Let's Be Reasonable . . .


It was a tremendous honor to be a keynote speaker at the 8th International Conference on Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Copenhagen, Denmark this past June.

My talk, "Sad, Angry and Hopeful: Reflections from the Front" discusses the importance of acknowledging the limiting beliefs and emotions that can impede our understanding of bullying behaviors in the workplace. To read it, simply click on the title.

Reflecting on the current state of the field, I am struck by the zealous pursuit of an absolute definition of workplace bullying by researchers, employers, legislators and litigators worldwide. I’ve come to think of it as the quest for the Holy Grail of workplace bullying, which, upon discovery, would seemingly endow us with complete knowledge on how to identify, prevent, and solve "it."

I’ve yet to encounter absolute definitions of other forms of abuse, such as child abuse. We find general definitions ("the physical or emotional mistreatment of children"), but it is clear that that different parents, practitioners, and jurisdictions develop different definitions for such behaviors – there is no absolute definition. Societies adjudicate the most complex and ambiguous cases based upon a consideration of what a reasonable parent would do, and I suspect that workplace bullying will be defined along this same "reasonable person" standard, as we see in Australia’s Occupational, Health, Safety, and Welfare Act (1986) definition of what workplace bullying is not:

Reasonable action taken in a reasonable manner by an employer to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or dismiss an employee.

We at the Boss Whispering Institute advise employers not to wait for absolute definitions of workplace bullying, but instead adopt a policy of early intervention in response to reports of abrasive leadership behavior. Why wait for absolute definitions when early intervention and investment in these leaders can address the problem quickly and to the benefit of all?

Let’s have the courage to be reasonable.


Best regards,
Laura Crawshaw, Ph.D., BCC
Founder & Director



Dr. Laura Crawshaw received her master's degree in clinical social work from the Smith College School for Social Work and conducted postgraduate studies at the Seattle Institute for Psychoanalysis and the Harvard Community Health Plan.

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