FINAL_DSC_7171-819x1024Mediating divorce cases can be stressful and draining on the mediator. But what happens when a case shifts gears suddenly and becomes a classic “high-conflict” case in which tensions rise, and you quickly feel like you’ve lost control of the mediation and may not be able to rescue it.

What can you do?
Building structure within each basic mediation step
Step 1 : Signing the agreement to mediate
 spend more time bonding with clients during this stage
 establish that you will have tight control over the mediation process
 thoroughly explain the process and rules of communication
 let them know you’ll pay equal attention to their concerns and proposals
Step 2 : Making the agenda
 have clients raise the issues – not you
 emphasize that it is the parties’ dispute and decisions to be made, not the mediator
 encourage each party to look at and speak to the mediator instead of each other
Step 3 : Making Proposals
 begin the proposal process earlier than usual mediations, to keep highly intense emotions from taking over
 focus on understanding a proposal before allowing the other person to respond
 manage the process with a very direct approach, while not taking responsibility for the outcome
Step 4: Finalizing Your Agreements
 remain calm and remind yourself and the parties that you are responsible for the process, not the outcome
 remember that high-conflict cases may take twice as long to reach final agreement
solving and the other is focused on relationship defensiveness – this may cause them to go round and round several times before signing the agreement
It is possible to help parties in high-conflict cases reach agreement and develop solid parenting plans by using a highly-structured method like this new resource

New Ways for Mediation: More Structure, More Skills and Less Stress for Potentially High-Conflict Cases

Is Divorce Mediation for You?

 

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.

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TN-217598_MarkB_BaerEsq_originalIn theory, it is best when parents with minor children are able to work out a custody and visitation arrangement on their own when they separate and/or divorce. After all, the matter involves their children/family and wouldn’t they know what is best for their particular situation? Not always!

I was recently representing a father of three (3) minor children in a divorce case in which he and his wife entered into an Agreement under which he would see his children every other Friday from 7:00 p.m. to Sunday at 4:00 p.m. He entered into this Agreement in Conciliation Court, which is the mediation program that parents are required to attend in Los Angeles County before going into court on a matter relating to child custody and visitation. For those who are unaware, lawyers are not permitted to participate in Conciliation Court.

Before my client ‘s Conciliation Court appointment, I warned him against entering into a Custody and Parenting Agreement that he would not be able to live with for a long time. As requested, my client contacted me as soon as he left the courthouse. During that conversation, he informed me that he had entered into a Conciliation Court Custody Agreement and Parenting Plan. As soon as he finished describing the terms of the Agreement, I asked him whether or not he realized that he would not see his children for twelve (12) days between each of his alternate weekend visits. I commented that most, if not all, of his children’s friends will see their fathers on a more frequent basis, regardless of marital status. I explained to him that his children will most likely assume that he sees them less than other father’s see their children because he loves them less and that this would most certainly negatively impact his relationship with them. After our conversation, he agreed with me that his children would most likely perceive their relationship with him in the way in which I had described, especially since he resided in close proximity to them. He then requested that I file an Objection to the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan. As discussed in my article from the September/October edition of the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association Newsletter, I informed him that the Court might refuse to acknowledge the Objection to that Agreement.

I immediately contacted his wife’s attorney, who had not yet been informed of the fact that they had reached an Agreement regarding the custody issues. I explained my concerns to him and he immediately acknowledged the problem and validated my concerns. I requested that he see if we could modify the Agreement to include some visitation during the week. He told me that he would discuss the matter with his client. Meanwhile, I filed an Objection to the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan. As an additional complication, the hearing on this matter was scheduled for the next Court day and therefore it was virtually impossible to resolve the matter prior to that hearing. As a result, I suggested that everyone arrive at the Courthouse at 7:00 a.m. the following morning (1 ¾ hours before the scheduled hearing) in order to try and resolve the matter without judicial intervention. Everyone agreed to my proposal and we were able to settle the matter outside of Court. With the assistance of their attorneys, the parents were able to work out a parenting plan that suited their particular situation and which was in the best interest of the children.

After entering into that Agreement, which was signed off by the Court and made into an Order, I received a copy of the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan which the Court also signed off on, even though we had subsequently resolved the matter differently and I had filed an Objection to that Agreement. Under the circumstances, the fact that the Court signed off on the Conciliation Court Agreement and Parenting Plan in that case is of no significance. However, it is indicative of the fact that courts tend to disregard Objections to such Agreements. Although I knew and had previously written about such concerns, it bothered me that courts sign off on Agreements entered into by parents which most certainly are not in the best interest of the children and will negatively impact the children’s relationship with one or both parents.

Over the years, I have come across many situations in which parents enter into Custody and Visitation Agreements which are clearly detrimental to the children. Nevertheless, the courts sign off on such Agreements because they are “Agreements.” On several occasions, I have seen parents with multiple children enter into Agreements whereby each parent would have 100% of the time with particular children of the relationship in order to “avoid conflict with the other parent and to protect the children from being exposed to such conflict.” In other words, rather than learning to co-parent, the parents decide that it is in the best interest of the children that they have a relationship with only one of the parents and that their relationship with their siblings in the other parent’s custody be severed. Such a parenting arrangement is by no means in the best interest of the children. Under such circumstances, the children not only need to deal with their parent’s divorce, but also with the loss of one parent and certain of their siblings. Although courts would never make such orders, they do sign off on such Agreements, thereby making them binding Orders of the court.

Thus, while it is best when parents with minor children are able to work out a custody and visitation arrangement on their own when they separate and/or divorce, some parents need assistance in determining what is in the best interest of the children. Without such assistance, parents can do things that are very detrimental to their children, often without even realizing it. Should Judge’s just sign off on such Agreements, without even addressing the possible consequences? Who protects the children from such parents?

If you have a child custody issue, please contact Pasadena Family Law attorney Mark B. Baer, Esq. at Mark B. Baer, Inc. a Professional Law Corporation.

Forthcoming changes to the family law in England and Wales amount to a “revolution”, the President of the Family Division has claimed.

In the recently published 11th View from the President’s Chamber, Sir James Munby said:

“Central to this revolution has been – has had to be – a fundamental change in the cultures of the family courts. This is truly a cultural revolution.”

The family courts stand “on the cusp of history” and the changes due on April 22nd mark “the largest reform of the family justice system any of us have seen or will see in our professional lifetimes.”

Tuesday sees the introduction of the ‘Single Family Court’ and the retirement of the current Family Proceedings Court. The newly unified court will deal with all but a few family proceedings which will be reserved for the High Court. Family cases will no longer be heard in either magistrates or county courts, although the family courts will sometimes sit in county and magistrates court buildings.

Amongst other changes, April 22 will also see the introduction of compulsory attendance at a MIAM – mediation information and assessment meeting – for anyone planning to take a family dispute to court. People attending such meetings will be provided with information on mediation as an alternative way to resolve their differences.

In addition, child arrangements orders will be introduced, replacing the residence and contact orders currently used to settle the circumstances of children following divorce or separation.

Child arrangement orders are defined by the Children and Families Act 2014 as:

“…an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following—

(a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and

(b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.”

Roger LeyThis is an essay on compassionate divorce and the role of lawyers in the divorce or dispute resolution process. For the parties, the core of my system is to negotiate for the welfare of both sides.  For the lawyers, the core is to throw away the law books and let imagination help the lawyers find creative resolutions to their cases. 

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun, and there is probably nothing new about my ideas, but perhaps I have cobbled many ideas together in a way that hasn’t been expressed before. It is like the Gutenberg press: nothing new, but a new compilation of technology and ideas of the day.

I have experience in the legal field because I was a practicing lawyer in Seattle from 1971 to 2007, and I worked in the areas of criminal defense, divorce, bankruptcy, personal injury and many other areas of litigation. In 2007 I moved to Svensen, Oregon, a rural area outside Astoria, practiced here a little, and spent a lot of time thinking about dispute resolution. I also took training as a collaborative lawyer both in Seattle and in Oregon. In collaborative cases, lawyers and clients negotiate in person. They do that because stressed people tend to flare into argument but they stop when others are present. Thus, the lawyers’ desire to argue is tamped out, and the clients’ desire to blame is tamped out too. The lawyers and parties negotiate for what they want, rather than arguing about rights and liability. The lawyers agree to drop out if they cannot settle, which motivates the lawyers to succeed and stimulates candor.

I have some basic ideas or postulates about how people work and about how lawyers and the legal system work. These ideas are the basis for believing that benevolent divorce works. 

First, I believe that most people in a divorce have a deep down desire to be kind and beneficial to the departing spouse that is stronger than a desire to hurt the spouse or accumulate property.Oxytocin over testosterone!

Second, in any divorce where children are involved, the parties have a deep common interest in the children.  Usually the parties benefit the children when they act for the welfare of each other, and they hurt the children when they fight. 

Third, lawyer imagination is stimulated if they throw away the law books, stop thinking about their clients’ prospects in court, stop modeling warfare with the other lawyer, and let imagination work.  I have no basis for this in literature or elsewhere, but it works for me, and I believe it is extremely difficult to create imaginative resolutions to conflict while constantly preparing for war. 

Fourth, the value of an estate can be increased by the cooperation of the parties. For example, if the parties cooperate, they can manipulate their assets in such a way as to minimize taxes, and create more wealth for the former husband and wife.

Fifth, criminal lawyers are skilled at seeing an objective and driving both themselves and their clients to that objective.  [For example, sometimes a lawyer can negotiate a favorable plea if the client stops drinking.  But often clients are not good at changing their ways.  The lawyer drags the client to alcohol cessation classes; the lawyer cajoles the client into going to AA; the lawyer calls the client early in the morning to remind them to attend meetings; the lawyer is determined and eventually a manageable plea emerges.]  Further, and in spite of what I said before, criminal lawyers think simultaneously about preparing for war and creating imaginative solutions; that is, they defend aggressively and at the same time look for ingenious ways to enable their client to make an advantageous plea. These criminal lawyer skills provide a basis for cross training divorce and other lawyers in the art of encouraging clients to reach a goal the lawyer and client both want. 

Sixth, litigation is extremely expensive for both lawyers and clients, but in ways lawyers and clients often don’t see. The math is simple but many lawyers don’t consider it. As an example, a party may have an offer of $10,000 but wants $20,000.  If it is fair to say there is a 50% chance of that result, then the value of the claim is $10,000 “on the table” plus $10,000 more, less 50% because half the time the case will be lost, for a cash value of $15,000.  But the ultimate value is much less.  In a divorce, time consumed by litigation is time lost from life.  Just looking at tangibles, parties must devote valuable time attending to a divorce, and they must pay fees and costs.  The value of money a year from now is less than the value today.  Considering these burdens, the value of a resolution now is attractive compared to a larger amount somewhere in the future:  most people would not sacrifice a year of their lives to the Gods of litigation for a few more dollars.  One can guess at the chance of prevailing, that is, determine if there is a 50% chance of prevailing, by taking a hard, cold, realistic look at the amount a disinterested person would pay for the anticipated proceeds of the suit today.

Now some analysis of the legal profession:  Lawyers settle cases by predicting court results. They analyze cases, statutes, facts, rules and personalities, predict the result if the case goes to trial, and argue about their respective predictions. They settle on the basis of compared predictions. This is like preparing for war. Lawyers have done this for 800 years, and don’t easily abandon it. 

Lawyers are afraid to settle creatively because they are afraid to abandon possible court claims even for something that seems beneficial for both sides. This fear is reasonable. 

Divorce becomes estate planning. The lawyer, or hopefully both lawyers, think about the welfare not only of their own client but also of the welfare of the departing spouse. When the lawyers think about both clients, it naturally follows that they stop thinking about battle in court, and it naturally follows that they stop thinking about the rules, laws, cases and traditions that apply to court. That clears the lawyers to be imaginative, and creative settlement possibilities start to boil out of the legal mind. It’s as simple as that.    

The role of a court lawyer is to protect the property and limb of the client from abuse by a spouse. In this, the lawyer acts like private police by bringing abuse to the attention of the court, and the court protects the parties with its enforcement powers. The role of the court as the source of wisdom for dividing property and providing for children I believe came later in legal history. This essay walks away from the concept of the court as the “parent” who decides for the parties how their lives will be arranged. In some cases, courts are not necessary to act either as police or parent, and their role is to audit an agreement of the parties for possible abuse and then “sanctify” the agreement, sometimes until the parties pass away. 

Now, finally, how a lawyer can  assist a client to obtain a benevolent and divorce: the lawyer should first have a thorough discussion with the client to determine whether or to what degree the client wants to be benevolent to the departing spouse.  It is important to do this right away because it can be difficult to back away from court conflict once it starts. Lawyer and client may understand where the parties want to be when the divorce is done; they may understand where the parties want to be when their lives are over.  In this way the intentions of the parties evolve from fear and selfishness to benevolence and compassion. The lawyer should also determine whether there are “embedded” claims between the parties that are legitimate objects of recovery. For example, if one party has deliberately wasted assets, it is reasonable for the other party to ask for recompense, just like in any other arms length partnership situation. 

It is also important ethically for the lawyers to obtain a thoroughly vetted consent to whatever process the parties take. 

Divorce becomes estate planning.  The lawyer forgets all about the law of divorce, she or he forgets courtroom jousting, she or he forgets child support schedules, courthouse customs, and lets imagination work.  It’s as simple as that.  As an example, if the parties have children but want to live in different cities, this can be a terrible problem. The lawyer can consider both parties moving to the distant city, both moving to a different city, both staying put, or buying a giant Skype machine or other creative resolutions. 

The lawyer might engage a CPA or financial person to save money and increase the wealth of the parties.  For example, I once had a case with complicated assets and debts and mortgages, but the husband wanted to provide for the wife in old age.  Every lawyer knows about alimony, or maintenance, or spousal support, as it is called in different places, but I thought of long term care insurance and realized I knew nothing about it, had no idea what it cost, had no idea whether it is a good replacement for alimony, had no idea what tax consequences might exist.  This was a CPA problem, not a lawyer problem.  An estate planning lawyer might have skills similar to that of an accountant, and so a lawyer could fill the role of “financial person.”

The lawyer supervises negotiations and keeps the client on the track of arriving at the result that was thoroughly discussed in the beginning. The lawyer may have to be determined and tenacious because divorcing clients sometimes have incendiary conflicts.  Here criminal law skills might play, because criminal lawyers are often good in subtle ways at keeping a client on a track that leads to a beneficial disposition of their case.

It is of course true that both sides may not agree to the wisdom of cooperating.  However, even if one party insists on punitive or competitive goals, the sweet voice of reason tells all parties that a court solution is more expensive, often vastly more expensive, than a cooperative settlement.  And, as wise lawyers say, going to court is rolling the dice.  Surprising results are not surprising: a party may hope for more but end up with less.  To be repetitive, litigation means extended pain, and it means dropping normal activities to feed the dragon of litigation. Part of a lawyer’s job is to convince the other side of this, and it works some of the time… but not all the time. 

Other lawyers or other lawyer roles have to exist.  In my opinion, the lawyer should always have another lawyer on call to litigate in the event that hostilities break out.  The course of true separation does not always run smooth. Sometimes parties grab children and flee.  Both sides should be ready, unfortunately, to go from negotiation to war. In addition, there should be a lawyer skilled in translating whatever the parties may agree to into a final decree that is acceptable to a judge. This is more true the more unconventional an agreement may be. 

Once a resolution is reached, the lawyer should thoroughly compare the proposed resolution with a prognosis of what might happen in court.  This would be going from the imagination role to the role of negotiating on the basis of predicting the result of a court battle.   For example, if the parties agree to divide property instead of agreeing to a traditional schedule of payments, the lawyer should know the comparable worth of the different options. With that knowledge, the lawyer and client should thoroughly discuss the options so the client can make an informed choice whether to use an unconventional settlement. The lawyer should also review any agreement to make sure it is understandable and viable from a legal standpoint for the many years it may be in effect. 

The parties and lawyers may want to negotiate some claim of right by one party against another.  In this my idea is possibly different from collaborative law, where the parties are supposed to negotiate for what they want, without regard for fault or liability. 

I believe that if the customs of the legal world changed divorce would become a humane process, and the parties would end up on good terms for the remainder of their lives.  Lawyers would be happy because they would be helping their clients.  Lawyers and former spouses would be happy to see each other when they run into each other on the street. Lawyers starved for work might be able to find work by pioneering benevolent settlement of divorce cases.  It is just possible that these concepts might spill over to other areas of law too.  

As a postscript, I have found it very difficult to apply these ideas.  Some clients are receptive.  Most lawyers I have seen are not.  Some people I know create benevolent forms of divorce for themselves without even thinking about it as such; for example, providing for health insurance for a departing spouse is a prime example of divorcing couples caring for each other. 

I hope lawyers and mediators will consider the ideas I have expressed here.

 

Roger B. Ley was a litigation lawyer in Seattle from 1971 to 2007 and represented clients in business, divorce, malpractice,
criminal and other practice areas.  He learned about mediation and collaborative law starting about 2005. In 2007, he relocated to
Oregon, near Astoria, and practiced law on a limited basis there. 
He developed my ideas about compassionate or benevolent divorce in the course of representing clients in coastal Oregon.  The idea that clients should think about where they want to be when their life is ending came from attending the funeral of a dear friend in Seattle.  His former wife, with whom he had conducted a bitter divorce for years, was there,  along with his current wife.  The idea of avoiding focus on preparation for courthouse conflict  as a means of invoking imagination comes from personal experience with clients.  He has not located any literature on the role of imagination in conflict resolution. 

billeddyby Bill Eddy

Movie review Part 1

[I am writing this movie review “Part 1” before I have seen the movie Divorce Corp which will be released on Jan. 10, 2014. I have just seen some trailers and received some inside tips.]

I was pleased – but also concerned – when I learned that a movie about Family Court reform was coming out. Why pleased? Because I’m a family lawyer and family counselor who practices Divorce Mediation. I want everyone to know that Divorce Mediation is a better way to make divorce decisions – for most people. Not because Family Court is evil, but because it has an adversarial structure which is designed around one party “losing” and the other party “winning.” This may be good for deciding criminal guilt, business disputes and some public policies, but not good for working out parenting relationships and household finances after a breakup. I had hopes that this movie would help point this out.

I represented clients in Family Court for 15 years and I also give seminars to family law judges for the National Judicial College. I know that most judges and family lawyers try to overcome the adversarial structure to truly help families make good decisions out of court, or good decisions in court – especially to help the children of parents in conflict. I also know that about 80% of people getting divorced never go to court and settle their divorces or parenting disputes with out-of-court agreements – such as in Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce – based on family laws and guidelines that have been well-established over the past 40 years.

For this reason – the inability to resolve issues based on established standards – and because of my mental health training, I know that one or both parties in many (most?) Family Court cases today have a mental health issue that is unrecognized – such as a personality disorder, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, depression – disorders which are often characterized by denial and blaming others. This reflects the growth of these problems in the larger society today. These are not problems unique to Family Court, but Family Courts need to recognize them.

Sadly, Family Courts provide a forum for people with such problems today (in contrast to when I began practicing law), especially because family lawyers, judges and other professionals are not trained in identifying mental health issues, get stuck arguing about them out of ignorance and there are few mental health resources for treating them even if they were properly identified. Family courts were never designed to diagnose and treat mental health issues, and the adversarial process is guaranteed to fail at it. Reforms need to involve more mental health training for professionals and more conflict resolution skills for clients to help them make decisions out of court in non-adversarial settings.

Why am I concerned about the movie? Because I have been informed that Divorce Corp does not focus on the structure of court, but focuses on a more shrill “all-or-none” view of family court, family lawyers and other professionals. By seeming to claim that Family Court judges think they are God (a few, but not most), that family lawyers are all greedy (some, but not most) and that most allegations of abuse are false (many are but many aren’t – but the adversarial process makes it harder to figure these out), this movie is likely to create a lot of noise and anger, but very little useful dialog and reform. By making it personal and using “all-or-none” thinking – rather than talking about the mental health issues which dominate today’s family court hearings – it misses a great opportunity to promote useful reforms.

[I’ll talk about the reforms that I believe are needed, after I see the movie – in Movie Review Part 2 next week.]

—————————————————–

Bill Eddy is a lawyer (Certified Family Law Specialist), a child and family therapist (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center. He is the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides training worldwide in managing “high-conflict people” in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare disputes and educational disputes. He is the author of several books, including The Future of Family Court: Structure, Skills and Less Stress. www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.

By Bill Eddy

On Wednesday, Jan. 30th, a 70-year-old man shot and killed the chief executive of a company he previously worked for and shot the executive’s lawyer, after a mediation session at a law office in the Phoenix area. CBS 5 News reported that he had a reputation as “angry, a bully, a nut job.” This appears to be yet another case of a possible “high conflict person” (HCP – someone with a preoccupation with blaming others, a history of extreme behavior, unmanaged emotions and all-or-nothing thinking) at a time of high risk.

It’s ironic and sad that I just wrote an article a couple months ago about the pattern of HCPs in high-expectation relationships (such as jobs, marriages, etc.) combined with “times of high risk.” Unfortunately, this pattern is not generally recognized by the public or professionals. Employers, lawyers, mediators and others involved in decision-making need to start recognizing this pattern:

HCP + High-Expectation Relationship + Time of High Risk = Extreme Behavior (See article: “Times of High Risk with High-Conflict People”)

Paranoid HCP? If this man apparently had a long history of “acting paranoid” and “obvious anger issues”, then he may have also had a paranoid personality disorder – one of the five common personality disorders associated with HCPs.  Such personalities often see others as involved in conspiracies against them. In this case, he was involved in at least five lawsuits since 1994, and had swore at and made threats to against the lawyer in a letter in this present case, including: “I am going after you with every fiber in my being and I won’t rest until I see you behind bars for conspiracy to defraud.”  (quotes from CBS5AZ.com article “Phoenix office shooter described as ‘nut job’” 1/31/13).

High-Expectation Relationship? It’s hard to know the employment relationship history in this case, but when an HCP becomes fixated in intense blaming of an employer or relationship partner, their fantasies often take over and they view the situation as “all-or-nothing” and experience “unmanaged emotions.”

Times of High Risk are times of perceived loss for HCPs. Legal decisions are especially times of high risk because legal decisions usually involve loss for someone. A cursory review I have done of several family court murders shows that they occurred within two weeks before or after a decision was to be made at a court hearing – and often on the same day. In this week’s case, it was a mediation process in a civil lawsuit at which decisions were to be made. Given that the man brought a gun to the mediation session, he may have been anticipating a major loss and did his shooting immediately after the mediation session was over.

From the early news reports, the above pattern seems to fit this situation. As professionals, we need to also know that HCPs are more susceptible to mirroring the extreme behavior of others. Therefore, I expect that we will see more of these such shootings in the future. And they are no longer just associated with court hearings. Now law firms and mediation providers need to be more alert to clients with warning signs of a preoccupation with blaming others, past extreme behaviors, all-or-nothing thinking and unmanaged emotions.

About Bill Eddy
Bill Eddy, L.C.S.W., J.D. is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, with over thirty years’ experience working with children and families. He is the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education. He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He is the author of several books, including:

Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

For more information about Bill Eddy, please visit: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

Bullies At Work

By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. ©  2008 High Conflict Institute

Workplace bullying is a growing international problem. It is more than a one-time incident. It is a pattern of behavior between a bully and another worker which can demoralize, isolate and trigger illness in the target of the bully. What is bullying? Who does it? Is it increasing? What can you do to protect yourself? And what can employers do to promote a safe environment for employees? This short article attempts to answer some of these key questions. My perspective is that of a therapist, mediator, and attorney handling “high conflict” disputes in a variety of settings.

What is Workplace Bullying?

In many ways, it is similar to playground bullying; except that as adults it should no longer be an issue. It is aggressive behavior that should be personally contained, but for some reason is not. Bullying involves more than one incident of aggressive negative behavior. It is a repeated pattern of negative behavior that usually involves a bully with more power or the convincing appearance of more power. Bullying can include acts that are intimidating, humiliating, and isolating and can be verbal or physical, blatant or subtle, active or passive. (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2006.)

The underlying message is that the bully can and will keep engaging in unwanted, negative behavior which you are powerless to stop.This sense of powerlessness grows and the target begins to feel bad about himself or herself, as well as frightened of the bully. Bullying appears to go on in an environment that tolerates or rewards hostile behavior without intervening.  The effect on the “target” of bullying can be devastating, and there is substantial research which shows that targets can experience a wide range of related illnesses, from depression and loss of sleep to intestinal disorders and increased risk of heart disease. Productivity drops, teamwork suffers, good employees leave, and employers have increased medical and legal claims. (Yamada, 2008.) Research even shows that workplace bullying has a more negative effect on employees than sexual harassment, perhaps because there are more procedures in place for dealing with sexual harassment nowadays. (Bryner, 2008)

 

Who Are the Bullies at Work?

From my experience and interdisciplinary training, I strongly believe that bullies at work are High Conflict People (“HCPs”) with high conflict personalities.  By this I mean that they bring this behavior with them, rather than that they are reacting to an external “issue” or that other people “make” them behave this way. I believe that bullying… click here to read the full article.

 

About Bill Eddy
Bill Eddy, L.C.S.W., J.D. is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, with over thirty years’ experience working with children and families. He is the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education. He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He is the author of several books, including:

Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

For more information about Bill Eddy, please visit: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.