Bad Bosses Meet Teacups (Update)

Like so many issues in law, it’s largely a matter of the language used to frame the issue.  The New York Senate has passed a law prohibiting workplace “bullying” with bipartisan support that would expose employers to suit for hurting employees’ feelings.  From the Wall Street Journal :

New York’s anti-bullying bill defines bullying broadly and includes the repeated use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets, as well as conduct that a “reasonable person” would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating.

The law reflects a popular political trend that’s likely to spread across the country, and covers not only the conduct of supervisors, but those of co-workers, holding the employer liable for hurt feelings whether they derive from the boss or the subordinate. 

According to New York lawmakers, between 16% and 21% of employees have experienced health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse and harassment, and such behavior is four times more prevalent than sexual harassment.

Of course, the term “bullying” is loaded, a pejorative word that no “reasonable” person could dispute is a bad thing.  But that’s how law works these days, characterizing conduct in a way that makes it appear awful so that no one could argue the opposite, that bullying is a good thing.  And obviously it’s not.  The problem is that the law doesn’t merely prohibit bullying, but anything that hurts a person’s feelings.  This is where we get into trouble.

Victoria Pynchon, in her new gig commenting for Forbes, takes up arms.

According to the Journal, the law would “allow workers who’ve been physically, psychologically or economically abused while on the job to file charges against their employers in civil court.”

Economically abused????? The mind boggles.

The bill defines “bullying” broadly as  the “repeated use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets” that the (mythical and chronically overly sensitive) “reasonable person” would “find threatening, intimidating or humiliating.”

Victoria is one of the nicest people around, frequently chastising me for being insensitive to the teacups.  But this one is too much even for her.

Let’s give this proposal a second thought, particularly in the context of legal practice.  We lawyers do endeavor to “keep calm and carry on.”  We have been known, however, to push ourselves and to be pushed past our tempers’ limits.  We’re human.  We’re under a lot of pressure.  And we’re fallible.

It didn’t happen often to me, but happen it did.  The cutting remark to an associate not performing up to expectation.  The curse made too audibly in the staff room.  The harangue visited upon the hapless secretary who failed for the third time to make the necessary corrections. 

The law seeks to take other workplace restrictions, such as discrimination on the basis of race, down the slippery slope of hurt feelings through the use of charged rhetoric and populist sensibilities.  More people are workers than bosses, and there’s plenty of political capital to be gained by propping up the delicate flowers that have grown everywhere. 

The concept ignores to countervailing concerns: First, jobs are not entitlements.  Hate your boss?  Hate your workplace? Nobody’s forcing you to work there, and you have no right to recreate the job to meet your demands and expectations.  Quit and find one more to your liking.  Can’t find one you love? Bummer.

Second, no business can function well based on the concept of homogenization, catering to the lowest common denominator lest one face litigation and damages by the biggest screw-up in the shop.  It defies human nature, since no one likes to be told that they’re lousy at what they do, and yet too many people are, in fact, lousy at what they do.  The days of excellence are not merely gone, but the target of hatred by the Slackoisie teacups.  Today, businesses aspire to mediocrity.

This law institutionalizes the Happy Dynamic.  People are not merely entitled to job, but one where their superiors and co-workers are legally obliged to make them feel happy.  It’s not bad enough that people confuse unwarranted self-esteem with self-respect, but they should be entitled to it as a matter of law upon pain of damages.

As Vickie notes:

Combating bullying is a worthwhile – even necessary – ongoing business project.  Making a federal (or state) case over the  day-to-day management of any work force and the personal relationships team work requires is just plain nuts. At best, it is a jack-hammer solution to an Emily Post problem.  At worst, it is a new scheme for extortion.

No one is saying that the employer has a right to flog her employees in the business square, or subject them to true humiliation.  But laws that deny our humanity and the ordinary range of human emotions will prove ruinous to businesses, and consequently employees as well.  This is the proverbial shooting of a fly with an elephant gun. 

Employers have a strong incentive to keep the peace in the workplace, or they will lose employees and be incapable of operating.  If an employer harasses his staff, he’s going to be a very lonely boss.  But short of never saying an unpleasant word to an employee, someone is invariably going to be unduly sensitive and take umbrage to criticism, whether deserved or spoken in the sweetest, most dulcet tones ever.  There are overly sensitive people out there (and increasingly more so), and you will never please them all.

I would take it a step farther, however.  The undercurrent of this trend is that we’ve become a society of fragile teacups, ready to shatter any time someone looks askance at us.  We’ve gone from the home of the brave to the land of the delicate.  Toughen up, for crying out loud.  Maybe the reason your boss called you a moron is because you’re a moron.  And if you’re not, don’t cry about it but show her what you can do.  No amount of whining and complaining is going to improve the quality of your work.

Instead, legislators are enacting the Teacup Protection Act.  Respect is earned, not legislated.

Update:  A group calling itself the Workplace Bullying Institute had this to say:

WBI counters the distortions

In the Greenfield (Simple Justice) blog: Equating bullied targets, many who suffer PTSD, with delicate teacups is assinine. Greenfield is a media-seeking lawyer, say no more. My longer response to his insensitivity can be found in the comments linked to the article at his blog. Why not re-name his blog, Justice for Simple Minds. For thoughtful legal mindfulness, visit Minding the Workplace, a blog penned by WBI’s favorite law professor.

They called me names.  They hurt my feelings.  Maybe I should sue?  Nah.  Lame attacks on me and Vickie (who they argue is a corporate tool!) do nothing to make bad law and unsound reasoning better.  Their issue is grounded in false claims, that employees have a right to a job, a right to a work environment that suits their personal sensitivities and a right to remain in that job, enduring what they perceive to be abusive conduct by others, and sue for monetary damages rather than quit and find a workplace more suitable. 

This isn’t, as they would argue, a matter of lacking compassion, but a matter of manufacturing “rights” that impose a duty on others to make them happy.  While Title VII discrimination in the workplace had a conceptual ledge to stop the slide down the slippery slope, immutable and irrelevant characterisistics, this trend is has none.  Everybody has a right to everything they want to make their world happy for them.  And anybody who makes them unhappy is evil and should have to pay.

Indeed, they argue that neither Vickie nor I realize that mean words are “violence”.  So much for words having meaning.  The one things that flows from this insufferably emotional and irrational gang is that they embrace self-serving regulation to the exclusion of personal responsibility.  They have no argument, just wild and silly accusations in the hope that others won’t notice that they are a bunch of irrational teacups.  Thanks for proving it conclusively, guys.

This has nothing to do with compassion or empathy.  Normal people feel badly for anyone in pain, even if they could have avoided it themselves by making sound decisions.  But it doesn’t follow that every individual’s suffering necessarily begets a misguided law. 

68 comments on “Bad Bosses Meet Teacups (Update)

  1. SHG

    I heard that you used to be a mean, nasty youngish lawyer, spewing epithets and insults at your colleagues’ belly buttons.  Glad to see you’ve gotten control over your anger issues.

  2. Kathleen Casey

    The senator who supposedly represents me voted for this dog [S1823B] and probably so did yours.

  3. Brian Gurwitz

    Didn’t I once read that you used to have associates, but don’t any longer? Are they behind this bill? They can call it the Meanfield Act.

  4. SHG

    I’ve little doubt mine did.  My senator, Craig (I was friends with his mother, who was a wonderful woman), is very nice.

  5. SHG

    Ah, grasshopper, you will learn when you have to explain to a client why he’s going to prison for 15 years because your very delicate associate’s feelings were hurt by a judge who uttered the word “denied”, and stormed out of court in a tearful fit, leaving the defendant to fend for himself.  Tell him that you didn’t want your associate to think you were mean.

  6. Mirriam

    I am pretty sure some of the folks that used to work at my old shop lobbied hard for this bill. They can call it “terrys law”

  7. Marilou

    Something went horribly wrong with the kids who entered the work force a few short years after I did. Their sense of entitlement seems to always outweigh their desire to do their jobs and further their employers’ interests. It’s disgusting. Excuse me while I shake my head, slowly and sadly. It’s a shame.

  8. SHG

    Terry Kindlon is a great man, though he will never receive the Slackoisie Lover of the Year Award.  But he probably should.  They just won’t appreciate him until they grow up.

  9. Gary Namie

    Scott, delicate teacups, really? You and Vicky are right that employers should take of matters pro actively as routine biz. Too bad, execs prefer the relationship with Bob honed over the years through ingratiation than actually doing what is best to get work done. Employers DO NOT bounce abusers. They love, promote and protect them. Get real. Now as for litigating “hurt feelings” it’s a lie. Would you agree that domestic violence should be illegal? Then, read the bill and shift your perspective accordingly. The bill requires malicious, repeated, demonstrably health harming abuse in order to file a suit. And then, the typically displaced worker has to find a private attorney willing to risk winning. The threshold is high and expensive. When passed into law, employers who do the right thing will enjoy the generous affirmative defenses granted to employers who take responsibility for managing their own managers and staff. Recklessly indifferent employers should worry. The national prevalence of the abuse defined in this bill is that 13% of adult Americans are directly experiencing it now. Go ahead and tell them that they brought it on themselves or should grow a thicker skin. Who in the morning awakes believing they deserve a ton of humiliation and degradation that day? And I defy you to also acknowledge the vast scientific literature on abusive workplaces and employee health. It’s sickening to hear all this “tough talk” as if American workers deserve so much less than the rest of the world. Finally, there is a generational aspect to the phenomenon. It hits older workers, boomers, harder because they expected decent treatment and are often denied it. Younger workers can flip off the fools and walk. We’ve taught them to expect no decency from US employers and they are not disappointed. You and Vicky are stuck in the anachronistic dark ages of blaming victims for their bad fate. You both need compassion transplants.
    Recommended reading: Lew Maltby’s Can They Do That? and David Yamada’s essay Human Dignity and American Employment Law

  10. Kathleen Casey

    Gary Namie (Ph.D., Social Psychology)…was the expert witness in the nation’s first “bullying trial” in Indiana with the verdict upheld by the state Supreme Court.

    Oh I see.

  11. Vickie Pynchon

    Scott,

    You said something NICE about me AND quoted me. I must be doing SOMETHING wrong! (and I thought you were going to say the teacups “should be earned, not registered.”; that’s what happens when you skim; re-read it right when I stopped laughing at my own joke).

    I STILL think the viable tort is Inten. Inflic of ED even though the Judge dismissed the count out in Kobe Bryant’s housekeeper’s lawsuit (which continued under wrongful termination cause of action & was settled for $200K).

    The problem of course, with baggy standards in new causes of action is that “repeated” a “malicious” and “abuse” and “harm to health” haven’t yet been interpreted and will keep a lot of unjustified suits alive until settlement or trial.

    Cheers!
    (thanks for the post; nice!)

  12. Catherine Mulcahey

    I wonder where the statistics about bullied workers were found. Was there a survey asking employers, managers and supervisors what percent of their workforce they subjected to “repeated use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets, as well as conduct that a ‘reasonable person’ would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating?”

    Whatever the source, I have to applaud a law that leads to more work for lawyers. This will create marvelous opportunities for recent law grads to join forces as plaintiffs’ counsel and plaintiffs in the never-ending battle for youth justice and the American way.

  13. SHG

    I wondered about the stats as well, but figured they would fall along the same lines as online bullying, where it’s based on the same undefined conduct resulting in perceived hurt feelings that Danielle Citron used for her Cyber Civil Rights approach.  Whenever anyone claims to have stats for something that has no definition, its just not worth the effort.

  14. Vickie Pynchon

    It’s ironic that the victims’ representatives would turn people with PTSD over to lawyers – not known for their ability to be in close proximity, for long, to people whose mental armor isn’t, shall we say, robust.

    As I noted over at the bully blog, if the victims’ representatives don’t believe mediation is a good idea, the last thing they should do is authorize the victims of bullying to go forth and find themselves a lawyer looking to earn a contingency fee in a case that will almost certainly be mediated by – what?? — yet another compassion-challenged attorney or – worse! – cranky retired JUDGE.

    I don’t think the bullied people’s advocates could tolerate watching the sausage of justice being made either in Court or in the mediated settlement conference where the employee is usually marginalized AND silenced (for WHOSE benefit?) I’d think they’d be more interested in prevention and workplace regulation (says the corporate tool) or Omsbud programs where the people with compassion can be found.

    (no offense to my fellow lawyers but REALLY, if you practice law, you develop mental toughness or you die)

  15. Pdx

    Thanks Vickie. The clarification of the terms would really be helpful. Before people assume and judge those that file suits against work place bullying please watch the story of Jodie. Jodie committed suicide because of the bullying (emotional violence) she experienced at work. [Ed. Note: link to video on commenter's blog deleted, but video is inserted below.]  The dynamics of workplace bullying are similar to the dynamics of domestic violence.

     

  16. SHG

    The moment Jodie found her boss abusive, she could have quit.  That would have been the end of it.  That she “loved her job” and chose to stay and endure the abusive doesn’t shift the onus to her employer for “emotional violence,” a facile and meaningless phrase.  This isn’t an instance of blame the victim, no matter how badly you would like to twist it, but an absurd decision to stay in the face of what is now claimed to be unendurable abuse. 

    If it’s unendurable abuse. leave.  There’s no familial tie that can’t be broken.  It’s a job.

    Your video, which was originally removed because of the policy here of not allowing commenters to include self-serving links, has now been inserted into your comment.  What you can’t see is that the video, rather than prove your point, proves exactly the opposite.  As Jodie’s sister says, it all sounds ridiculous.  Her supervisor nitpicked her job performance, so Jodie hung herself? 

    “Never in a million years would I think she would have taken this so seriously and do something like that.”

    Unfortunately, this is the problem.

  17. sally j.

    I agree that workplace violence has similar dynamics to domestic violence that I have taken in my post graduate course in nursing. I happened to work with a bully and all she does is to frighten me and make me feel that my food is coming from her table . My approach to that (bullying) is flight not fight humor but didnt work. I ended up being hit with sharp scissors and pens.I dont come back to the office for 2 weeks sometimes and my boss understand. Thank God !

  18. SHG

    Do you think there’s a reason why your boss doesn’t mind you leaving for weeks at a time?  Do you think there’s a reason why your boss, who you apparently think well of, keeps the other person who frightens you?  Do you think that suing your boss, the person who is understanding, is your solution?

  19. Kathleen Casey

    I had a nasty boss and coworker a long time ago, lined up another job, and quit. I knew the relief would be wonderful and it was. Where’s the rocket science? Geez. They did have a turnover.

    Later, in law school, a classmate confided that she had taken a part-time job with a small law firm. The partners were nasty. One of them berated her for not knowing what a Q-TIP trust was. Well I knew what it was because I had taken that course. Who cares? All it takes is cracking open a book that’s all. She didn’t have to take their s**t. My friend was approaching 40, had a couple kids at home on a farm and was a bit of a shrinking violet. Last I knew she was working in a law library in the midwest. Anyway I recollect telling her, “Quit! That kind of situation never gets better.”

    Next time I saw her she had taken my advice. She had no job but felt much better. I think she thanked me. I was a little surprised. It had seemed so simple. And somehow my mild friend managed to survive.

    As for the lawyers that kicked their part-time law clerk around? I don’t know who they were but I expect that they have reaped what they sowed for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (the phrase for the cause of action, and an apt description of the “dynamics”). We all do.

    The place I worked for is still there, under stable management and I guess thriving. Bought and sold a number of times over the years.

  20. SHG

    There are bosses who are truly abusive.  There are bosses who are occasionally less than wonderful.  There are bosses who are fine, but unduly sensitive employees will nonetheless be offended.   They are all wrapped up in a law that makes the employee’s sensitivities the deciding factor. 

    One person’s constructive criticism is another’s “berating”.  One person’s “severe emotional distress” is another’s lousy day.  If the job and the employee are a bad mix, change the mix.  Every hurt in life doesn’t demand a cause of action.

  21. Kathleen Casey

    I agree. You may misunderstand. My point is that the legal relief is available if the situation had merit and if it were worth pursuing. But most of them are not worth pursuing are they? Cutting your losses, learning from it, and moving on with your life is a valuable lesson.

    We all have to figure it out for ourselves, one way or another. With or without advice. Teacups here in NYS will have less incentive to do so if this thing is enacted. Isn’t that true?

  22. Stephen

    I reckon domestic violence is a crime for a reason other than because it hurts your feelings. I think it might be to do with the violence.

  23. SHG

    That’s the old school definition of violence, which involves, well, violence.  The new definition is anything that makes one feel bad is now violence, as in violence that doesn’t actually involve any violence.

  24. Stephen

    I really think bullying has to be an eye of the beholder issue – if you’re in the lunch queue at school and the big boy takes your lunch money he probably just sees it as taking your money but it’s you that sees it as bullying. So the victim would tick both theft and bullying on the survey but the other guy is just going to buy an extra packet of crisps.

    I think that legal remedies for injuries is kinda the point of law throughout history so I do think brutal bullying should in principle have some sort of come back but it’s hard to see how you’d work out what it is if it’s mostly in the recipient’s head. Obviously, if bullies do things that are crimes in themselves I think you should totally go after that.

  25. Vickie Pynchon

    I must say that I do not question the prevalence of bullying in the workforce, its severity nor the need for employee assistance as a way to resolve it. Not everyone can simply quit and find other work – boomers , for instance, have a hard time finding because of their age. And with the economy the way it is now, the chances for anyone to find a new job are limited.

    What I suggested in the Forbes piece was that a the creation of a legal remedy was bad for employees and employers. Litigation is major surgery with the attendant dangers and expense. Ombuds programs, education, and training are comparatively inexpensive, take care of many bullying problems before the cause irrevocable damage and do not further tear the social fabric of the work place. Scott disagrees with me but does not “call me names.” ironically, the anti-bullying advocates skip reasoned argument and immediately revert to ad hominem attacks. Shouldn’t surprise me – people choose work and causes to work out conflicts they don’t yet have the tools to resolve. And yes , Mediators tend to have conflict issues – we’re working on them!

  26. SHG

    One of the issues I’ve long fought, ever since college, is the notion that a job is a right. I am a capitalist, and I reject the notion that employees gain a proprietary interest in their job merely by being there.  I realize that it’s a bit facile to say, if you don’t like it, quit.  But at the same time, we’re talking about employees who are complaining that the abuse is untenable.  If so, then what the heck are you doing remaining in the job? 

    There are certain lines that must remain firm for the whole idea of commerce to function.  One such line is that between business owner and employee, and it’s a line that has long been fudged to the point of oblivion.  Aside from that, it would be wonderful if all workplaces had a warm and fuzzy atmosphere.  It would similarly be wonderful if all employees worked hard, did their job well, and didn’t lie, cheat or steal. 

  27. Vickie Pynchon

    We’re not, of course, completely on the same page, Scott, but I understand your position as a reasoned one.

    I’ll admit here, as I have in an article on workplace bullying, that my law firm was nearly sued for gender discrimination based upon an early evening conversation I once had with an under-performing associate.

    This is how the conversation rolled out:

    Associate (dropping by my office at 4:45 p.m. on her way home): you look haggard. Is there anything I can do to help?

    Vickie (not my finest moment): Well, you could START by doing your job, which does not include leaving the office at 4:45.

    Associate: I have a child at home.

    Vickie: (moving closer to the fire of discriminatory workplace treatment): If you want to work 9 to 5, there’s always work with the government.

    That’s it. 100% of the conversation.

    The associate quit (2 months before the trial of a $250 million antitrust action to which she was assigned).

    The next time I saw her name, it was printed on an EEOC form charging me and my law firm with gender-based discrimination.

    To give my comments context, I never did leave the office that night. I had a motion deadline AND a deposition the following day. I took a half-hour cat-nap as the sun came up; took a shower at my gym two blocks away and bought a fresh blouse as soon as the stores opened.

    Though the EEOC eventually closed its file without any further action, its filing did me considerable career harm, for which, I acknowledge, my situationally shortened temper may well have justified.

    Still! Gender discrimination! This old feminist sadly shook her head and moved on to the next case.

  28. SHG

    But she had a kid at home. If you had any compassion at all, you would let her stay home with her child and direct deposit her paycheck every other Friday.

    Unfortunately, gender-based discrimination has become a slippery slope all over the place.  But if that’s gone awry (not to mention, defeated the feminist agenda of showing that women were every bit as good, if not better, than men), imagine the damage workplace bullying would do to the dynamic.

    I appreciate the concerns (and your conern that a real problem have a viable solution), but we’re way over-regulated and each new protection begets an expanded right where none should really exist.  If no line can ever be drawn, then the slide downward never ends.

  29. mirriam

    My boss NEVER lets me leave at 4:45 pm. She couldn’t give two shits that I’ve got two small children at home. I think I need to sue her.

  30. SHG

    Possibly. Do you have photographs of you abusing yourself.  If so, please post immediately.  There are strict time constraints, you know.

  31. liza jane

    to everyone that thinks bullying is no big deal: if your wife or daughter was a hardworking, dedicated person who worked and treated everyone with dignity and respect came home upset everyday because her coworkers and managers belittled, ridiculed, assaulted,harassed, taunted, threatened,intimidated her relentlessly on a daily basis, what would you suggest she do? beg them to stop, report them to human resources? after following the chain of command with my complaints i was physically assaulted and threatened on a daily basis, the bullies, management and bystanders all denied that any of this was taking place. the company said my complaint had no merit because the bullies denied their actions. these monsters made statements about my breast asked me if i slept nude and stared at me all day everyday, they would laugh about getting away with treating me lower than a dog. i stayed because i needed my job, i stopped eating, i stopped living i was only surviving, i would tremble when i saw someone that resembled them or someone that sounded like them. when i would prepare my self for work i would litterally get so light headed i had to crawl to my bed and rest until my head stopped spinning. if i smiled they would say i had nothing to smile about, they would ask me why i came to work when i did not need a job. they would all group together and just stare at me or yell obsceneties. after every complaint the ill treatment escalated. i no longer wanted to live everything was dark, i was in a nightmare i could not wake up from. there were many incidents i did not discuss because the flashbacks are to painful. i want those that oppose the healthy workplace bill to tell me how they would handle this if it was someone they loved or cared about. in this country it should not be legal to harass someone at all but, surely not because you dont like the way they look, dress, walk, talk, or just because you dont like them. it is sad that someone can say i just dont like you for no reason and wreak havoc in your life. i know it is childish but, believe it some people never grow up. it is time to expose the bullies and the companies that keep them

  32. John Beaty

    So, there’s nothing in between disliking a boss/situation and being physically assaulted?

    Nuance, much?

  33. SHG

    Nothing, nor should there be.  Short of a crime committed again him/her, quitting is the answer.  Everything in life doesn’t demand a cause of action.  That’s all the nuance needed.

  34. Becki

    All I can say to those bosses who are bullies or just strong tough minded individuals….is watch out for the coffee. one of the clerks in my office, said to me one day, hey, don’t drink the coffee today. So I didn’t. Later I learned that she had scooped the water out of the toilet to make the coffee for the boss who kept yelling and belittling her. She is the same one who was so sick, but made to come in and she would hack and cough all over his telephone when he was out, and then he would be out sick. I started wiping my own phone down with alcohol just to make sure. Talk about passive aggressive. So who makes your coffee at the office?

  35. EJ Collins

    Unfortunately, what we have here in SHG, is a lack of sensibility. And there is no arguing with that. I can not argue with this person concerning the color red, for instance, if their vision is monochrome and having been born that way, they will never know what
    they are missing or why seeing their house a fire-engine red color, makes me puke. I have a “sensitivity” that they will consider a “negative” and condemn us for it very quickly before they recognize their own tragic limitation.

    The best you can do is hope that through law you can limit their damage on the society as a whole.

    This is not difficult to understand. It’s difficult to accept this common sense fact however. We chronically listen to people argue about things that are never really about their arguments.

    Now people who don’t know this are a very sad (but also dangerous) lot. But you can learn to understand them and
    pick them out of a crowed because they will fail in the sensibility department, in several other ways.

    For instance this person is a Republican or worse! How do I know? Sensibility!

    Thanks for reading.

  36. SHG

    The worst part about your comment is you probably think it’s deep.  Living in your own world of make-believe common sense that justifies whatever floats around you head isn’t something you should broadcast to others. 

  37. Bob

    It’s abundantly clear you have never been the victim of a bully. Because you have never found yourself in a situation where you could not leave and had to endure the depredations or face economic or career Armageddon, your piece and the follow up comments betray a fundamental lack of compassion.

    Workplace bullying legislation is not about protecting people from “hurt feelings.” It’s about extending the notion of safe workplace to include remedies for situations in which vulnerable individual are singled out for their weakness and methodically separated from the rest of the staff and emotionally tortured.

    Are you a sole practitioner? If so, you obviously have more control over your working environment that most people. The rest of the working world has put in roots in a particular area, has invested time and talent in their job, and is a few paychecks away from the soup kitchen. Never mind that unemployment is hovering at 10%.

    So how about you spend some time looking in the mirror. Peel back the layers of cynicism. It’ll hurt at first but eventually you’ll see that the guy underlying the insensitive cynic is compassionate.

    Maybe then you’ll use your bully pulpit for helping those in need instead of helping the bullies grind them into the ground.

  38. EJ Collins

    You seem to know a lot about this make
    believe world that floats around my head! But how would I know – you could tell us if you are Republican.

    As for “deep”; I don’t know how deep deep is or isn’t – compared to what?

    I am pretty convinced that “blind” is not good by any measure, but maybe you know better!?

    Maybe what you don’t see makes you
    better – or richer. I just hope I see
    you coming.

  39. EJ Collins

    The point is not that someone is ever
    bullyed. The point is that you are
    bullyed and all you may hear about it
    comes from people who don’t share your
    experience. When it’s you who is getting
    the business, – well you can see where
    you may find yourself. Here, with a
    stunning lack of empathy laid generously at your feet.
    feet.

  40. EJ Collins

    Wonderful comment Bob. But don’t waste
    yourself on these thugs. They will never
    get it because they don’t feel it. For
    them not feeling is used to advantage in
    life and you will never convince them
    otherwise. It looks like all we can do is hope there are enough of us who aren’t broken or incomplete, to hold
    the system together.

    Take Care,

    EJ Collins

  41. SHG

    The assumption that anyone who doesn’t agree with you is devoid of compassion is one of the failings of your position.  Everyone in this country believes they’re entitled to a law to prevent whatever particular problem is most important to them.  You can’t offer a rational argument for it, and thus are left to call names or impugn anyone who isn’t on board.

    You say it’s not about “hurt feelings,” and then go on to say it’s all about hurt feelings.  Changing the rhetoric doesn’t change the substance. 

  42. SHG

    The more you comment, the worse your cause appears because you come off, frankly, as a serious loon.  Get some help.  And no, I’m not a Republican.  And no, the bully bosses aren’t shooting gamma rays through your tin foil hat.

  43. SHG

    So we’re thugs because we don’t agree.  Are you being a bully?  Have we violated your rights and deserve to go to jail for being disagreeable.

    You are quite the spokesperson.

  44. R. Raymond

    I’m feeling emotional pain, and you are at fault. I tried, I really tried, to find something in your essay that I could attack to make me feel compassionate and sensitive, thus self-elevated. But in your callousness, you left me with nothing. Nothing but feelings that you nailed this one dead on. I feel so ashamed and you’re the cause.

    Try working with a hypersensitive co-worker. A tyrant masquerading as victim. Making a law against hurting their “feelings” is just another arrow in a quiver of emotional blackmail.

  45. Bob

    Forget about the rhetoric on both sides just for a moment and ask the question: Is it really okay for a person in a position of power to injure a weaker colleague with impunity? If it’s not, and if we agree that the perpetrators currently do it with impunity, then there is a basis for an amicable solution.

    To those who say this sort of legislation is unAmerican, I suggest you revisit the actions and writings of our nation’s founders. They understood all too well what it was like to get kicked around by bullies. That’s why our government was designed with checks and balances and that’s why the government can only act with the consent of the majority.

    Just remember there are many more victims than bullies and all things being equal in an election, bullies lose!

  46. Bob

    It’s ironic that you accuse your opponents of gaffes in logic. Attorney Greenfield, have you forgotten your Aristotle or do you purposefully choose to employ fallacious arguments in hope that your readers aren’t educated or intelligent or both.

    You cloud the issues with red herring arguments, ad homenim arguments, citing narrow examples and asserting they are representative of the whole, and underlying all is reductio ad absurdum. You reduce the issue to inviolable set of principles of your choosing and seek to impose that on others.

  47. SHG

    To injure?  If physical injury, then it’s an assault, and its a crime.  If hurt someone’s feelings, then they may (not are, but may) be a jerk, but the remedy (assuming it can’t be worked out internally) is to find a workplace where the person is happier.  

    As for there being more victims than bullies, of course.  Everybody’s a victim. 

  48. SHG

    Since you’ve offered no example of my flawed arguments, you’ve murdered all those words for nothing.

  49. Bob

    You suggested I didn’t cite examples of your mistakes in logic. We don’t have to go beyond this response. From an Aristotelian point of view, you commit at least four fallacies: 1. it is reductio ad absurdum because you reduce the problem to hurt feelings vs. jerks, which is not the true center of gravity of this discussion. 2. It’s also an argument by generalization because you only speak to the case of jerk vs. hurt feelings 3. The last clause is clearly both an argument by dismissal and 2. ad hominen. E.g., “Everybody’s a victim.”

    But the real reason your arguments ultimately do not work is that you draw an false distinction between a physical injury like assault or an industrial accident and intentionally inflicted psychological injuries. Changes in the brain chemistry of victims of psychological injuries can now be scientifically observed and measured.

    But how about we apply one your arguments to a pattern that will following this paragraph?

    You have suggested repeatedly that people are free to work any place they want and if they encounter a bully they should just change jobs. Therefore employers should not be held responsible psychologically injuries in the workplace.

    Before reading the facts keep in mind that you’ve already agreed that victims of physical injuries resulting from the violation of some law are worthy of protection under the law.

    Let’s say (a) Company X does not maintain its equipment. (b) Employee Y knew that when he was hired. (c) Nevertheless he took the job. (d) At some point during Employee Y’s tenure, one of Company X’s machines severed his left arm between the shoulder and the elbow.

    Applying your argument to this situation, Company X should not be held responsible for Employee Y’s injury because (a) he knew the risks and (b) he didn’t have to work for Company X.

    Your own logic demands the same workplace safety standards be applied in cases where an employer intentionally inflicts a psychological injury on an employee or if the employer has created a culture or knowingly permits the injury.

    By the way, in a perfect world, I am inclined to agree that the best solution is for the victim to find another job and to figure out how to avoid being a victim in the future. Rather like Employee Y above who should have found another job.

    However, as a practical matter. That’s often not possible. Contrary to your suggestion, most people do not enjoy sufficient freedom to abandon their jobs without severely disrupting to their lives. So they try to stick it out.

    And that’s why there are workplace safety laws and reams of case law that support the notion that employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace.

    FYI: I don’t expect you to change your mind. It’s very clearly closed. But I’m not murdering words so much as using you for target practice.

    I’m honing my arguments because my wife and I are in the process of launching an anti-workplace bullying campaign in my home state and the practice is good

  50. SHG

    Bob, you’re not doing nearly as well as you think you are.  I wrote about physical harm from assault. You are trying to liken that to a products liability case.  You are similarly trying to liken a physical injury to emotional distress.  And finally, the viability of a law is determined by extension to its logical extreme, not its “center of gravity.”  Clearly, you aren’t a lawyer and your lack of understanding makes this discussion pointless.  These aren’t discussions, but the way the law works.  You disagree?  Your ignorance doesn’t change it.  Want to find out more?  Go to law school.   But no more murdered words here.

    Go sell your argument to your vicims and the ignorant.  Best of luck, and I hope you don’t do too much damage in the process.

  51. Dan

    Bob, I don’t really care much either way on this argument, but I’ve got to tell you, never try playing lawyer. You really suck at it. I mean, really suck. You’re totally clueless.

  52. R. Raymond

    I’m with SHG and Dan. This law would give the hypersensitive one more legal way of wrapping their hands around our throats to strangle the life out of us. That is where this law will go, and quite frankly I hope you are the first to suffer its ill effects at the hands of some emotionally stunted individual. Just to wake you up.

    I worked outside sales for 18 years; you have no clue about the use of positive and, yes, negative reinforcement. Grow up. Hurt “feelings” are not an injury. Comparing it to a severed arm illustrates your lack of perspective and, uh, maturity.

    If he/she physically assaults you, have him/her arrested and find another job. If he/she yells at you and you cry, find another job. It will cause some temporary financial distress, although, not being a moron, I always had another job lined up first before I moved to another job. In fact, any moron can do just that. Using this near depression as an excuse is simply opportunism to promote a law that will have far reaching negative effects after the economic downturn is gone.

    Quit forcing your sensitivity on the rest of us. This isn’t “workplace safety” for god’s sake, it’s about dealing with people, and some people are nasty and your little feelings will get hurt sometimes. Try putting four years in the military for real world experience. Your feelings would be soooo hurt.

  53. The Notwithstanding Blog

    “I’m a medical student. Mine is a hostile environment.”

    The term “hostile environment” usually comes up in the context of workplace and other harassment law.  Generally, speech or conduct that is “severe” or “pervasive” enough to create a “hostile working/educationa…

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