REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATION OF
Gary and Ruth Namie, Bullyproof Yourself at Work (later edition entitled The Bully at Work)
as posted on amazon in 1999
by Kenneth Westhues (published here in his Online reviews)
This is one of two excellent new books dedicated to the memory of Heinz Leymann, a Swedish psychologist who died in January 1999, after having spearheaded the greatest advance of the past twenty years in the study of work. The other book, also available from amazon, is entitled Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, by Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz, and Gail Pursell Elliott. The books are alike in honoring Leymann's memory in the best possible way: by extending his research and presenting the results in a way that will be of enormous practical benefit to both employers and employees. Leymann's breakthrough was against the background of current preoccupations on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, and the other officially recognized bases of unfair treatment in the workplace. Some argue now for expanding the list of shibboleths to include employees' criminal records and political beliefs as illegal grounds on which to exclude or punish them. Leymann managed to get beyond this current way of thinking, with its fixation on grounds of ill-treatment, and to focus instead on the fact of ill-treatment, whatever the apparent ground. The phenomenon he conceptualized and studied was the humiliation and destruction of an employee by the employer. He called this process mobbing or bullying: intense aggression against an individual by managers or co-workers, aimed at crushing the individual utterly and eliminating him or her from the group. Leymann's conceptualization, which Bullyproof powerfully brings home to American readers, shifts attention from real or imagined reasons for cruelty to cruelty itself. Quoting extensively from first-person accounts, the Namies show that bullying may occur not just because the target is of the wrong sex or race but because the target is talent, successful, or cooperative. They shift attention from some purported defect in the target to the bully's inordinate need to control and dominate--to the point of destroying one who will not submit. Harassment, as used in the subtitle of this book, need not have anything to do with sex. It means picking on or ganging up on somebody, little by little dragging that person down, often for no other reason than that the perpetrators get a kick out of it. Bullying inflicts huge costs on both the target and the organization. It represents a diversion of time and energy away from getting the job done to putting some worker down. It is the substitution of power-mongering and one-upmanship for efficient and productive work. Bullyproof is an engaging mix of compassion and fight. Far from being detached, ivory-tower researchers, the Namies are determined not just to understand the mini-holocausts taking place every day in American workplaces but to prevent them. The splendid cover illustration shows a bullied worker effectively wielding a shield against flames of destruction exhaled from the bully's mouth. This book is for anybody employed anywhere. Even if you yourself are not being bullied now, you probably know somebody who is, and who will thank you a thousand times for the loan of this helpful guide to resistance and mental health. There is practical advice, well grounded in research, on every page. This book is part of the authors' international Campaign against Workplace Bullying, a movement that deserves wide support.