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Today’s Career Woman: A Moving Target for Bullies

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It was at the Power Move Summit 2008, that I had the honor of meeting Zondra Hughes for the very first time.  She was a panelist during a discussion about women, business and the rising minority community taking leadership positions.  I was impressed by her smarts, her drive and focus.  It is a pleasure to work with her at N’Digo, her talent as an editor, improves all those who are around her.  She has already gotten a few of her books published already at such a young age…watch out America!

I call her not only an extremely talented writer, incomparable editor but most of all…my friend.

Her new book, Living the Ebony Life: E-Mails from the Plantation, has just been recently released…great timing for a Christmas and Holiday present!

Also, be sure to check out her blog on Chicago Now, the city’s hottest blog community.  Perhaps she may include Money Smart Radio one day, as a show with “swagger”?  C’mon someBODY!!

Enter Zondra Hughes –

Ten years ago, I was fortunate to land a job as an Associate Editor of Ebony magazine, the ‘No. 1 magazine in Black America.’  To the outside world it was a plum position in the glamorous magazine industry that included great pay, benefits, and the bonus of reporting on A-List black celebrity.

(Insert a mental playback of that film Confessions of a Shopaholic right here; because that’s what I expected too–the high-life of the editor. )

I was wrong.

In my new memoir, Living the Ebony Life: E-Mails from the Plantation, I detail the rampant workplace bullying and oppressive power structure that adversely affected the company’s morale, and ultimately, the magazine’s editorial content. Recently, Newsweek reported that the company may be looking for a buyer; it’s my experience that new media didn’t cripple the historic magazine, bad management did.

An Uncomfortable Truth: Bullies in the Workplace

Chronic workplace trauma, a phrase coined in 1997 by counselor Linda Stennett-Brewer, was described as “the erosion of well-being and self-worth that can result from chronic mistreatment or devaluation at work.”

If you are a confident, hardworking woman with a positive attitude and a go-getter personality, there’s a 71% chance that you are bullied on your job­­–by another woman.

More than likely, your tormentor is a boss, or supervisor who has identified you as the competition. More than likely, you spend your days ducking your tormentor, covering your ass and pulling daggers out of your back-instead of performing your job.

More than likely, there’s no other recourse than to find another job or put your career on hold altogether.

The statistics are staggering; according to the Workplace Bullying Institute:

· Most targets of bullying (57%) are women

· Women bullies target women (71%); men target men (54%)

· Bullying is 4 times more prevalent than illegal discriminatory harassment

Also, there’s a 64% chance that if you are the target, you will be fired.

The good news is that the economy may force formerly aloof CEOs to pay more attention to the company’s human capital-that is, the worker bees-as they reassess workers’ skill-sets in order to streamline their payrolls.  The manipulative managers and savvy office politicians-usually the members of the bully pit-­­don’t tend to fare so well when required to perform their jobs and assume other duties in order to keep the company afloat.

Conversely, the not-so-good news is that these office bullies realize the jig is up. They will become desperate and are sure to become bolder with their maligning tactics in order to hold on to their positions.

Yet, despite the conditions, 40% of targets never report it; only 3% sue and 4% complain to state or federal agencies; even worse, a whopping 62% of employers ignore the problem according to the survey.

Unchecked workplace bullying can lead to high turnover rates and a loss of productivity.  In extreme cases, it can lead to lengthy litigation.

It is up to the employer to monitor telltale signs of bullying:

· No promotions or recommendations for advancement for subordinates.

· High turnover rates in a particular supervisor’s department.

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Zondra's recently released book, pick it up today!

· High volume of complaints about a particular manager, team-leader or boss.

· High volume of absences/sick leaves.

· A history of submitting lackluster performance reviews for subordinates.

· A high volume of unsubstantiated written reprimands for particular employees.

· Vulgar, abusive language when addressing subordinates.

An effective checks-and-balances system to deter the abuse of power could be beneficial to employers. Do not isolate yourself from your talent pool; bypass your middle manager from time to time and talk to your employees directly. Establish a direct, open, confidential line of communication between you and your workers;  be it an old-fashioned ‘comments’ box or a secure e-mail address, communication affords your employees the opportunity to express concerns without the fear of repercussion.

Employers may find that a little conversation can go a long way in terms of employee morale, loyalty and workplace productivity.

Zondra Hughes is the author of Living the Ebony Life: E-Mails from the Plantation, www.livingtheebonylife.com now on sale everywhere.

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