Workplace Bullying a Trending Topic in News and Newsrooms

By Joe Grimm

The on-air resignation by two television news anchors in Bangor, Maine, has raised questions about ethics and aggression.

News Director Cindy Michaels and Executive Producer Tony Consiglio did not tell viewers on WVII, Channel 7, and sister station WFVX, Channel 22, why they were signing off for the last time on Nov. 21.

Michaels told the Bangor Daily News, “There was a constant disrespecting and belittling of staff and we both felt there was a lack of knowledge from ownership and upper management in running a newsroom to the extent that I was not allowed to structure and direct them professionally. I couldn’t do everything I wanted to as a news director. There was a regular undoing of decisions.”

Mike Palmer, vice president and general manager of WVII and WFVX, told the newspaper, “Upper management is not involved in the daily production of the news. Period.”

Michaels’ comment about disrespect and belittling behavior come as increased attention is being focused on workplace bullying, although no one has accused the station of that. The week before the pair resigned, Adam Piore of Bloomberg Businessweek called me for a piece he was writing about workplace aggression.

His peg was a CareerBuilder survey that said workplace bullying is on the rise.

He called me because my journalism students at Michigan State University wrote and published “The New Bullying,” a book that deals in part with an increase in legislation aimed at workplace aggression. We have seen laws about school bullying and hazing sweep the country. The next battlegrounds seem to be workplaces and whether bullying is a civil rights crime.

I told Piore that workplace bullying is in the same category with sexual harassment and other tactics for grabbing power or control that contribute to a hostile work environment.

It’s in employers’ best interest to make workplaces, like schools, bully-free because on-the-job hostility can reduce productivity and attendance, drive up attrition and, if states adopt more workplace bullying laws, civil and criminal penalties.

Have you been bullied at work? I’d like to hear from you.

Joe Grimm, a consultant and adjunct faculty member of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute, recruited for the Detroit Free Press, Knight Ridder and Gannett from 1990 until 2008. He now teaches at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He has run the JobsPage journalism careers site at www.jobspage.com since 1996. Questions about careers? Email Joe for an answer.

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  1. [...] Joe Grimm A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how the term “bullying” is being expanded to cover workplace [...]

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