Many school districts have put policies in place to stop bullying, and companies may want to take the same step. Hostility in the workplace occurs on every rung of the corporate ladder, from the entry levels on up to upper management, and often it's so bad that workers are forced to leave their jobs. How do you hang in there if you feel you're being picked on at the office or factory? And how does bullying become a bigger problem that can affect the entire business, not just the people directly involved.
In this week's podcast, Mark Hamrick, Bankrate's Washington bureau chief, talks with:
- Jenny Grasz, spokeswoman for CareerBuilder, which recently interviewed thousands of workers to get a handle on how big the bullying problem is. If you feel you're being mistreated by a supervisor or co-worker, she has some tips.
- Daren Blomquist, vice president with RealtyTrac, who provides an update on the state of the housing market and foreclosure activity.
And, Bankrate's Doug Whiteman has a warning about financial scams. It's not just your credit card that's at risk.
Workplace bullying: How common?
Playground bullies grow up and go to work. Find out how prevalent they are in business and learn how to deal with them. Plus: a housing market update.
Mark Hamrick: From Bankrate.com, this is "Your Money This Week."
I'm Mark Hamrick in Washington.
As the planet gets more crowded, it seems like people are having a harder and harder time getting along. And sometimes that lack of civility extends to the workplace, unfortunately.
How can you be expected to make a living if you are being bullied at work? CareerBuilder's Jennifer Grasz has been looking into the problem and provides us with some useful information on how to manage in the face of hostility on the job.
In our second segment, we have an update on the housing market for you. The rise in home prices is beginning to feel a bit of a fall chill. And home sales could soon to follow.
RealtyTrac's Daren Blomquist weighs in on all of that, as well as with a bit of good news: The foreclosure crisis of a few years ago has really receded.
Bankrate's Doug Whiteman says it's not just credit or debit card fraud that we need to protect against. He'll tell us about some of the other financial threats lurking in the wild.
And we'll wrap things up with a look at this week in business history
Autumn is here but we have plenty of spring in our step. This is "Your Money This Week."
Jennifer Grasz of CareerBuilder joins us for our first segment.
CareerBuilder interviewed nearly 3,400 full-time workers in the private sector about bullying in the workplace. I chatted with Jennifer about their findings.
Jennifer Grasz: Well, what our study really showed us is that the workplace is the new playground for bullies. We do not necessarily leave those bullies back in the schoolyard. A lot of that behavior carries into a corporate environment. Twenty-eight percent of workers reported they have felt bullied at work, and nearly 1 in 5 of these workers left their jobs because of it. I think one of the most surprising takeaways from the study was that bullying impacts workers of all backgrounds. So regardless of race, education, income, level of authority within an organization -- you are seeing it across the board. I think the prevalence is higher among certain minorities and workers with lower incomes, but the study also found that workers in management roles, those with post-secondary education, are not immune to bullying.
Mark Hamrick: And would this also apply to, let us say, the blue-collar as well as the white-collar sector?
Jennifer Grasz: We saw it across the board, and that was something that was really interesting to us that whether you were somebody in an entry-level position, whether you were somebody in a management position, white collar, blue collar, regardless of industry. It was something that really affected people in various types of work environments.
Mark Hamrick: So Jenny, what kinds of incidents are we talking about here? What are we sort of defining as bullying?
Jennifer Grasz: Yeah, you know, and you bring up a good point, because the definition of bullying at work will vary considerably depending on who you talk to. It is often a gray area, but typically when somebody feels bullied, it is because it involves a pattern of behavior where there is just a gross lack of professionalism or consideration or respect that can come in various shapes and sizes. And so when we asked respondents what were some of the ways that they felt bullied at work, some of the things that they pointed to were: I was falsely accused of mistakes that I did not make; there was a different set of standards or policies that were used for me than for other workers; belittling comments were made about my work during meetings; credit for my work was actually stolen; I was picked on for personal attributes, whether that is race, gender, parents, what have you. And so you are seeing all different types of examples where people really felt that they were being treated disrespectfully.
Mark Hamrick: And it is not just top-down, right? It could be someone who is essentially one's peer or even someone that might be below you in the organizational chart.
Jennifer Grasz: Well, that is true. You know, when we asked to identify who were the bullies at work, a lot of people pointed to the boss, but the same number pointed to co-workers. So we are seeing a lot of strong-arming at the hands of peers.
Mark Hamrick: OK. So let us talk about how to handle this. If someone out there has either been the victim or might be a bullying victim in the future, what should they do?
Jennifer Grasz: Well, I think the No. 1 thing is you want to make sure that you keep records of all incidents of bullying. So, document places, document times, what happened, who was present -- that's really important.
The other thing is, you may want to consider talking to the bully, which I know can be tough, but chances are the bully may not be aware that he or she is making you feel this way. And you always want to go in there with specific examples of how you felt you were treated unfairly.
And the third thing that I would say is always focus on the resolution. So whether you are sharing examples with the bully or a company authority that you are reporting the incidents to, center the discussions around how to make the working situation better or how things could be handled differently. It is just going to be a much more productive conversation.
Mark Hamrick: Jenny, you know, if we are talking about, let us say, I need to talk to my manager, who I feel is treating me unfairly -- couldn't that also escalate things?
Jennifer Grasz: Especially in a situation where the bully is your manager that can be very difficult. And if you end up reporting that person, people are fearful that if I do this, if I bring to light how I have been treated unfairly by my manager, the situation could get worse. I may not be moved out from under that person or that person may not be removed from their role. And so it can be a difficult call, but you also do not want to go into work every day feeling unhappy and feeling that you have been treated unfairly.
I think you always want to start with confronting the person first, and trying to have a candid conversation, again, always focusing on that resolution and if that does not work, then you have to look to a higher authority.
Mark Hamrick: So we are really talking about this from the employee standpoint, but I am thinking, let us say one is a CEO of an organization or an HR manager. It is really sort of something that they need to think about in terms of encouraging the best practices among their employees company-wide, right?
Jennifer Grasz: Well they certainly do. Because if you have people who are feeling that they are being bullied, that they are being treated unfairly, chances are that is going to impact morale, it is going to impact productivity. So there are some ramifications to the business when you have that type of behavior in the office, and it is something that needs to be addressed. There needs to be policies in place that says we do not tolerate that.
Mark Hamrick: Well, having a productive career is key to managing personal finances, and one cannot be as productive as possible if we feel we are at risk in the workplace. Jenny, thank you for shedding some light on this, including how to respond.
Jennifer Grasz: Thanks, Mark.
Mark Hamrick: Jennifer Grasz, spokeswoman for CareerBuilder. She spoke with us from her office in Chicago.
For more information on the workplace as well as the job market, check out Bankrate.com.
Credit and debit card fraud steal the headline these days. But Bankrate's Doug Whiteman reminds us that there is no shortage of varieties of financial theft putting our money at risk.
Doug Whiteman: It's not just your credit cards that you have to worry about. You need to keep watch over all your accounts, because scam artists can smell money wherever it is.
Fraudsters and identity thieves can target your checking or savings accounts, loans, phone bill and other utilities, brokerage accounts and any online accounts, such as on PayPal or Amazon. You have to be concerned not only that someone might try to steal from you but also that your identity could be hijacked to open new accounts.
Protect yourself by being proactive. Ask a lot of questions to find out how much of your personal information might be vulnerable. Spread your money around several accounts so you have backups in case one of them is compromised. Monitor your accounts and your credit reports, too, and be sure to sign up for fraud alerts. Get other family members on board because they could carelessly get swept up in a scam that puts you at risk.
For more on how to beat bank fraud and other financial scams, visit Bankrate.com. I'm Doug Whiteman.
Mark Hamrick: Iconic author and humorist Mark Twain is credited with the line, speaking about the New England climate: If you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes.
Well, maybe the same can be said about the housing market. The changing winds now involve a slowdown in home price gains. With the prime summer selling season is behind us, we thought it was also prime time to check in with RealtyTrac's Daren Blomquist.
To begin, I asked him where does the housing market stand at the moment?
Daren Blomquist: I am considering this kind of gut-check time for the housing recovery we have been through. The housing recovery was running on adrenaline the first hundred meters, I guess, which represents the last two years, and really seeing huge gains in a lot of markets in home prices. But pretty much everybody knew all along that that was unsustainable, and now we are seeing the reality of that – that that was unsustainable, 20-to-30 percent increases in home prices. So we are seeing a slowing-down, and I think, overall, that is good news. It is bad news for certain segments of the market, but for the market overall this is good news that home prices are slowing down to more reasonable levels. And we did see, in August, 63 of the markets that we collect data from and have robust data, which is about 200 markets, 63 percent of them saw home price appreciation slowing compared to a year ago. But most of those, the vast majority, the prices are not going negative. And so, what we are seeing is a slowing of appreciation but not a double dip in home prices, which is also a good thing.
Mark Hamrick: Now for the biggest portion of the housing market, Daren, sales of so-called existing homes, or previously-owned homes, sales are up year over year as of the August data. Do you think we will see slippage in that momentum as we head toward the end of the year in the existing home sales segment?
Daren Blomquist: Yes, I do. I think not just home prices but volume of sales was basically inflated over the last couple of years as you saw this the pent-up demand rush into the market when many folks -- and both investors, as well as regular homebuyers -- recognized that it was a good time to buy. And that pent-up demand has been, I think, largely spent over the last couple of years starting about 2012. And now, we are going to see the home sales decline. And in fact, in a lot of markets, we are seeing signs of -- especially in some of the hottest markets -- signs that volume of home sales is going down compared to a year ago, even though the nationwide numbers look pretty good still.
Mark Hamrick: Yeah. Obviously, as we know, it is important to be reminded that location is key for this part of the marketplace, in particular. New home sales in August rose to the highest level since 2008 but at about 500,000 or a half million, that is still well below the peak of, hard to believe, 1.4 million in 2005. Daren, it is hard to imagine that we could get anywhere near that 2005 level again anytime in the foreseeable future, right?
Daren Blomquist: That is correct. I think we are still feeling the repercussions of the real estate crash and particularly, the builders are very sensitive to that. Housing starts, which are a forward-looking indicator of what is going to happen with the actual new home sales, are continuing at a historically low level. Not even historically low compared to the last seven years but historically low going back since the Census Bureau started tracking this in 1994, I believe. Which historically, we were seeing 1 million -- over that time period, 1 million housing starts a year, or 1.5 million, I should say. Now we are consistently below 1 million housing starts over the past few years, and I think it is a sign that builders are being extremely cautious. They are still nervous that there is not demand, and there is not a ton of demand for their product. It is more selective demand. And secondly, that at least in some markets, there is still this so-called shadow inventory that they would have to compete with once it comes on the market.
Mark Hamrick: Yeah. And I guess I should point out because I was citing that 500,000 and 1.4 million sales levels, that those are annualized. So if anybody thought that that was 500 in a month -- 500,000 in a month -- that would not be correct.
So Daren, your firm might be best known for tracking foreclosure activity. In August, you found that foreclosure was down 9 percent from a year ago. You had nearly 117,000 properties involved in a number of things -- default notices or scheduled auctions or bank repossessions. How does that compare to the higher levels of foreclosure activity we saw a few years ago?
Daren Blomquist: We are definitely on the downward slope and, in fact, getting close to a more normalized pattern of foreclosures. The 117,000 compares to -- during 2009 and 2010, we saw 20 consecutive months where there were more than 300,000, so basically, three times as many of those foreclosure filings during that 20-month time period than we are seeing now.
We consider the 117,000 still slightly above normal. If we go back to before the housing bubble burst, the average was around 85,000-90,000 a month of foreclosure filings. So we are still a little bit elevated, and that is due to more localized, regionalized nagging problems with foreclosures rather than a nationwide problem.
Mark Hamrick: Well, I appreciate you mentioning that because you did see some states where scheduled foreclosure auctions were up 100 percent by your reporting here recently. What is going on in those states?
Daren Blomquist: Yes, those are primarily, with some exceptions, they are the so-called judicial states, where there has been a bottleneck of processing foreclosures due to a variety of reasons. But in a judicial state, foreclosures go through the court system, and the short story is that the court system was really, in many of the states, was not equipped to handle or found problems with the way that the banks were filing the foreclosures that really created a bottleneck and this backlog. And now, finally, a lot of those issues have gotten ironed out, and the courts are approved those properties to go forward and be scheduled for auction. And so in places like New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, those are the types of places that we are seeing a big -- staggering -- somewhat staggering increases in foreclosure auctions because of that. And it is somewhat due to the fact that a year ago, those numbers were artificially low as those auctions got held up, and now they are finally being pushed through.
Mark Hamrick: And on a national basis, Daren, bank repossessions have been falling for nearly two years now, right?
Daren Blomquist: Yes, bank repossessions were down to just over 25,000 in August, which is incredibly low compared to what we were seeing. We were seeing close to a 100,000 of those at the very height of the market in one month. I believe that was back in September 2010. And so those have been coming down.
Now, there are a couple red flags there, too. Again, it is more of a localized thing, but even in some of the states that have largely put the foreclosure crisis behind them, there are some of these bank repossessions popping up. In California, we have actually seen, out of the last five months, four of them we have seen increases in those bank repossessions after about four years of decreases. And so that is a little bit of a concern. But nothing compared to what we were seeing during the worst of the housing crisis.
Mark Hamrick: So between the fact that we still have mortgage interest rates that are at record low levels and we have a lot of other challenges that are occurring in the housing market, despite the improvement with foreclosures that you are talking about there, Daren, I guess we cannot yet say that the housing market is back to something that could be termed normal yet, right?
Daren Blomquist: No, I do not think so. You know, I do not know what normal is anymore after the wild swings that the housing market has been through over the past decade. And finding that new normal is still taking some time. And a lot of the -- there was a lot of success in terms of policy efforts on behalf of the government both at the federal level, state and local levels, to help out and mitigate some of the pain from the housing crisis. But at the end of the day, there are still some deep-root issues that are problems in the housing market that are not just going to go away overnight.
I think the main one I would point to is you still have a lot of -- a higher number of negative equity homeowners. People who are not in foreclosure, they are making their payments, but they are really locked out of participating in the housing market because they have that negative equity. And we are showing 9 million of those folks nationwide, which is 17 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage -- nearly 1 in every 5 homeowners with a mortgage.
Mark Hamrick: Wow that is a lot underwater, as it were. Daren, a lot to talk about, and you are always a great source to fill us in on what is going on. Thanks so much for your time.
Daren Blomquist: Yeah, thank you, Mark.
Daren Blomquist, vice president for the real estate information provider RealtyTrac. He spoke with us from his office in Irvine, California.
If you're on the move or hope to be and need information on a mortgage, Bankrate.com has you covered. Check out the mortgages tab at the top of the page.
This week in business history:
Oct. 8, 2004. It was a decade ago that Martha Stewart reported to a minimum-security prison in West Virginia to begin serving a five-month sentence for lying about a stock trade. Upon completing her prison term, she boarded her private jet to spend another five months of home detention at her estate in Bedford, New York.
The case required the former chairman and chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to give up both titles. She now settles for the term "founder."
Shares of the stock in her company still trade at a fraction of the level before the criminal case.
You've been listening to "Your Money This Week."
For more on this and other personal finance issues, visit Bankrate.com. Thanks to producers Lucas Wysocki and Amanda Rowe for their work in the studio, and also to Doug Whiteman.
I'm Mark Hamrick. From all of us here at Bankrate, here's hoping you have a great week.