Updated: November 20, 2020
My two recent articles on bullying and rudeness in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) seem to have struck a nerve. I have received several more emails from Odd Fellows in California, across the United and around the world regarding their own experiences with rude members and bullies. Such conduct should be unacceptable to all true Odd Fellows who believe in Friendship, Love and Truth. The Odd Fellows Lodge should be a friendly and peaceful place – a refuge from the noise and turmoil of the outside world. No Odd Fellow should be subject to abusive behavior such as bullying. No Odd Fellow should turn a blind eye to a brother or sister who is rude or verbally aggressive to another brother or sister. Bullying should be verboten in the Lodge, on fraternal social media, in emails between members and on zoom. If left to fester, it will affect the fraternal bonds and will certainly affect our ability to bring in new members and to retain members – because if the Lodge becomes an “uncomfortable” place, members will drift away.
Is the problem widespread and prevalent in the IOOF? I doubt it. However, it does exist in some Odd Fellow Lodges and it adversely affects members – particularly new members – who may decide that their Lodge experience has ceased to be enjoyable and they might opt to dedicate their limited available time elsewhere. When I served as Grand Master of our California Jurisdiction, I raised this issue and I urged Lodges and Lodge leadership to quickly nip abusive behavior in the bud. Frankly, bullying is a form of violence.
It is imperative that our leaders at Sovereign Grand Lodge and in our Grand Lodges address this concern. Our leaders should make clear that there is no place for bullies in our Order. I recommend that Grand Lodges provide membership seminars and training in this area to equip members with knowledge on how to deal with bullies, and to equip Lodge leadership on how to best handle such situations.
Today, I’m publishing the third article in this “trilogy” on rudeness and bullying. The seeds of today’s article come via an email I received from a Lodge member (who has chosen to remain anonymous). This member’s Lodge had such a serious problem with bullying behavior that the members felt compelled to develop and implement a “Dignity at Lodge” policy – a Code of Conduct if you will – to deal with abusive behavior. Following is the member’s own words about the problem. I have also reprinted the “Dignity at Lodge” policy, but I have deleted any Lodge identification. If you or your Lodge has such an issue, the “Dignity at Lodge” policy might provide a good starting point for Lodge discussion.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
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Hello, Dave. Since you are talking about bullying, I will share that our lodge had this problem in the past. It was so divisive and disturbing that we actually came up with a policy that we passed a number of years ago. The policy addresses the types of behavior that are unacceptable at lodge, along with some remedies. We now feel more prepared, in case bullying starts happening again.
We call it our “Dignity at Lodge” policy. This policy is based on hours of research on best practices about bullying in the workplace, schools and other places. I will attach a model such policy with identifying information removed. Other Odd Fellow Lodges are welcome to use it or adjust it to their needs.
You are welcome to share this, but without my identifying information (and without our Lodge identifying information).
The fact that I don’t want my name publicized speaks to the drama that frequents our beloved order, and my desire to stay out of such drama.
Dignity at Lodge Policy
WHEREAS ____________lodge #___ seeks to pursue and encourage Friendship, Love and Truth; and
WHEREAS ____________Lodge #___ values collegial, respectful and courteous interaction, collaboration and teamwork; and
WHEREAS it is healthy for a lodge to encourage positive interaction and communication;
WHEREAS that we believe diverse opinions can be expressed and worked through while always maintaining mutual respect and kind manners toward each other; and
WHEREAS we believe it would benefit all to create a culture of dignity in our lodge; and
WHEREAS the Grand Master of California has directed that negativity such as demeaning, blaming and insulting other lodge members must stop immediately; and
WHEREAS it is reasonable to clarify to each other what behavior is desired and what behavior is not to be tolerated; and
WHEREAS it is good policy to promote dignity and discourage harassment; and
WHEREAS the following policy is guided by current best practices for workplaces and schools, as it can be applied to lodges;
THEREFORE ____________Lodge #___ will strongly encourage dignity and mutual respect at all times during member interactions with each other and the public.
FURTHER, we will not tolerate the following disrespectful, harassing or bullying behavior at lodge functions or in the pursuit of lodge business.
FURTHER, we put in place the following process, disciplinary actions that may be taken, and additional considerations spelled out below, when considering appropriate and inappropriate lodge behavior.
Behavior which will not be tolerated
- Abusive or profane language at a lodge function;
- Yelling or screaming at a lodge function;
- The spread of false or malicious allegations toward or about another member or member of the public;
- Promulgation of spurious or false written or unwritten matter;
- Repeated talking over others with complaints and criticism;
- Repeated criticism, nit-picking or trivial fault-finding or false concerns;
- Humiliation or intimidation of another member or member of the public;
- Repeated disrespectful or abusive communication toward or about another member or member of the public;
- Repeated domination or control over lodge activities or lodge business without allowing active participation of other members or with the effect of discouraging participation by other members;
- Repeated promises without follow through, where the lodge is relying on the promises;
- Repeated use or promulgation of untruths;
- Behavior that may be termed “bullying”, including any of the following:
- Labeling others or calling names
- Abuse or ridiculing others
- Repeatedly being sarcastic towards others
- Damaging the reputation of others
- Using physical violence towards others
- Instant rages over or repeated criticism of trivial matters
- Humiliating others or putting people down in front of colleagues
- Repeatedly undervaluing others’ efforts
- Persistently criticizing others
- Blaming others whenever things go wrong.
- Screaming or yelling
- Threats, stated or implied
- Repetitive behaviors that undermines colleagues.
- Repeated berating of another person or persons
- Repeated insults or personal attacks
- Repeated or persistent arguing
The behavior shall be deemed against the lodge’s interest if any of the following occur:
- One or more lodge members are emotionally upset about the behavior.
- Two or more lodge members are at odds because of the behavior.
- The behavior discourages a potential member from joining the lodge.
- The behavior puts the lodge in a bad light to one or more members of the public.
If a complaint is made to any Officer about behavior addressed in this section, the following steps may be taken:
- Documentation of the behavior shall begin as soon as possible, and maintained by at least one Officer or Trustee
- A meeting of the Officers will be held to address the circumstances and behavior. If the behavior is on the behalf of an Officer, then a meeting of the Trustees will be held to address the circumstances and behavior. Such meeting may be closed session if deemed appropriate, so as to address the situation discreetly, without public embarrassment of the parties involved.
- One or more designated Officers or Trustees may seek more information from other possible witnesses or victims or targets of the behavior.
- Note that in the case of bullying, ignoring the situation will not stop a bully.
Accountability and/or Discipline
Victimization as a result of reporting bullying or harassment will be regarded as a serious breach of Friendship, Love and Truth. If discipline is determined to be advisable, the following actions, or other appropriate action, may be taken:
- An itemized warning of specific behaviors may be given to the member or pledge regarding his/her unacceptable behavior. This may be done in closed session or in open lodge, depending on how much containment and participation is deemed necessary.
- A commitment from the member to cease the behavior may be required.
- An apology to the offended party or parties and/or publicly to the lodge may be required.
- A period of probation may be imposed to ensure that the behavior does not recur. If further prohibited behavior happens during the probation period, then further steps may be taken.
- Other discipline as deemed appropriate, such as removal from committees or projects (especially to protect previous target/s who should not have to suffer due to the other member’s poor behavior), suspension from activities for a period of time, removal from office, etc.
- Pursuit of a trial per rules of the order.
- Confidentiality of the person making allegations (“victim” or “target”) should be absolute, if requested, to protect him or her from further harassment or bullying. The victim/target should not be expected to “work things out” directly with the member using inappropriate behavior, as it is common practice for bullies to intimidate a target into backing down.
- Once allegations have surfaced, the lodge has an obligation or Duty of Care to provide both a safe place and a safe system of fraternal activities; any bullying that is reported must be investigated, first informally, and later, if appropriate, formally, in order to comply with this duty of care. This Duty of Care cannot be avoided or abdicated or passed to someone else for any reason. This is similar to the Duty of Care that a workplace has against harassment.
- When investigating bullying behavior, it can be helpful to have an impartial person who is familiar with bullying and investigation techniques specific to bullying, as bullying by its nature is almost always psychological
- The making of false or malicious complaints of bullying and harassment (a common practice by a bully when s/he is held accountable for his/her behavior) will be regarded as a serious disciplinary offense.
- Bullies often have a Jekyll and Hyde nature – vile, vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature – only the current target of the serial bully’s aggression sees both sides https://bullyonline.org/index.php/bullies/5-serial-bully#Types
- When bullying occurs, the bully is fully responsible for the situation. And the bully bears all the responsibility for change. Forcing a target to participate in conflict resolution or mediation is not recommended. Instead, there needs to be an intervention process in place that ensures the safety of the (member) being targeted. http://bullying.about.com/od/Basics/a/Normal-Conflict-Or-Bullying-How-To-Tell-The-Difference.htm
- Bullying is a form of violence; it is aggression expressed psychologically and emotionally rather than physically. Just because there’s no physical injury (except the symptoms of stress), don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not harmful. It is – bullying is often more devastating than a physical injury; the suffering is often compounded by denial and un-enlightenedness. http://www.bullyonline.org/action/policy.htm
- If there are rumors or untruths or multiple stories being promulgated and some lodge members have mis-information, then methods shall be addressed to inform members of accurate information. One method is for the Noble Grand, Officers and/or Trustees to draft a letter to correct the record; this letter may be distributed either widely or in a limited manner, as is needed to clarify the Truth.