullying

Definition of bullying


Definition of Bullying in the workplace includes: harassing, belittling, insulting behavior, especially if enduring such becomes a condition of maintaining a job.

What is the definition of bullying as it applies to the workplace?  The definition of bullying includes harassment, discrimination, belittling and insulting comments… constantly. The definition of bullying is similar to the definition of harassment.  However, the definition of bullying includes ALL people, regardless of race, class or gender.  The definition of bullying also relates to a pervasive behavior, often at the hands of the boss or supervisor.  The definition of bullying should be considered by leadership.  Once the definition of bullying is taken serious, then quarterly training and support for supervisors can eradicate behavior under the definition of bullying.

The definition of bullying should also include the cost of bullying. The definition of bullying should be something that human resources managers along with supervisors.  The definition of bullying should be something the executives consider.  Once the definition of bullying is understood, and the effects of bullying are understood, those who understand the definition of bullying understand that it costs organizations millions of dollars to harbor a bully.  The definition of bullying can lead to health problems; the definition of bullying can create a toxic work environment.  The definition of bullying and those behaviors that comprise the definition of bullying erode an organization and undermine productivity. Those who understand the definition of bullying also understand that the effects of bullying of similar to the stress of those who are subject to sexual harassment.