Conversations Magazine's #BooksYouNeedtoRead Issue

Conversations Magazine's #BooksYouNeedtoRead Issue
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Monday, May 29, 2023

One-on-One with Dawn Marie Westmoreland

by Cyrus Webb

Dawn, we are glad to have you as part of our series. I want to first ask you about the reflection on your professional journey. What has it been like for you to look back on all you have achieved?

When I look in the mirror, I see a very different person. Many different traumatic experiences have shaped me to become a more empowered woman. After standing up to bullying and discrimination in my former federal job, I lost my home and most of my possessions. It created opportunities to learn from it and help others experiencing harassment in their workplaces. I feel powerful, humble, and a servant leader to help others.

Did you always know that helping others was something you were meant to do?

Yes. I grew up in a humanitarian family who raised money to clothe impoverished children and provide medical care so they could feel more dignified and have health care. I enjoy helping people, but most of all, teaching them how to be more empowered in their life. My stepfather and I invited the sanitation workers in our home for lunch every week for fried bologna sandwiches and chicken noodle soup. We were the last stop for garbage pickup in our rural, Interlachen, Florida.  

Your latest book is actually the workbook STAND UP TO WORKPLACE BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION. How did it come about?

In 2012, I had 22 years of HR experience, and I suspected racial discrimination and nepotism in my former federal job. I reported my managers to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and later to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). I reported my federal agency's concerns of only having five black employees and over 500 white employees. I noticed family and friends in management hiring close white friends and their families. Nepotism is illegal in the federal government. I often wondered if many people of color living in low-cost housing had been discriminated against, too. 

I suffered from numerous counts of severe retaliation, and my paycheck was cut off soon after informing these "watchdog" federal agencies about my concerns. The harassment I endured led to exhaustion, depletion of my health, and a genuine concern for my safety. I voluntarily spent three days in the Charles George VA Medical Center in the Mental Health Ward to help myself. At the time, I felt very victimized and dis-empowered. On the third day, I was allowed to shower, and I looked in a metal mirror and didn't recognize myself. It was the lowest point of my life. 

I became angry at myself for sinking so low, and I felt the anger grow into the realization that I did not have to be a victim. I hung in for the long run of waiting for the Formal Hearing with the EEOC. It was tough, but I managed and learned to live with a lot less money. I learned slowly how to recover and strive in all my endeavors. I later settled with my former federal agency and refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement to share my story with others and share my wisdom so they could also be empowered. Along the way, I also picked up clients and continued to learn even more, so I decided it was time to write my workbook, “How to Stand Up to Workplace Bullying and Discrimination.”

So sorry you had to go through all that, Dawn, just because you wanted to do what was right. What I, as a reader, appreciated about the book is how you share real-world examples with what the reader can do if in that situation or see something. How did you decide how you wanted to marry the facts with a call to action?

I made many edits and took a lot of time deciding how to write my workbook. I researched many books and workbooks to see what was available to the public. I didn't find anything like the workbook I decided to write. I wanted to author a workbook that was comprehensive and helped people. Many books I found had shards of advice and were not thorough to support the reader. I shared my experience with workplace bullying and discrimination and many of my clients' results while keeping their names anonymous. Some of my clients became homeless because they lost their jobs for speaking up. They didn't know their rights at the time.

Since the pandemic, it seems as though the workplace has been impacted just like everything else. What do you hope employers realize about valuing their employees in these challenging times?

We live in times of incivility in many workplaces. Many people experience workplace bullying and discrimination, depending on the statistics you read. Employers that maintain safe and respectful work environments will likely have more loyal employees. The cost of replacing employees is relatively high when you consider hiring recruiters to find employees, the cost of ads, boarding and training the new employee, and the loss of production in the workplace. The expense of litigation, months of investigations, and the embarrassment could shut down a business. Employees are the “backbone” of the company. Treat them fairly. 

As for the employees, Dawn, what do you want them to keep in mind regarding their rights and what they should and should not tolerate?

Often, employees rely on others to inform them of their rights. It's essential to be knowledgeable as possible to know right from wrong advice. Employees are likely to be more confident when they know their rights and feel empowered. No employee should ever accept harassment of any kind in the workplace. They have to decide whether to speak up, document the incident, and seek professional support if needed. No one is ever weak when leaving a job where they are not treated fairly and valued. 

We both are on social media. How have you used it to share the book's message and your work?

I believe in transparency and sharing my past experiences to inspire and empower people on social media. I have people reach out to me and seek to become a client because I offer consulting services and am a Life Coach. Companies reach out to me to help them reduce bullying and discrimination in their workplaces. Often, I will share insights out of my workbook on social media. My followers have increased, and so has my work. I also garnered attention from activist, Erin Brockovich and interviewed her about how we can all work together to support a better world. 

This type of book is so important. What do you hope it does for them when people finish reading it, even if they haven't experienced any discrimination?

Workplace bullying and discrimination have a negative rippling effect on all our communities. The workbook will empower the person who takes heed and takes action from the guidance provided. Employment attorneys, mental health professionals, behavior professionals, workplace investigators, and life coaches have endorsed the workbook. The reader may suggest the workbook to someone who could benefit from it. 

Thanks for the time, Dawn. Continued success to you. How can our readers stay connected with you?

You can connect with my social media platforms and listen to my weekly radio show, “The Empowered Whistleblower” on WPVM FM LP 103.7 as well as read my articles on safe and respectful work environments. 

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