Preventing Workplace Bullying: An Interview with Greg Sorozan, Massachusetts State Coordinator of The Healthy Workplace Bill
“Bullying is part of the spectrum of abusive behaviors that exist in this world. I know about child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and now adult abuse at work. They all work together to create many, if not most, of the health and mental health problems we have,” said Greg Sorozan. Greg is President of SEIU/NAGE Local 282 and Massachusetts State Coordinator of The Healthy Workplace Bill, working to prevent bullying in the workplace. I read about his work in a Boston Globe article and his MA legislative activity and asked to interview him about his work as a patient activist.
Lisa Gualtieri: Why did you become a patient activist?
Greg Sorozan: I was bullied at work more than 20 years ago.
LG: Was there a specific incident or series of incidents?
GS: The mistreatment caused one half of the Work Unit to quit. Productivity went down. My job duties (Sr. Training Coordinator) were changed almost daily. Resources and time were denied me. My health started to be effected. Sleep became difficult.
LG: What were the steps you took?
GS: My Union had no contract language to deal with the form of discrimination and abuse that was being perpetrated. Because I was in the rare position of knowing everyone in the administration of the large state agency, I forged alliances with people who would listen and who had a vested interest in the success of our Unit – in Legal, Policy, Finance, IT.
LG: Were there barriers such as stigma or privacy at specific points that you had to overcome?
GS: “Chain of Command” was the first and foremost barrier. Orders came from the Director/Bully. To not follow these orders was tantamount to insubordination. Only when “orders” were shared with other parts of the agency did Administration look differently upon this person. An example is how I was brought in, late, to consult with the “Developers” (Deloitte & Touche) on their newly designed Training Registration System. They wanted my “input”. I told them it would not work and why. I then asked them why they had designed it in the particular way. I was told that my Director had been insistent upon it. My response was: “This is why it is wrong”. The project was never completed. It cost the Commonwealth about $1 million in developer’s fees. There were other projects-all ruined by this person.
LG: What have you done that has the greatest impact?
GS: I am a social worker at heart. I’ve allied with the two most influential people in America on the topic of Bullying in the Workplace: Gary Namie, Ph.D.,(The Workplace Bullying Institute, Bellingham, WA.) and Professor David Yamada, Suffolk Univ. Law. (Minding the Workplace blog). With their guidance and help I found language to deal with Bullying in the Workplace. I negotiated that into our Contract Bargaining Agreement with the Commonwealth of MA., and have helped hundreds of people over the course of the last five years. Concurrently we have drafted legislation and have introduced that legislation for adoption into Law. We will not stop until the Healthy Workplace Bill is passed. You can ask any of the 5000 Healthy Workplace Advocates who have joined with us in working to get the law passed.
LG: What are the mechanisms you use, such as speaking, writing, and social media, for communication and outreach?
GS: We have developed a core team of talent who reach out to the public via social media, the web, and person to person. Meetings, training workshops and informal gatherings continue to be planned. Our website: www.MAHealthyworkplace.com is the primary attractor of people looking for help and understanding of what they have been experiencing in the workplace. We are continuing to involve Advocates in activities designed to spread awareness and educate others – including their legislators.
LG: What are the primary sources of satisfaction you experience related to your activism?
GS: My affiliations with Gary Namie, David Yamada, Deb Falzoi, and others (my NAGE brothers and sisters) who help me to keep my focus in a violent world.
LG: What are the primary difficulties or frustrations you experience related to your activism?
GS: We’ve introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill three times. January 2015 we will do so again. Getting a law passed is not as simple as it appears. Politics does not take a straight line toward enactment. I have several paid lobbyists at my disposal. They’ve given me quite an education.
LG: What do you think could help non-activists voice their innovations and experiences on health care issues relevant to themselves?
GS: My first thought is to develop a website that would serve as an “exchange” for ideas and problem areas. Get people communicating and learning that they are not alone. Develop opportunities for others, with resources, to join/guide/support and help foster needed changes.
LG: What advice would you give to patients who are not currently activists?
GS: It helps your recovery to actively participate in activities that promote positive change.
LG: What do you believe organizations could do to engage non-activists to provide feedback on and promote healthcare innovations?
GS: Develop models for outreach and ideas from the public. Actively solicit responses while understanding that some people are more deeply effected than others by traumatic events.
LG: What could organizations do to more effectively promote initiatives to patients?
GS: Change the “frame” away from patient to more of a “fellow journeyer”.
LG: What do you see as the ultimate measure of your impact in terms of the number of people you reach or the changes resulting from your work in people’s lives, in health policy, and in medical practice?
GS: Gary Namie’s meta-research shows the promise of great savings in health care costs, increased productivity at work, more creativity, and lots of other great stuff whenever people like doing what they are paid to do! I’ve personally seen that all happen, already, with groups I have helped. I believe that Bullying is part of the spectrum of abusive behaviors that exist in this world. I know about child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and now adult abuse at work. They all work together to create many, if not most, of the health and mental health problems we have. I think that our society needs to take a step back and be more civil. Easily said. Makes me think of the search for the unifying particle in Physics. Lots of theories, but at least they are looking for a unifier.
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