Workplace Bullies Cannot Be Tolerated

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.22.06 PMThis week’s tragedy in Roanoke affects anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom – television, print, digital, it doesn’t matter. As journalists, your heart is broken because the incident hits so close to home, and you can’t let it go because you need to do your duty and bring the news to your audience.

In the coming days we’ll continue to hear about this killer’s revenge motive, and whether this could have been prevented. But there’s one point that I made on Twitter on Wednesday that I’d like to reiterate here: Please don’t let what happened in Virginia deter you from reporting hostile/toxic behavior in the workplace.

The newsroom culture can be exhilarating and insanely stressful at the same time. There are moments when we blow up at one another. Reporters, photographers, producers – everyone – will lose their temper when deadlines are looming and stories are falling apart. In my very first newsroom job I remember my anchor telling me that I would need to learn to let things go quickly, because in this business people will get angry one day, and come in the next day like nothing happened.

That’s true, and for the most part I stuck with that philosophy, never letting one bad day affect the next. That’s what makes a newsroom a family. But there’s a difference between snapping at an innocent question during a moment of stress and consistently showing disregard for your co-workers. There are people like this in every workplace. There are people who don’t let things go, and people who make threats, like this killer, according to former co-workers. There are people who will belittle others behind their backs, people who will lob personal attacks about appearances, religious beliefs, race, you name it — even with their co-workers around. These people are bullies, and their abusive behavior cannot be tolerated.

I talk about this because it’s so easy for someone who has witnessed this behavior to brush it off for any number of reasons. People will make excuses that the bully is under a lot of stress, or that he/she is a good worker and didn’t mean it. Too many times people will do nothing because they don’t want to stir the pot, or they’ve been told they have to have “thick skin” to work in their office. Sadly, in these cases, the victims often leave for new jobs, and the bully avoids punishment. I’ve seen it, and I know many people I’ve worked with have seen it too. If it happens in newsrooms, it happens in other workplaces.

On social media the Roanoke killer claimed one of the victims reported him to human resources, and The Guardian obtained memos showing former co-workers brought multiple complaints about the killer to supervisors. These people did the right thing.

If you report abusive behavior to your boss, and your boss does nothing, don’t let that be the end of it. Report it to human resources, because these incidents must be documented. Every company has a policy for dealing with toxic behavior. It doesn’t have to end in a firing, not all workplace relationships are unsalvageable; some people just need an attitude adjustment.

Here are a couple of related items that I thought could be useful and informative. The first is a story titled, “How Common Is Workplace Violence?” from NPR’s “Here and Now.”

I also think this article, “5 Types of Toxic Employees (and How to Work With Them)” is a very good read if you’re struggling to get along with a difficult co-worker.

Lastly, here is a New York Times piece titled “Virginia Shooting Spotlights Riddle of Workplace Safety,” which focuses on the difficulties of identifying problem employees in the hiring process, and what happens after they’re hired.

And to all my friends in the news business, stay safe.

Finding a Balance

Being a parent is a challenge. Being a single parent is a greater challenge. And being a single parent in school… I don’t know how they do it. I still don’t know how my mother did it. But to accomplish what she and so many other single parents have done is beyond incredible.

I wrote this blog article – “School and the Single Parent” — earlier this month for Ashford University’s Forward Thinking site and I wanted to share it here. Read on to hear from two remarkable women who finished school while raising children as single parents. One of them, in fact, was a single grandparent.

Here’s a quote from one of the women, who became pregnant while attending school:

“Many times people view single parents as not being able to do or accomplish as much as others, but I refused to fall into that stigma. The greatest feeling and my happiest moment was watching my son cheer for me as I walked across the stage to receive my degree.”

Read on…

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When Spell Check Can’t Save You

I wanted to share this post I wrote for Ashford University’s Forward Thinking blog, it’s from an interview I did with the head of the school’s writing center.

There are some pretty good tips in here for people who need help with their writing and (perhaps more importantly) proofreading:

We all make mistakes. Even the sharpest minds will misspell a word or forget a comma when typing an email or an assignment. However, if you’re prone to errors you risk being labeled (fairly or unfairly) lazy and forgetful by co-workers and colleagues. 

Read on for 4 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills

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Getting Over the Hump

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 7.38.20 PMI’ve been learning a lot about what it means to be an online student, not just through my work, but also my recent experience. In the analytics course I took for my digital marketing certificate, I noticed attendance dropped after the first session, and there was even one night where I was the only one in attendance for the discussion with the instructor.

That got me thinking about the challenges of balancing work and school and family, and it led to this article for Ashford University’s Forward Thinking blog. I talked with the school’s Readiness Advisor team about the first few weeks of class, which is considered a “high risk” period for online students.

Read the article to see why getting over the initial hump can be so difficult, and how the RA team keeps students focused and on track.

A Different Kind of Classroom

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 7.25.00 PMI’ve been meaning to keep this site updated with blog entries I’ve written for Ashford University’s Forward Thinking blog.

Here’s a piece that was published in early July, “What You Need to Know Before Going Back to School.” Some of this I pulled from experience, as I’m currently attending online classes for my digital marketing certification.

I think from this article, the most important point to remember is the first one. If you’re going to make the decision to return to school while working full-time, share the details with your boss, even if your overall goal is to start a new career or find a new job. Read on to find out why…

Flame Out

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 8.50.54 PMBy nearly every account, the new Fantastic Four film is a disaster, and every day it seems we’re learning more about what happened behind the scenes of this train wreck. This is the kind of Hollywood flop they write books about, the kind that (hopefully) will inspire the person who already directed a documentary about previous Fantastic Four train wreck to direct a sequel about the new one.

I’m so fascinated by this story. I’ve never had any interest in the comic, and I’ve disliked all of the previous films. Yet I am so intrigued by what went wrong with this reboot. That’s why I couldn’t wait to hear this week’s episode of Now Playing Podcast. Here are some things that stand out:

  • One host defends the movie as another says it’s even worse than the Roger Corman version
  • The question is asked (and answered) as to why the Fantastic Four continues to be told on screen rather than, say, a TV series
  • One host calls it an “admirably interesting failure” (and you’ll want to hear why)
  • One host accuses a rival company of trying to “poison” the film

After you hear the show, get in on our Facebook conversation and tell us what you think should happen with the franchise. Listeners are split over whether FOX should make a sequel or reboot it again, or just stop altogether. It’s a great show and a great debate, join us.

Cover art to Now Playing Podcast's "Fantastic Four" retrospective series.

Cover art to Now Playing Podcast’s “Fantastic Four” retrospective series.

What kind of learner are you?

Snip20150710_14While putting together the latest piece for Ashford’s Forward Thinking blog, I started thinking about all the ways I attempted to absorb information in high school. I used to record myself reading notes aloud and play them back when I slept. That didn’t work because the sound of my own voice kept me up and I had to turn off the recording. I also tried sleeping with a book under my pillow, and once actually slept with my face on my notes. I didn’t do very well in high school.

I got better as I realized my learning style. When someone is speaking or giving a lecture, I can’t just listen, I need to be writing or typing my notes or my mind will wander off. I can work with chaos around me (I did it for years in news), but I prefer to work with music in my ears because it fuels me creatively.

I bring all this up to draw your attention to a Buzzfeed poll — “What Kind of Learner Are You” — posted by my team last November. Nearly 300,000 people responded, and we published the results this week. You can read the article, and the accompanying infographic, here.

Here’s a link if you want to take the poll.