Why We Need A Workplace Bullying Law (Part I)

Imagine the following scenario:  It’s time to replace your HVAC filer, so you visit the XYZ Hardware Store.  You approach an employee who is wearing a badge reading, “I’m Kelly.  I’m Here to Help You.”  She is engrossed in her iPhone and doesn’t look up or acknowledge you.  After an awkward moment, you ask, “Excuse me, where can I find HVAC filters?”  Without looking up, barely acknowledging your existence, she mumbles, “Try aisle five.”  You go to aisle five:  no filters.  You return to “I’m Here to Help You Kelly,” and tell her there were no filters in aisle five.  “It’s near aisle five,” she mutters, still captivated by her phone.  “You’ll find it.”  As your blood pressure rises you look for a supervisor and find a young man whose badge reads, “Jeff.  Assistant Manager.”  You ask about HVAC filters and mention that Kelly sent you to aisle five and wasn’t helpful.  “What?” Jeff exclaims, storming off.  Jeff confronts Kelly and, in a loud voice, says, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.  You know HVAC filters are in 7B.  Why didn’t you say so?”  He tears into her, calling her “stupid,” “ugly,” “useless” and finally:  “You don’t deserve to work here.  You’re lucky the owner likes you.  If it was up to me I’d toss your ugly ass out.  Do you understand?”  Kelly, sobbing uncontrollably, nods her head.  Jeff gives you an “I guess I told her!” look.  You decide you can live with your current filter and start to leave.  You pass an older employee with the weary look of a workplace sage and ask, “Did you see how Jeff treated that employee?  How does he get away with that?”  “I saw it,” she replies and shrugs.  “He’s the owner’s son-in-law.  Untouchable.”  You make an unplanned stop at a liquor store and, when you get home, you are still annoyed at Kelly but feel sorry for her.  You are troubled by the way Jeff treated her and discouraged by the conversation with the sage.  You feel sick to your stomach.  Then you realize:

You have entered a new dimension … as vast as retail and as timeless as anger. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his ambition. This is the dimension of abusive conduct. It is an area which we call the Workplace Bullying Zone.  (Homage to Rod Serling)

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