Diversity Conference at Cornell Discusses Bullying

Lori CornmesserThe 15th Annual Cornell University Diversity Update Conference took place last month on November 18.  In this article, we get an overview of topics covered at the conference.  One thing that stood out at this conference was the results of recent studies that indicate that over a third of U.S. employees will be subjected to some form of bullying in the workplace and that within that third of incidents of bullying, the majority will take place in colleges and universities as opposed to corporations.

One of the main speakers at this conference was Leah Hollis, author of, “Bully in the Ivory Tower: How Agression and Incivility Erode American Higher Education,” who brought statistics such as the one mentioned above to the attention of the group and spoke on preventative measures and actions to be taken to stop these incidents from occurring.  Hollis spoke to audience of over 150 people, her talk being a component of a sequence of presentations focused on types of workplace bullying, such as harassment, discrimination and bias subvert the possibility of a respectful, culturally aware and inclusive workplace.

Hollis honed in on the importance of leadership in the office, saying that the leader sets the tone and denotes what types of actions and words will and will not be tolerated among all members of the team.  It is the leader who sets the precedent for the rest of the organization.  Some of the most common forms of bullying seen in workplaces include repetitive insulting of a coworker, making threats about them losing their job, belittling hard work and achievements and not including them in important company information or updates.

The way to put an end to this, Hollis explained, is to be extremely clear from the get-go of the policy on bullying in the office and be sure to enforce that policy.  Similarly, offices should implement mandatory courses on harassment and discrimination for their employees, as well as 360-degree assessments for those in higher-up positions within the organization.

The points Hollis brings to attention are extremely important and are a step in the right direction toward a more widespread attitude of acceptance, inclusion and the expansion of diversity in workplaces around the world.

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