Apr 13, 2018

Some people seem to believe that there is no such thing as bullying in the workplace. They believe that if you want to work for someone else, you will simply have to put up with whatever the work environment may turn out to be. If you don’t like it, then simply be a “grown up” and leave and go get another job.

Well, some people are able to do that and it might even work out for them. But for many employees it is not that easy to simply quit and find another job. Most people try to find a job that is somewhat interesting to them. Why shouldn’t they have the right to do their work in a respectful environment? That is not a lot to ask.

It is often the case that only a very few people in an organization are the ones who cause the negativity in the work environment that might impact a lot of dedicated employees. So why not focus on the ones causing the problem rather than letting the good employees go?

In the workplace I describe in my book, there was only one supervisor who was responsible for creating the negativity. It impacted many employees. I decided to fight back, but there were many others who were experiencing the bullying but decided to put up with it because they enjoyed the work. It would have been a much better workplace if the organization had decided to train the supervisor properly and provide her the guidance she needed to become a better supervisor.

 

Apr 06, 2018

Next week I will be speaking at the Montana School Counselors Association conference in Helena, Montana, on April 12, 2018. The topic of my presentation will be “Prevention of child sexual abuse – the ethical challenges”. This of course is based on my second book titled “Father Figure – my mission to prevent child sexual abuse”.

I am looking forward to this opportunity because it allows me to discuss this topic with another group of school counselors. Some people believe that school counselors do not need to know about this topic since their primary job is to assist students with academic direction and to prepare them for college and career options.

However, the fact is that the school counselors often have a lot of contact with children and most children end up developing a trusting relationship with their counselors. And because of that, children can share things with their counselors that they may not discuss with anyone else. In my book I have described a true account story where a young child shared something with her school counselor that eventually led to the arrest of the abuser.

In my presentation I talk about the challenges in “prevention” of child sexual abuse and I discuss the roles and responsibilities of the various groups and systems in our communities. I think it is very important for school counselors to understand these issues because one never knows when there might be an opportunity to prevent a potentially risky situation for a child. And as we all know, even one incident of sexual abuse can scar a child for the rest of his or her life.

 

Mar 29, 2018

Whenever I speak to school staff (and specifically school administrators) I make the point that a positive school culture with appropriate attention to mental health issues is essential for overall development of students. My presentation focuses on a definitive connection between bullying and its long-term psychological impact. This is an extremely serious issue that often goes unnoticed and undetected during school years. It is critical for school administrators to learn about the possible long term mental health issues and to provide the needed leadership to develop and maintain a positive school culture that provides a safe environment for all children.

The main goal of my presentation is to raise the awareness among school administrators that bullying can have severe long-lasting mental health impact. School administration and staff often believe that once a student (who was a victim of bullying while in school) graduates, there is no impact any more. The purpose of this workshop is to emphasize the fact that for millions of victims of school bullying, that is not the case – in fact, many of them suffer for years because of mental health issues triggered by bullying. It is very likely that if these students had received appropriate guidance and assistance during school years the mental health impact would not have been as severe.

Mar 22, 2018

In my book “How to stand up to workplace bullying and take on an unjust employer” I discuss many different work-related issues that I was not aware of before I got into this battle with the organization. One of these issues has to do with unemployment benefits.

Like most people, I was of the understanding that if you get terminated for whatever reasons, you will always be eligible to receive unemployment benefits for a while, and that is very helpful until you secure another employment. However, I was not aware of the fact that the organization that just terminated you, can also block your unemployment benefits. Apparently the organization can try to make a case that there has been employment misconduct and therefore the person should not receive any unemployment benefits.

I also did not know that you could fight this position taken by the organization and end up in an unemployment hearing in front of a judge (typically over the phone) to prove that there was no employment misconduct.

I ended up having to hire a lawyer to help me through this process. I had to put up with a long hearing, with four levels of management on the other side – but at the end I was able to win that battle. We were able to prove that there was no evidence of employment misconduct. I was fortunate to have been able to retain a lawyer for this purpose. Otherwise I don’t think I would have succeeded against four levels of managerial personnel.

 

Mar 15, 2018

Here is an excerpt from my book “Father Figure – my mission to prevent child sexual abuse” about involvement from family members:

 

After reading this book, you can see how the girls’ family played a key role in ensuring their personal safety. As we learned in Father Figure, biological family members are often the only ones with the legal power to take action on behalf of vulnerable children.

To all people reading this, please keep this story in mind if someone ever advises you that children related to you are in a potentially unsafe situation, and if you do find yourself in such a predicament, I ask that you please act quickly and do not delay becoming involved. In Father Figure, you read how Joan and I had to approach Dave’s family multiple times in order for them to take action on behalf of Lisa and Laura. While I fully commend Dave and his family now for what they have accomplished, I was concerned with the length of time it took for them to get moving at first.

While all legal process is time consuming, there were instances where I wish the family could have acted quicker. While I’m relieved to say in this case that it’s now water under the bridge, families do need to take swift action with the welfare of children at stake, whether the possible threat is coming from outside of or within the family. It is possible that family members might face some of the inconsistent or unsatisfactory responses that Joan and I had to deal with, but it is also true that the ‘family’ connection can give them a better chance at succeeding as compared to ordinary citizens in a situation like this when the possible threat is not coming from an existing family member. It can however be more difficult for family members to report and to get appropriate responses if the threat is from within the family”.

Mar 08, 2018

We often wonder how we can possibly eliminate bullying from the face of this earth. As I speak around the country about long term impact of bullying, I notice that bullying is well and alive all over the United States. Of course, there is no one answer that will solve this issue for everyone. However, one of the keys to minimizing bullying is to try and understand why bullies do what they do, and what role do bystanders play in that connection. As I described in my first book “A Life Interrupted – the story of my battle with bullying and obsessive compulsive disorder”, I had a very interesting personal encounter with one of my worst bullies from the past.

What I learnt is that this specific individual turned to bullying because he noticed that (1) people laughed and encouraged his actions, thereby improving his self-esteem, and (2) he felt that he now had a recognized place in the school community. He was now known for “something” instead of just another insignificant kid in the school community.

This revealing encounter clearly indicates the significant role a bystander can have in encouraging bullying. In fact, even if the bystander does not laugh or visibly encourage the actions, just by being there and witnessing it and not saying anything causes the bully to continue his/her irresponsible behavior. Of course it would be best if a bystander can step in and try to prevent the negative behavior – but as a minimum a bystander must not laugh or encourage the actions and should simply go away from the area and report it to the school authorities.

As I continue my speaking around the country, I talk about the devastating impact bullying has had on my life so others would understand that the role of a bystander is key in minimizing bullying during school years.

Mar 01, 2018

One of the reasons there is bullying and harassment in the workplace is because there are many workers who never learnt how to work in a team environment. Most of our schools and colleges do not necessarily focus on team projects or team successes and achievements. Most activities in schools and universities are individually focused and do not allow students to learn how to achieve greater success by working together and supporting one another.

Running any kind of an organization is a team effort, and people who have learnt how to work in teams know that you cannot achieve greater success if the team is not working in a harmonious environment. These people understand that:

  • Every individual is different and has his or her own strengths and weaknesses
  • A team can work well only when various members’ strengths are coordinated well together to focus on overall team success
  • An individual’s weaknesses should not be highlighted – instead, his or her strengths should be emphasized

A good coach knows very well that each player in his or her team is unique and that same coaching technique may not work well with all the players. Similarly a good manager knows that every employee is different and may require different patterns of managerial attention.

Feb 22, 2018

My book titled “Father Figure – My Mission to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse” describes a true account story about a single mother dating a registered convicted child molester and the subsequent risks to her young children. Following are some of the suggestions I make for single mothers based on my experience with this situation:

 

  • Single mothers must get to know a man carefully before they introduce him to their children and well before she gives him personal information about her children.
  • Single moms should not give new men a lot of detailed information about their children.
  • Though being targeted by a predator is never a single mom’s fault, this awareness can certainly help her to protect her kids even more.
  • A single mother should do a background check on a man before introducing him to her children. When a single mom tries out relationship possibilities with new men, this should first occur outside of the home and without the children’s involvement. If such meetings do occur at the woman’s house, the children should not be present when this happens.
  • A single mom should not use her children to help win her partner’s affections.
  • If using online dating websites, single mothers should state in their profiles that they must get to know a man well over time before he will meet their children. This precaution would likely discourage predators who are trolling the internet looking for moms in desperate search of a dad for their kids.
  • It is also advisable for a single mom not to mention the gender of her children in her dating profile. This move is likely helpful, as child predators usually have a gender preference and may pass a lady by if the gender of her kids is not easily known.

Feb 16, 2018

On Thursday Feb 15, 2018, I got an opportunity to speak in front of a number of school principals and assistant principals at a conference in California. I spoke on the topic of “Strong social/emotional health is key to overall success” at the ACSA (Association of California School Administrators) “Every Child Counts” Symposium in Anaheim, CA.

My presentation focused on the fact that, for all children, a strong emotional health and a positive self-image are key ingredients for overall success in life. If on a regular basis a child is concerned about having to deal with negative issues/events/incidents, it is simply not possible for the child to focus on the positive aspects of school and social life. For academic success of all students it is critical to maintain a safe and nurturing environment for all children. When we talk about a safe environment for children we must include discussions about creating and maintaining an atmosphere in schools where ALL children can feel free to be themselves and learn most effectively at their own pace. If a child has to face negative environment on a regular basis, it can lead to long lasting negative impact far beyond the school years. This presentation is highly appropriate for the “Every Child Counts” symposium because it is focused on developing and maintaining a school culture that has three key objectives – acceptance of differences in people around you, being kind and respectful to others as opposed to negative behavior such as bullying, and focusing on self-acceptance so you can achieve success in life.

My presentation was based on my book titled “A Life Interrupted – the story of my battle with bullying and obsessive compulsive disorder” and had the following learning objectives:

  • Participants will learn what some of the key elements are for a safe and positive school culture where all differences are respected.
  • Participants will also learn that bullying can play a key role not only in triggering a severe mental health disorder, but also in how the disorder plays itself out for the victim and tortures him/her for years.
  • Participants will learn why bullies do what they do, and what needs to happen to minimize the negative impact.

Feb 08, 2018

One of the reasons why I wrote my book titled “How to stand up to workplace bullying and take on an unjust employer” is because I am aware that there are many employees who would put up with the harassment rather than standing up to it. Many of them are not necessarily afraid of losing their jobs – they are simply uncomfortable about the stress involved in dealing with the process.

I had worked for a number of different organizations before deciding to become an author and a speaker. And in almost all of the workplaces I have been involved with, I had noticed several employees being distressed about unfair treatment typically by the managers or supervisors. Most employees seem to believe that if they put in a complaint they will either get fired or nothing will really change even after a long and stressful complaint process.

I do understand that feeling, but I wanted to let everyone know that change does not happen until someone takes a stand. No one deserves to be treated poorly at work and the employer needs to know that this behavior is not acceptable. And it is generally easier to deal with the stress involved in the complaint process than the continued daily stress of putting up with the harassment.

 

© 2017 - Sumi Mukherjee
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