* Dismissing employees suffering from stress as "weak" while completely ignoring or denying potential work-related causes of the stress.
* Encouraging employees to fabricate complaints about colleagues with promises of promotion or threats of discipline.
How do you know if bullying has become accepted as part of an employer's culture? Watch for these tell-tale signs: Aloof leadership, inconsistencies in HR policy administration, favoritism toward workers who keep quiet about unfair practices, lack of openness in downward communication, lack of honesty in upward communication, lack of due process, questionable terminations, increased grievances and disciplinary actions, inability to fill vacant positions, resignations, requests for transfers, and increased absences due to sickness.
The media has done a good job of documenting similar problems inside DHHR and Sharpe Hospital for two years. This includes a dramatic rise in grievances and disciplinary actions, a continuing high volume of unfilled positions, lawsuits that contend unfair practices, wrongful terminations, and DHHR's defiance of a court order to fix pay problems. More recently, lawmakers have become involved in facilitating gripe sessions for their constituents who work at Sharpe.
In response to the growing publicity, DHHR has apparently put Sharpe on notice to modify its callous ways. Chatter around the water cooler is about the silliness of watching known bullies being required to express birthday greetings and mingle amongst the patients. However, like victims of post-traumatic stress, Sharpe's workers have become sensitive to sudden behavior changes and skeptical of intentions that are too little and too late. At this point, genuine relief can only come by watching the bullies being escorted off the premises. Why this did not happen starting two years ago demonstrates how DHHR has allowed corporate/institutional bullying to become an accepted part of Sharpe's culture.
Every resident of West Virginia has unknowingly become a victim of the bullying taking place inside Sharpe. Like it or not, taxpayers are footing the bill for DHHR turning its head to this problem. Tax dollars allocated by the Legislature to fund hospital expansion plans may have to be diverted to cover the rising costs of grievance hearings, lawsuits, settlements, reparations for unfair pay practices, and perhaps even poor patient care. It's time for the bullying to end.
Garton, a graduate of Lewis County High School, Glenville State College and the University of New Mexico, led the global staffing for the Miller Brewing Co. and Kraft Foods. He is now an author and speaker and operates a company to provide career training for veterans. He lives in Chicago.