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Career Corner: Workplace Bullying

Posted By Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, Monday, August 22, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Career Corner - Workplace BullyingWorkplace bullying is a serious problem which affects many individuals on a daily basis.  Sometimes people are not even aware that they are being bullied or are too afraid to speak up out of fear of being fired.  Did you know that workplace bullying can have a direct impact on your work performance and can hinder your career?  It is defined as a “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.  It is abusive conduct . . .” (http://www.workplacebullying.org/).  We can all agree that kids in school should not be bullied; however, it is constantly tolerated in an office.  Listed below are some traits of abusive conduct:

  • Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or
  • Work interference—sabotage—which prevents work from getting done, or
  • Verbal abuse

(http://www.workplacebullying.org/)

 

No one should have to go to work every day being afraid of what might happen, work in fear of making a mistake, and worry about losing their job. 

 

How Can You Identify Workplace Bullying? 

 

Sometimes it is easy to spot workplace bullying.  It may be the boss who constantly yells at his legal secretary and belittles her/him.  It is ostracizing an employee at work simply because he or she is a bit different.  It is throwing things, withholding resources, gossiping, and sabotaging someone’s work. Sometimes it is hard to identify when you are being bullied.  After all, we are all adults and bullying is for kids, right?  Wrong.  I once worked at a firm where most of the paralegals had been at the firm since its inception and they felt there was little or no space for newbies.  They would groan and moan loudly about the growth of the firm and reminisce about the days when the firm was much smaller.  My department was new and consisted of another young lady and me.  Upon being hired, we expressed our interest relatively early about how we would love to learn and grow with the firm.   


The attorney loved our enthusiasm and began inviting us to the paralegal meetings so we would feel a part of the team.  I remember going to one of the meetings and hearing one of the paralegals whisper loudly to the next, “What are they doing here?  They are not paralegals.”  An awkward silence followed.  Most of the time we would ignore the comments.  We did not want to lose the opportunity we were given and, most of all, we were young, inexperienced, and needed the money.  I remember asking questions and being told, “You did not learn that in paralegal school” or “You cannot print over here” simply because the printer we were using was broken and we had to print somewhere.  We had to get the work done even if it meant listening to someone complain the entire time we were using “their” printer.  Eventually the way we were being treated was brought to the attorneys’ attention and a meeting was held.  As a result, we were often given the cold shoulder.  My coworker decided to quit before the 90-day probation period was over.  It was not an environment in which she felt she could thrive.  I stayed a little while longer because I kept looking at the bigger picture and eventually the rude comments occurred less frequently and the working environment changed for the better.  They had to accept the fact that the firm was growing and there was nothing they could do about it. 


Statistics show that:

  • 49% of adult Americans have been bullied or witnessed it.
  • 80% of bullying is legal, but still occurs.
  • 72% of bullies outrank their targets.

(Healthy Workplace Bill)

 

Physical Impact of Bullying


Bullying in the workplace not only affects your career, but it also affects your health.  Bullying may cause serious health issues including, but not limited to, anxiety, stress, and panic attacks.  If an employee already has serious medical conditions, having to cope with a stressful work environment can be deadly.  Due to the high stress they are experiencing, an employee could suffer a stroke or a heart attack as a result of being bullied at work. 


Bullying can impact someone’s work, causing them to lose their job.  If a person is being ostracized and not given any work, ultimately this will affect their work morale.  If employees are constantly being belittled, they feel they are not good enough and may start producing less out of fear of making a mistake or being yelled at.  They may not volunteer, speak up, or share ideas as frequently because doing so may get a reaction from the bully they are trying so desperately to avoid—especially if the person hates conflict or is extremely introverted. 


Not only does bullying impact the worker, but it also affects the company’s bottom line.  If a manager has a bad temperament, very few people will want to work with that individual.  The team will constantly have a high turnover until something is done about the manager’s behavior.  The cost of absenteeism will increase because the employees do not enjoy being at work and in the hostile environment that the bully has created.  Absenteeism can account for a loss in productivity.  Bullying can cost the company a lot of money because the employee who is being affected might need to go to the doctor more frequently.  Stress affects the body in a number of different ways.  It pays to have a healthy working environment where people enjoy coming to work and getting the job done.


Workplace Bully Institute found that:

  • 27% have current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work.
  • 72% of the American public are aware of workplace bullying.
  • Bosses are still the majority of bullies.
  • 72% of employers deny, discount, encourage, rationalize, or defend it.
  • 93% of respondents support enactment of the Healthy Workplace Bill.

How to Deal With a Bully

 

It is important to bring it to your supervisor’s attention and document everything.  Keep detailed notes of what has taken place.  If there are witnesses, jot this down as well.  This might be needed in the future if the person seeks to disclaim what you are saying.


Stand up for yourself in a professional manner.  Do not stoop to the level of the bully hurling insults.  At the end of the day you do not want to be remembered for starting a brawl in the middle of the office.  If the bully is your supervisor, get HR involved as quickly as possible.  If the bully is your boss, I would suggest looking for employment elsewhere especially if that person has no intention of changing.   If you are able, mediate the conflict.  It is a good thing to move on and count it as a learning experience.  Sometimes people might not realize they are bullies especially if they have a type A personality. Getting a third party involved is always essential.  It might not be something you can solve by yourself.  It might make the situation worse.


If you are an office bully, it is important to evaluate your actions and really think about the other person’s feelings.  Start working on alternative ways to get your points across.  It is never okay to belittle others.  Workplace bullying should not be tolerated.



Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, started her career as a paralegal.  She has over six years’ experience in the legal field specializing in the areas of foreclosure and bankruptcy.  She recently completed her master’s degree in human resource management which has equipped her with the tools needed to think strategically and develop creative solutions to problems in the workplace.  As a Certified Professional Coach and Career Development Facilitator, she loves all things career and personal development.  Tashania is able to recognize people’s skills and abilities and enjoys working with individuals to figure out their “why.”  Her mission is to engage, empower, educate, and promote change from within.  If you have any questions about any of the articles written, suggestions about something you would like Tashania to write about, or enjoyed reading the article, send her a quick note.  You can reach Tashania at Tashania_m@hotmail.com.

References:



Tags:  career corner  legal career  legal education  nals  paralegal  paralegal career 

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Grammar Nuggets: Headings By The (Blue) Book

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Monday, August 22, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I learned something interesting recently. As much as you think you know about something, every once in a while it is good to check your resources. While I covered this topic according to the Gregg Reference Manual in the July 12 NALS docket in an article entitled “Things Are Coming to a Head(ing)” about exceptions to the “capitalize everything except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions shorter than four letters” rule, a recent search through The Bluebook showed me that rule was not correct for headings in a legal document done in “Bluebook style.” According to Section 8 of The Bluebook, in headings and titles, the first word in the heading or title and the word immediately following a colon in a heading or title should be capitalized. However, do not capitalize articles, conjunctions, and prepositions of four or fewer letters unless they fit the criteria in the immediately preceding sentence (they are the first word of the title or immediately follow a colon).  

 

The Bluebook does, however, refer you to The Chicago Manual of Style or the Government Printing Office Style Manual if there are questions about specific capitalization issues not answered in The Bluebook. Here are the rules on capitalization according to The Bluebook:

 

  • Always capitalize nouns identifying specific persons, officials, groups, government offices, or governmental bodies.
    • The Securities and Exchange Commission was closed for the holiday.
    • Members of Congress worked late into the night.
    • The President lives in the White House.
  • BUT:
    • The congressional hearings seemed as if they would never end
    • The presidential veto is a tool available to the President.
  • Exceptions (you know there had to be some):
    • Act is capitalized when referring to a specific act.
      • The Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964.
  • Circuit is capitalized when used with the name or number of the circuit.
    • Arizona is part of the Ninth Circuit.
    • The circuit court will not rule on that issue.
  • Code is capitalized when referring to a specific code.
    • The Internal Revenue Code
  • Constitution is capitalized when referring to the United States Constitution or naming any constitution in full.
  • Court is capitalized when referring to the United States Supreme Court, when referring to any court in full, or when referring to the Court where your documents will be filed.
    • The Miranda court decided . . .
    • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals . . .
    • This Court should deny the Motion to Dismiss.
  • Federal is capitalized when the word it modifies is capitalized.
    • The Federal Constitution establishes the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
    • High on the list of Congress’s priorities is federal spending.
  • Judge or Justice is capitalized when referring to a specific judge or justice by name or when referring to a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
    • Did you know that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sat as a judge in the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona?
    • The judge ruled against defendants in the White case.
  • State is capitalized when it is part of the full title of the state, if the word it modifies is capitalized, or when referring to the state as a party to a litigation or a governmental actor.
    • The State of California was the first to allow the use of medical marijuana.
    • He brought an action against the State for unlawful imprisonment.

I guess I will have to read through The Bluebook again just for good measure to see what other “rules” need to be adjusted.

Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at proofthatblog@gmail.com.

Tags:  career corner  grammar  grammar nuggets  legal assistant  legal career  microsoft word  paralegal 

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I Want To Write, But Where Do I Start?

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Monday, August 8, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Want To Write But Where Do I Start?Writing is like a muscle. You have to use it, work it, grow it. Like any other skill, it can be learned but it take lots of practice.  Nowadays, anyone can be “published” immediately through any social media, blog, or YouTube.  Maybe you want more than that.  Think and dream about what your purpose in writing could be.  Is it to report events and activities or to educate others in NALS?  Do you dream of writing the great American novel?
 
Where do you start to do this?  Start where you are.  You could start quietly by journaling—just for you—and look at it later with “fresh eyes,” i.e., like you have never seen it before.  Or be brave and join the editorial board of your local, state, or national NALS group.  You will see lots of writing and get the hang of it.  Be braver and consider writing for your local NALS chapter.  Talk about something you know and tell us the story.  You probably have something to teach or are an expert on something that has not been presented before and you could really help a lot of people. 
 
Suddenly, opportunities will appear.  You might notice a topic that has not been covered in your local NALS chapter meetings or the NALS state chapter events.  Maybe you have a different take on a topic or know an easier way to do something.  Maybe there is a subject that you are curious about and want to learn more and would be interested in doing research and interviews to discover the answers to your questions.  Others probably have the same questions and want answers too.
 
Think of it as a puzzle.  Basically, it is taking an idea and expanding it, giving it purpose.  Sometimes purpose comes first or is in the publication’s plans—sometimes it comes after you work on your information for a while.  Think about what you are trying to accomplish with your article. Are you trying to motivate, ask a question and get the audience to think, or are you just reporting?
 
Writing is really about editing.  What happens is that you write a while and let it rest, go back and look at it and edit.  Repeat that process many times until you think it is your best effort and the article is complete.  Your job is to make the words say exactly what you mean for them to say.  That is where the work comes in.  Sometimes the information comes to you fast and sometimes it does not.  Sometimes the editing and rearrangement is clear and sometimes it is not.  That is why deadlines help—whether they are self-imposed or from the editor of the publication.
 
What are you afraid of—that you might be criticized?  Okay.  Think of it as an experiment.  It usually takes many tries to succeed.  Try again.
 
Start simple and look for an opportunity to write a short article, just a paragraph to report about a class or event you attended for your local NALS chapter newsletter.  Remember that those who were not able to go to the event really want to hear what you have to say.  After producing several short reports, you will find that writing gets easier and you will soon begin to write longer pieces.
 
There are so many books and resources to help you with your writing.  Having a good grammar base is very helpful.  Use The Gregg Reference Manual [1] or websites like Proof That Blog, [2] written by NALS' Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS -SC, ACP, or Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Grammar Tips. [3]
 
One of the best books to have readily available is Strunk and White’s The Element of Style, [4] which is simple and beautiful, suggested by many colleges and law schools.
 
But that brings up another good point—how to grow your skill.  Practice.  A lot of practice. This means you will need time, effort, and a recording device like a tape or message recorder, a computer, a journal, a notebook, or whatever works for you.
 
You might need to schedule time to write.  Serious writers write every day. (Can you imagine?)  Some have an idea for an article and schedule 30 minutes a day and work on one section at a time.  Some writers use free-style journaling by just letting the words flow and reviewing later to see what comes out of it.  And there are writers that start with an outline or a question that they would like to answer. 
 
Having someone review and give real feedback (more here, less here, and asking questions like, “What did you mean here?”) is one of the most important parts of writing.  Please understand that the editor’s and proofreader’s jobs are to make you look good.  So you see, advice is always welcome.  Do not take it personally.  Your paper is not about you—it is a thing, a product to be polished enough to shine.
 
It is good to have a filing system to keep your good ideas and build on them, to have a list of article ideas, to keep articles you are working on handy, and to hold your research.  Some writers never throw out any writing that was edited out of an article, but recycle it into something else.  This would be good if all your work is in one highly defined and unique area—like an expert!
 
What are you waiting for?  You can do this and you might surprise yourself and discover that you just need to build that muscle.  I know you have something to say and there are plenty of us who want to hear it.  Go for it!  It is an adventure.  Try it, then wait and see what develops from your effort.


Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, is the Business Administrator for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Office of Educational Development. She has over 15 years’ experience in pre- and post-award research grants administration and in serving as the Senior Grants Administrator for the UAMS Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.  She also served as an IRB Administrator in the Institutional Review Board office for the protection of human subjects in research.  Her current legal experience involves federal and state grants and contracts, employment law, and federal research grants administration. Allison is thrilled to be a member of the NALS Editorial Board and enjoys reading all the articles and writing.


References:

1 Sabin, W. (2010). The Gregg Reference Manual: A Manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting Tribute Edition 11th Edition. New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
2 http://proofthatblog.com/about-proof-that/
3 http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl
4 Strunk, W., & White, E.B. (1999). The Elements of Style. London, United Kingdom: Pearson PLC.


Tags:  career corner  editing legal papers  legal access  legal assistant  legal career  legal education  legal networking  legal professional  nals  paralegal  paralegal career  writing legal documents 

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BUILDING YOUR CAREER ON SELF-CONFIDENCE

Posted By Tashania Morris, ALS, CDF, CPC, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Paralegal Career Corner

Paralegal Career Corner Header 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't—you're right.”  ~ Henry Ford

 

Self-confidence is believing in yourself.  It is knowing that you have the ability to get the job done.  Being able to articulate your strengths and abilities to your potential boss is the key to get from where you are now to where you want to be.  Most people advance in their careers because they know what they want and they go after it.  If you do not believe you can get the job done, how will you be able to convince the person in the interview to hire you?  Good sales people are confident in the product they are selling.  You are your own product—sell it well! 


Study your craft

 

If you are new to an industry and feel a little intimidated, this is natural; however, you will have to study your craft to become great at it.  Some people feel that learning ends once they have graduated from college.  Continuing education and personal development should never end.  In the legal world, things change constantly.  Judges’ requirements and laws are constantly updated and it is extremely important to keep up to date with these changes.  Seeking out learning opportunities on your own will be one of the best things you can do for your career.  In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert.  Sometimes you will have to be the first one in and the last one out.  As a newbie in the legal field, I used to volunteer for everything at my firm whether I knew how to do it or not.  I wanted to be on every project even if it meant coming in on the weekends and staying late at night.  After overhearing a conversation, I remember volunteering to prepare title claims and deed in lieu documents.  At the time I did not even know what they were—I had never seen or heard of them before.  It was a steep learning curve and I made a couple of errors along the way, but I had a great boss who enjoyed my enthusiasm and desire to learn. 

 

Self-Doubt and Pep Talks

 

Self–doubt is inevitable—everyone feels this at some point in their lives.  Questioning yourself and your abilities will occur occasionally.  The problem is allowing self-doubt to linger.  Napoleon Hill once said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.”  You will have to learn the value of self-talk and become your biggest cheerleader.  Do not allow self-doubt to eat away at your self-confidence.  As a way of overcoming self-doubt, some people say affirmations in the morning or read scriptures that help to center their thoughts and renew their confidence within themselves.  It is about changing your mindset.  Even if you have family and friends cheering you on, if you do not believe you can do it you will not.  It starts with you.   

 

I am currently in transition from being a paralegal to becoming an HR professional.  This is new to me and I often feel I am starting over.  Sometimes this comes with a lot of self-doubt—I am leaving something I am familiar with to enter a world that is new to me and, while it is challenging, I love HR and the passion drives me.  Ultimately the biggest battle you will have to fight and win is with yourself. 

 

Creating a Good Support System

 

Find an advocate at work, someone who is willing to mentor you in your professional development.  They can help you navigate the workplace and give you tips on how to improve.  It is always great to build connections within your place of employment.  Having external mentors is essential to your career development as well.  This gives you someone you can vent to about what is going on at work and never have to worry about it getting back to the boss.  When you are down, it is wonderful to have people around you to remind you of how great you are.


Starting a new career and/or looking for new job opportunities can be scary, but self-confidence and perseverance can take you far.  I was encouraged by an interview I saw with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.  In his interview he spoke about the importance of not giving up.  He is quoted as saying, “I failed 3 times in college.  I applied 30 times to get a job but I have always been rejected.  When KFC came to China for the first time, we were 24 to apply and I was the one to be dismissed.  I wanted to go into the police and 5 postulants, I was the only one not to be accepted.  I applied 10 times to return to Harvard University USA and I was rejected.”  It takes a lot of self-confidence to be able to pick yourself up and move forward after being rejected so many times.  It all starts and ends with you.  Had he given up or allowed self-doubt to take over, he would not be enjoying the success of Alibaba right now. 

 


 

Tashania Morris, ALS, CDF, CPC, started her career as a paralegal.  She has over six years’ experience in the legal field specializing in the areas of foreclosure and bankruptcy.  She recently completed her master’s degree in human resource management which has equipped her with the tools needed to think strategically and develop creative solutions to problems in the workplace.  As a Certified Professional Coach and Career Development Facilitator, she loves all things career and personal development.  She is able to recognize people’s skills and abilities and enjoys working with individuals to figure out their “why.”  Her mission is to engage, empower, educate, and promote change from within.  If you have any questions about any of the articles written, suggestions about something you would like Tashania to write about, or enjoyed reading the article, send her a quick note.  You can reach Tashania at tashania_m@hotmail.com.

Tags:  administrative  career corner  legal  legal assistant  legal networking  legal professional  paralegal  paralegal career 

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