Episodes

  • Transparency is Key

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    Transparency is key, there's nothing else that's going to help us out of this. We've got to choose the hard right over easy silence. There've been quite a few recent media pieces about federal workplaces and beyond for that matter. This includes PBS NewsHour, NBC Dateline, and even the John Oliver's show on HBO.

    Transcript:
    All of this media is causing many to take pause to think about their workspace and how they're treating their brothers, their sisters, their coworkers, their peers, their supervisors. Past and current experiences never mentioned out loud before, being shared amongst close friends and confidence in many different circles and there are nothing short of heartbreaking sometimes. What I'm really finding crazy is that I'm hearing a broken record across the country, not just here in my place, not just in this state, not just in this Western region, across the country. There are so many heartfelt stories out there of folks that have practically gone down in flames and part of me wonders how many people we've actually lost and not realized. People are going down not only professionally but personally as well, because of the troubles that we're having at work. Many of these stories occur in male dominated professions, but it isn't only the females who suffer. 

    Something that's really eating me up a lot lately that I'm concerned with, and I know that we need to do more about the effects on mental health. It's staggering, and it's shoved into the dark by so many on a far larger scale than we've realized. Relationship and families fall to pieces because of toxic work environments. It doesn't just stop in the office, doesn't stop at the station, especially in the cases where a person's career almost completely defines who they are. We're going to be talking in an upcoming episode about the painful, and physical, and emotional breakdown that happens after a loss of professional identity. I'm hearing more and more that there are men experiencing some of the same issues when it comes to bullying and harassment in general, it's not just women, and it's not just sexual. 

    Some folks are comfortable sharing their name when they confess or pour out their pain and frustration, but a lot of people aren't because of fear of retaliation or reprisal is real and for good reason. If the only way that you can share your story is anonymously, that's okay, then I can help you do that because really I can see what it's about is people need to feel like they're not so alone. They need to realize that things are happening, even if they're not happening in your world, you need to hear that they're happening in other people's world. Because let me tell you, these things are happening so often and they're so egregious and surprising you can't make this stuff up. Feel free to share your story with me at abby@upinflames.org, I promise you, I will always respect whatever level of confidentiality you ask for. If you wish to share your story anonymously simply so that others don't feel so alone, let me know. I can help you out and maybe I've got some resources that can help you out too. 

    Sometimes when a victim hears of another story, it pulls them off the lonely island that they've been desperately trying to survive on. I challenge you to help me use this platform to help those out there who doubt the validity of victims. See that harassment and bullying is really happening out there, and it has been for a long time. Even if you're not a victim, but maybe someone who stood up for another or witnessed an incident, we want to hear from you too. And to the few brave out there who are willing to admit you are either guilty of such treatment or you silently stood by and allowed p

  • Administrative Bullying

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    In this episode I talk about the hidden torture of administrative bullying and how similar it is to school yard tactics. Its little nit picking that seems minute at first but adds up to unfathomable psychological warfare. We also discuss the many layers wrapped into a toxic work environment. The ripple effect brings more people into play than you realize.

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  • The Sum of Zero Tolerance

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    Zero tolerance, yea that’s what they keep telling us at all of those trainings, on all of the pretty fliers posted up in the break room. Zero tolerance for harassment, for violence, for bullying, for hostility, the list goes on. Zero tolerance. There is also zero tolerance for retaliation and reprisal, basically there is zero tolerance for payback.

    Speak up when you see something wrong, they say. Tell someone when a red flag goes up, there’s zero tolerance for people coming back at you, they say. God, how I wish this was true. I wish I could look into the eyes of the women I mentor while encouraging them to stand up and promise them they will be safe from the kickback of their superiors or even peers. No, retaliation is not allowed by policy, but we all know that reprisal lives and thrives in the work place in social clubs on teams, basically wherever humans gather and decide they don’t like what one of them is saying, reprisal occurs in some form or another. It can be as simple as an eye roll or as serious as a physical beating. 

    In the work place you can’t tell someone, “hey, I don’t like what you did, I don’t like what you said, I don’t like that you filed a complaint, I didn’t like the way you did that TPS report, so I am going to do something mean to you.” No of course it is not that blatant because everyone knows it is not allowed, meaning you can’t get caught. If you want to get someone back for speaking up about something you wished they’d shut up about, you have to be smarter than that.

    So what about the sneaky retaliation? The sly little snakes that slither around in the dark and just wait for an opportunity to mess up your world? This can be a thousand times worse if they are your superior. You all know what I am talking about, it is that simple thing you need as an employee. You ask a question, you request an opportunity, something that any other day would have been okay. And they either ignore you or give you a really good excuse that they label as justification. Its an excuse that they didn’t give you last year when you asked for the same thing. So, what is different now? What did you do to piss them off? Did you speak up when no one else would? Did you raise your hand in that meeting and share your opinion, your thoughts? Maybe your opinion didn’t match that of your superiors. Did you speak out just like the men in the group who are still getting the same opportunities and treatment, but you’re not? Did the men who spoke out, if they even had guts to, ask questions or challenge ideas? Did you maybe file a complaint? Did ya, dare I say it, tattle on your boss? Did you go above his head and follow the chain of command the way you were trained to do? Now all of a sudden you can’t go to that conference or take whatever special opportunity you needed to advance your career. Nope, your supervisor has ten reasons now why you should be held back and they probably all point to you, with the intent to make you look like the problem. It happens every day and yes, in male dominated workplaces, it happens to women far more than it happens to men. There is no reason for me to post scientific stats, or link testimonies of proof, its been proven and if you are a gal in one of these situations, there is no doubt.

    We have to stop pretending this doesn’t happen. We have to stop saying there is zero tolerance for reprisal and find a way to not let the slithering individuals out there use their crafty manipulative power to hurt those who cry out for help. The ripple effects are so painful, even deadly sometimes. Other employees who don’t even know they have become a part of it are influenced by the façade these snakes present and they join right in, hurting the woman who spoke out, without even realizing it. 

    I would love to hear from anyone woman who has experienced this in the fire, military or law enforcement professions. Email abby@upinflames.org

  • It Takes a Big Broom

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    You can almost hear the swishing noises in the back of muckety-muck offices at work places that would rather sweep their filthy dirt under the rug than toss it in the trash.

    News Flash – this is happening in more places than you think. Of course, this isn’t happening everywhere, that is never the case. However, I have been getting messages from employees of several male dominated agencies where this same thing is happening at an alarming rate. On the outside leaders are singing the song of zero tolerance and promising to support victims, but behind the scenes, they are crapping their pants and coming up with ways they can twist situations around to protect themselves. It has me wondering, are they protecting themselves or has there been a management culture created to where they actually think they are protecting the agency? 

    Let’s face it, it looks a whole lot better if reports show there were several unfounded reports of harassment than a few founded ones demanding discipline. It looks much better on your performance review if you identified and dealt with a few liars, crying like babies that they felt harassed, then if you actually have to admit there’s a problem under your command. Ten whining women that you had to shut up and force into a dark corner with a dunce cap is far better than one agency riveting conviction. It is really starting to come down to logic the more I look into it. Where is the motivation to do the hard right over the easy comfortable wrong? 

    We are getting reports of women not only speaking up, but having other highly respected men speak up in their defense and the superior who is identified with deciding if there is actually a problem or not, turn a blind eye and almost, word for word in official response say, “nothing to see here.” You see, if these individuals who are given this power have nothing to win by admitting that there may be a problem. If they can find any teeny shadow of a doubt, with or without official inquiry, or find a way to pretend they never heard it… They will. Here is the kicker, these managers, superiors, chiefs, sergeants, whatever the situation calls for, they aren’t always men. Women are doing this to women, because gender has nothing to do with the desire to prevent a black eye.  Turns out… Black eyes don’t get bonuses. 

    Do you have an experience to share? A duty location to mention? Feel free to share details, we simply ask that you only share the truth. Without your honesty none of this matters. You can do so anonymously here in the comments or send a confidential email to truth@upinflames.org

    #HardTruthOverEasySilence

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    The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any employer or agency. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of  their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

  • Up in Flames Episode 1

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    Inspiring morale courage in the workplace and beyond.

    This is a project that I started doing because I realized that there were a lot of people out there whose voices weren't being heard and stories weren't being told. I'm not just talking about sexual harassment, I'm talking about the semi-jaw dropping and the extremely jaw-dropping things that can happen in a workplace. A lot of folks think that it's not possible because maybe they haven't ever seen it, or somebody that's close to them has never told them a story about their personal situation.

    Up in Flames is strong women, and men for that matter in male-dominated professions, and they stand up for what's right. Maybe harassment or a broken policy, unethical behavior, a bullied peer, the list goes on. Sadly, there are people in high positions who call themselves leaders.

    They make it a mission to knock these women and in some cases, men, down as basically whoever has a target on their back. It can ruin their day, or it can wreck an entire life, career, marriage, family. People don't realize how damaging harassment or bullying can be in adult lives.

    Far too often, the most reputable, trail-blazing people, back away and stay silent just to save themselves from never-ending harassment or reprisal, so they don't end up in a miserable ripple of reprisal, just so they can avoid being deemed one of "those" women or one of "those" people.

    Yes, there are zero tolerance policies, but you know everyone keeps saying, "You're not allowed to do that, there is no tolerance for treating someone so poorly or harassing them or retaliating on them." But guess what? Sneaky retaliation is alive and well, and it can smash down the bright light burning in amazing women. The Up in Flames idea that I have, it's a place where stories can be anonymously shared or not in a way that'll shed light where needed. Maybe it will simply bring awareness and bring change that comes through awareness by those who cause pain.

    Privacy of anybody that needs it, wants it, that shares information or stories with me is promised. I know how paramount that can be and I don't want anybody to be hurt any further. I just want things to come to solution through awareness. Maybe somebody in the future will hear a story and realize that what's happening to them is wrong. Or maybe they are a bully or a harasser and they didn't even realize it or how it was hurting people.

    Stay tuned with this journey, just come along with me and know that stories will be confirmed and only truth will be tolerated. This isn't for rumors, this isn't for hearsay. Trust me when I tell you that the things that we will share of you're hearing very poignant situations. They were confirmed. Did they go through a court system? Maybe not, but these things are happening. Things that are not just rape and mayhem, but all these little twisted things that can just make people berserk.

    And so often times, women, who are tolerating these subtle behaviors at work, seem like their careers are going to go down in flames, and I want to highlight the ones that go Up in Flames. Someone tries to take you down, a group tries to push you down, you push yourself down. And instead of going down in flames, I want to recognize and find some stories and feed some inspiration to help people go Up in Flames, and rise above it all, stronger than they ever were before.

    I envision a phoenix, that's what I do. I see something flying up in the air, it's on fire but it is going. It's flying, and it's not going to let its whole body burn to ashes. It's not going to let its life be for nothing. So the stories that are buried out there of just out of self-preservation, they're sometimes beyond belief. And the little girls and boys who dream to be just like the adults they idolize, depend on us sharing our stories and experiences.