31 January 2009
It's the corporate stereotype - the ruthless alpha male. But is the real bullying going on among the women in the office? Shelley Gare investigates in The Weekend Australian Magazine.
Here is an extract:
A few months ago, I heard a horrible story. A young features editor had been working in a magazine office where one of the higher-ups had taken a dislike to her. The superior deliberately started excluding her colleague from the information loop. She organised office drinks or lunches but didn’t include the young editor. Others would be invited with an admonishing shush: don’t tell you-know-who.
The young woman, whose desk was placed so that her back faced the office, used to sit at her computer and silently weep, thinking no one could see her. She sat there for another six months.
When I first heard this tale, I felt terribly sorry for this young woman. I was repelled by the cruelty and that it had happened in a workplace supposedly devoted to helping women enjoy being women.
But there was also a tiny bit of me that thought … well, she was an adult. It was a few women being immature, but she had her job. All she had to do was get through each weekday
until 6pm and then she’d have her real life waiting for her at home. How hard could it have been?
FEW women can be as upfront in their bullying of their sisters as Queen Elizabeth I of England. Faced with a younger, more beautiful rival, Mary Queen of Scots, who also had a claim to the throne of England, Elizabeth simply had her cousin’s head chopped off. It was lethal. Direct.
By comparison, when adult women bully each other, they are mostly indirect. They use weapons that are hard to detect and that leave wounds invisible to the eye. The adjectives psychologists and bullying experts use to describe such shadowy methods are “covert”, “subtle” and “manipulative”.
The tactics are ostracism, exclusion, spreading rumours and playing favourites. Information is withheld; secrets are kept; a victim’s contributions – to either a conversation or a workplace – are ignored. It’s bullying by stealth.
“Aggression in men tends to be worn much more clearly,” says Dan Auerbach, a Sydney-based analytic psychotherapist. “But those subtle expressions of dislike between women make it much harder to fi ght back, and harder for other people to see what’s going on.”
But talking about the kind of bullying that can go on between adult women turns out to be secret women’s business, a no-go area, in spite of the fact that every woman to whom I spoke for this story knows it happens and knows how devastating it can be. It’s the last great taboo, as Anthea Paul, author of the best-selling Girlosophy series, puts it.
30 January 2009
"He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere." -Ali ibn Abi Talib, 4th caliph (602-661)
"Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke." - Benjamin Disraeli
The Following quotes are by Tim Field
Tim Field was a world authority on bullying and psychiatric injury, and author of the best-selling Bully in Sight (1997). His vision was for a bully-free world, and he campaigned in schools, further and higher education, and the workplace to achieve this.
In 1994, after nearly 20 years working in computing, he had himself been a victim of workplace bullying and suffered a breakdown. After recovering, he became passionate about understanding and dealing with the problem.
He set up the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line in 1996, and then an information website, Success Unlimited (later Bully Online), which was widely used. He formed a publishing house from which he released Bully in Sight.
"Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's divisive dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer."
"One would not expect a victim of rape to have to single-handedly identify, trace, catch, arrest, prosecute, convict and punish the person who raped her. Targets of bullying often find themselves doing all of these whilst those in positions of authority persistently abdicate and deny responsibility."
"The serial bully, who in my estimation accounts for about one person in thirty in society, is the single most important threat to the effectiveness of organisations, the profitability of industry, the performance of the economy, and the prosperity of society."
"Bullying consists of the least competent most aggressive employee projecting their incompetence on to the least aggressive most competent employee and winning."
"Nothing can prepare you for living or working with a sociopathic serial bully. It is the most devastating, draining, misunderstood, and ultimately futile experience imaginable."
"The best indicator of a sociopathic serial bully is not a clinical diagnosis but the trail of devastation and destruction of lives and livelihoods surrounding this individual throughout their life."
"I just want the bullying to stop. That is all I ever wanted. I used to love going to school. Now I hate it."
(9-year-old Verity Ward quoted in the Sunday Telegraph, 12 March 2000)
"Being bullied by a serial bully is equivalent to being stalked or being battered by a partner or being abused as a child and should be accorded the same gravity."
"The British education system is designed by and for physically strong, sports-oriented, academically-able, right-handed, heterosexual Caucasian males, supplemented recently by university-headed, academically-compliant, league-table-enhancing females. The only reason kids still get a good education is because of the many fine teachers who are unwilling to be subjugated by a procedurally-bound, Ofsted-straitjacketed, standards-limited, ticksheet-mentality education conveyor belt. Before they're half way through their career, this dedication results in the best teachers being stressed out, burnt out, or bullied out - often all three."
Three points to remember if you're considering legal action:
1. The legal system has more in common with The National Lottery than a system of justice.
2. The legal system has more in common with The National Theatre than a system of justice.
3. In some countries, the legal system has more in common with The National Guard than a system of justice.
"Many children leave school with a hatred of an education system which breeds and sustains bullying and which isolates, ridicules, and excludes those who are in any way "different". The government's obsession with "standards" is a form of political institutionalised bullying which makes teachers as likely as their pupils to be bullied. Academic exam results devalue achievement and are one of the poorest indicators of potential [ More | More] rather than inspire individual achievement are more likely to sentence individuals to a life of middle-class mediocrity."
"Until there's a public commitment, and action to back that commitment, a policy is only words on paper."
"Recently there's been a trend to apply the term "bullying" to any kind of conflict at work, for example overwork and long hours. Although some bullying behaviours may be present in these issues, in my view this dilutes and devalues the term "workplace bullying" which should be used only for the more serious cases of conflict involving a serial bully. If there isn't a serial bully involved, it's probably not bullying you're dealing with."
"When bullying results in suicide (bullycide), the coroner usually records an open verdict. Unlike a physical injury or physical cause of death, a psychiatric injury cannot be studied and recorded after death. All the coroner has is (sometimes) the suicide letter and (always) the denial of everyone who contributed to the bullycide: the bullies, the witnesses of bullying, and those in authority who should have acted but didn’t. Invariably greater weight is attached to these denials than to the written and reported testimony of the deceased who has been tormented to death and to the deceased’s family who have lived through (and continue to live) the nightmare. An open verdict, which may be legally correct, is not going to relieve the suffering of the family or enable the perpetrators to be held accountable for their sins of commission and omission."
"The challenge of being a manager is to get the best out of everybody, not just the few who are clones of yourself."
"It is the lack of knowledge of, or the unwillingness to recognise, or the deliberate denial of the existence of the serial bully which is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome for both employee and employer."
"Only the best are bullied."
"The vehemence with which a person denies the existence of the serial bully is directly proportional to the congruence of the person's behaviour with that of the serial bully"
"Bullies thrive wherever authority is weak"
"Why does the UK government ignore workplace bullying? Our system of democracy - government and law - is based on the adversarial model. To be successful in these fields, bullying behaviour is almost a prerequisite."
"The vehemence with which anyone opposes the Dignity at Work Bill is likely to be proportional to the extent to which that person's behaviour is congruent with the profile of the serial bully."
"Each Act of Parliament intended to address harassment and discrimination has faced objections on the basis of 'you'll never be able to prove...' and 'there's too much legislation already...'. In no case has this line of reasoning ever been sustained."
"Today’s workplace has become heartless and soulless. Employees are seen as units of labour, automatons, functionaries, objects for achieving designated tasks, and as costs to be minimised."
"Whilst accidents and assaults injure and kill people quickly and spectacularly, bullying and consequent prolonged negative stress injure and kill people slowly and secretively. The outcome, though, is the same."
"Any anti-bullying scheme, initiative or policy which fails to mention accountability for the bullies is likely to meet with little, and often no, success"
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel but first you'll have to find the light switch and change the bulb before switching it on yourself. No problem, as targets of bullying are picked on for their competence and abilities."
27 January 2009
I was just looking through the BBC articles online, as they seem to cover quite a few stories over the years on Bullying and Harassment.
I came across this one from 2004; 'Employers 'fail to stop bullying' along with valuable readers comments sharing their experiences at the end.
It reported that;
'Few employers take steps to safeguard against bullying in the work place, research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests.
More than 1,000 employers took part in the survey and most admitted they did not do enough to tackle the problem.
Most admitted they left the causes of the bullying unchallenged and that some managers were ill-equipped to stop it.'So, I ask myself....has much changed in the four years? Or infact seeing that it is 2009, has there been any change in your workplace where it is visable that management have implemented programmes, training, regular reviews (interview, questionnaires, think tanks) on Bullying, Harassment, Mobbing? Anything?
- Imogen Haslam, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
I would be interested to know how your workplace STOPS BULLYING?
Legal and General, BT and Royal Mail are among the high-profile companies which have signed up to the plan.
Trade union Amicus is taking part in the anti-bullying project, which includes making work place victimisation unlawful among its aims.
Amicus aims to help firms tackle the problem and is working with some of Britain's biggest employers to draw up guidance to help them.
The employers surveyed came from a range of fields, from manufacturing to hotels.
And experience is not necessarily the crucial factor where bullying is concerned.
Junior members of staff are equally capable of victimising senior colleagues, according to the findings.
Imogen Haslam, one of the CIPD report's authors, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that bullying behaviour could cover a whole range of actions.
"It's not just the stereotype of a manager, usually male, screaming at a team," she said.
"For example, we found 12% of bullies are subordinates, so doing things like not passing on phone messages from your boss's boss, or withholding information from your manager until you're in a meeting... is another much more subtle way of bullying."
She said that employers needed to look at their workplace culture when seeking to tackle a bullying problem.
"If you have a culture where you're constantly overloading people with work, where you have a blame culture, where you tolerate or even promote aggressive behaviour it's not going to be a surprise if you have problems with bullies.
"Bullies aren't monsters that exist in a vacuum, and if you ignore, punish or isolate them the problem isn't going to go away ."
Tell us your experiences:
Have you been a victim of bullying in the workplace?
If so, what form did the bullying take?
Before I moved to the UK, I worked for a major corporation in the United States. In my particular office, there was a manager who was renowned for her temper tantrums and completely hostile behaviour if she was in a "bad mood."
She would purposely withhold information from her fellow managers, and if a decision was made that was not of her liking, she would punish those who supported the decision by simply not talking to them and by rallying other managers against them. She was extremely petty, resorting to childish acts like simply not responding to any requests for help or information from people she didn't like or agree with and by blatantly excluding individuals on both a business level and person level. It felt more like I was back in high school than being part of a management team. Our senior manager was repeatedly made aware of the situation by various members of the management staff, and while he tried to set examples for the manager in question and tried to speak with her on occasion, it never made any difference. It was extremely difficult for me to deal with this pettiness and childishness on a daily basis and resulted in even more stress for me, when my job was already stressful enough. This environment was extremely unhealthy and depressing. I was overjoyed when I was finally able to resign and move on from that company, and it was due in large part to the bully of a manager with whom I had to work.
Christie, Swindon, GB
I worked for the local council and when my 'temporary' manager came in she found it difficult to grasp the job. Consequently she didn't deal very well with any information I gave her and used to shout at me and slam her fists into the desk. Unfortunately, she only did this when other people were not around. I ended up sick with stress which is something I have never, ever had in all my working life.
I had enough and went to her boss with the information (I had kept a log of the information and emails etc). He told me to go to personnel and make a complaint which I did. Personnel did nothing except inform her that I had made a complaint against her for bullying and harassment, she countered this with a complaint against me for bullying and harassment! Personnel told me 'off the record' that basically whatever I did I would lose my job as no good could come of it and my only hope was to withdraw the complaint and hope that she leaves at the end of her contract!
I carried on for another month but finally decided to leave as it was my only option.
Don't talk to me about bullying in the workplace! I've had to put up with it all my working life! Some examples: being verbally abused, sworn at and ridiculed about my personal life (employer = Civil Service); physically assaulted, made redundant on trumped-up grounds, told to break the speed limit when driving "or else", being told to lie to the customer: but if you don't "get away with it", you're fired!" (employer = IT industry, 4 employers) . . . and there are many, many more. There has never been anyone / never will be anything (in reality) that you can do about this - if you expect to stay in employment / & pay the bills, that is. And employers know this. Don't doubt this! That's why they let it happen - or even encourage it! You just have to put up with it and "soldier on".
Anon, Evesham, UK
When a new boss came in, bringing her own cronies with her, she made no secret of the fact that she intended to drive almost everyone else out. A four year campaign then started in which she gradually picked off her victims one by one. The organisation (public sector)has an anti-bullying policy which it's always crowing about, but it would appear, from my experience of trying to use it, that it's really just there to impress the government inspectors. Repeated complaints to the HR department fell on seemingly deaf ears, and eventually they tried to prove I was either mad, dangerous, or possibly even both. They even tried to refer me to a Psychiatrist! It seemed to me that the actual role of the HR department was to seek out and remove anyone who deviated from the view that we worked in some kind of paradise. It wrecked my life and I lost all my self confidence. What annoys me most though is that this all happened at the tax-payers expense.
Mark , Oxford, England!
I was working for a very large American software company. My manager asked me to lie to a senior director stating that a piece of work had been done. He also said if I did not do this it would affect my future promotion prospect. I complained to his manager and HR, but nothing was done. I ended up having to resign as I could not work for my manager. I have been advised that I could sue the company for constructive dismissal. Other staff also had issue with this individual and have also resigned. The company in question was looking to reduce headcount and I suspect that ignoring these incidents was one way of reducing redundancy costs rather than address the matter.
Name withheld , Billericay Essex
I work for a local authority housing department. A senior manager attempted to change working conditions without consultation with staff. I was part of a group of employees in an office who took action to prevent this. Subsequently several of the employees were moved to other offices. This was perceived as an attempt to "split up", to intimidate. I was to move to the same office as the senior manager. Before moving to that office I organised a meeting with that manager where I spelt out exactly where I thought he was coming from, how I perceived him as using apparently professional "reasons" to facilitate his own attempts at bullying. I told him that while I would deal with him professionally that he was not to approach me in any way in relation to anything unrelated to the job, that I would diarise every single contact or encounter no matter how minuscule or trivial.
Since then, not a peep. Confront bullies where at all possible, and keep a diary!
Tom, Kent, UK
I was bullied by my former boss after two other people in the department had been bullied and left. When I complained to the head of the organisation, I was advised the best thing I could do was to leave as they were aware of my bosses bullying, but were not prepared to sack them. I am now under a gagging agreement from my former employers in return for severance pay and a good reference. My former Boss is still there with an unbullished record !!!
Anon, London, UK
23 January 2009
I thought this opinion piece was an interesting read titled
'People Problems : Excercising personal power'
'There has been a lot of emphasis in recent years on empowerment. But just how does an employee at any level develop personal power?
Empowerment literally means becoming more powerful. When you have power, you are able to influence others to do certain things, persuade them that you have a good idea, gain co-operation, and ultimately achieve results.There are five main ways to develop power and influence over people'
They are listed as using:
- position power
- knowledge and experience
- reward and recognition
If you are being bullied, harassed, mobbed or victimised, the 'Using Penalty' seems an effective appropriate method, as described:
'The opposite of offering a reward, is threatening a penalty and sometimes this is the only way to exercise power to influence behaviour. And in two specific types of situations this is very appropriate; safety issues and harassment situations.
“I don’t want to do this but if you don’t leave me alone and stop harassing me, I’m going to report you to management. So please, please stop immediately or next stop is HR.”
Threatening a penalty or punishment is a pretty negative way to influence a person’s behaviour, but sometimes it’s the most effective way. It’s the way the police, for example, keep us below the speed limit. If we don’t, we get a penalty, a fine. So this way of exercising personal power does work!'
There you go, see how far you can get with that tactic!
The writer Eve Ash concludes .... 'Today’s workplace requires people to exercise personal power more and more. And this means being able to influence others at all levels to complete tasks, change behaviours, alter their points of view. Make sure you equip yourself with all these techniques so that you can become truly empowered!'
15 January 2009
K-Rudd's workplace practices need to be investigated due to OHS breaches.
K-Rudd is about to lose his 13th staff member since the election with the departure of his popular media adviser, Tim Gleason.
Mr Gleason, 35, previously married to former NSW minister Reba Meagher, denied he was quitting because of the gruelling workload.
His departure follows the loss of the PM's chief of staff, David Epstein, Labor Party national secretary Tim Gartrell, Mr Rudd's senior health adviser Rod Glover, media adviser George Wright and nine other staff members since Mr Rudd took office 14 months ago.
Mr Gleason told The Sunday Telegraph he will leave at the end of January after two years in the high-pressure job.
Mr Rudd is well known for presiding over a demanding 24/7 work regime but Mr Gleason denied the relentless workload was a factor in him leaving.
Figures provided to Parliament's Finance and Public Administration Committee show 12 staff members have left Mr Rudd's office since December 2007.
Senior advisers Fiona Sugden and Alex Gordon will also leave in coming months on maternity leave.
Ex-staff have spoken of discontent within the PM's office and described the environment there as difficult and unpleasant.
At the time of Mr Epstein's resignation, there was fervent discussion about turmoil and low staff morale in the PM's office.
He is understood to be concerned about how the departure of senior staff is perceived politically, after the Opposition used Mr Epstein's resignation to their advantage.
The Sunday Telegraph understands there is also a restructure in the Prime Minister's media team with press secretary Lachlan Harris moving out of his office and positioning himself in the central, open-plan area.
11 January 2009
She says she was discriminated against, side-lined, demoted and ostracised because she was a woman in the Workplace Ombudsman office "boys' club". She has accused the Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, his deputy, Alfred Bongi, and his chief counsel, Leigh Johns, of discrimination in documents lodged with the Federal Court this week.
In a statement of claim seeking unspecified, but substantial damages, Ms Pullen said she suffered two workplace collapses because of the bullying. She alleged the Ombudsman asked, "How are we going to get rid of Sherry?" and complained she "fluffed around the office".
She said she twice collapsed at work, once in 2006 and had a "mental collapse" in 2007.
08 January 2009
December 2007 Opening the hearing in late August, her then lawyer Lex Lasry, QC, said that Ms Findlay's case was the story of a woman who had joined the force as a star recruit in 1986 and who, 13 years on, had had her career destroyed by a "regime of victimisation and harassment" carried out in a male-dominated section of the police force. He said the bullying had seemed to be prompted by three factors: the fact that she was a woman and a single parent; that she was senior to the men she was working with; and that she had given evidence against her ex-partner, a police officer, during a case brought after his alleged assault of her.
By June 1996, she had asked her boss for a transfer from Swan Hill because she didn't feel safe. Three years later she resigned.
What's been said
Claims already heard in court include allegations that:■ Pauline Findlay's male colleagues said she was a "dyke", a "slut", "frigid' and "needing a good f---".
■ She was stalked, prank-called late at night, and persistently referred to as "loopy".
■ She was asked invasive questions about her private life.
■ When she was promoted above her male colleagues, they ignored her orders.
■ She was the subject of false rumours, including that she slept with a speed camera operator to pass a course.
■ Former colleague Senior Constable Ashley Cook told her "someone might get a .38 and blow you away"
Woman 'drummed out' of police fights backAugust 2007
The case, estimated to run for four to six weeks, is unusual in that it is being heard in an open court. Most cases involving allegations of police force bullying have been resolved confidentially in the Equal Opportunity Commission.
A FORMER policewoman is suing the State Government and five former colleagues, claiming she was the victim of two years of bullying and harassment.
A court has heard that three colleagues launched a vendetta against Pauline Findlay after she was transferred to the Swan Hill traffic operations group in northern Victoria in August 1995.
One of them, Constable Ashley Cook, had told her: "I'd have had a nervous breakdown if you were treating me the way I've been treating you."
In another confrontation, Constable Cook allegedly warned Ms Findlay that "someone might get a .38 and blow you away".
Ms Findlay is also suing the area's superintendent, Dennis Henry, and chief inspector, Henry Button, for failing to take action to protect her despite repeated complaints.
02 January 2009
STUDY - Effect on ambulatory blood pressure of working under favourably & unfavourably perceived Supervisors
The effect on ambulatory blood pressure of working under favourably and unfavourably perceived Supervisors.N Wager, G Fieldman, T Hussey
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, UK
Dr N Wager,
Department of Human Sciences,
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College,
Queen Alexandra Road,
Buckinghamshire HP11 2JZ, UK;
Aims: To investigate the role played by employees’ perceptions of their supervisors’ interactional styles as a possible source of workplace stress that may be associated with increased morbidity and mortality rates from cardiovascular disorders in workers in the lower strata of organisational hierarchies.
Methods: A controlled, quasi-experimental, field study of female healthcare assistants. Allocation to the experimental and control groups was based on participants’ responses to a supervisor interactional style questionnaire. Experimental participants (n = 13) reported working under two divergently perceived supervisors at the same workplace, on different days. The control group (n = 15) worked either under one supervisor, or two similarly perceived supervisors. Ambulatory blood pressure was recorded every 30 minutes, over a 12 hour period for three days.
Results: The control group showed a 3 mm Hg difference in systolic blood pressure (SBP) and a non-significant difference in diastolic blood pressure (DBP; mean difference 1 mm Hg) between the two supervisor conditions. The experimental group showed significantly higher SBP (15 mm Hg) and DBP (7 mm Hg) when working under a less favoured compared to a favoured supervisor. The degree of divergence in perceptions of supervisors shows a significant positive relation with the difference in blood pressure between the two workdays. Divergence in perceptions of interpersonal fairness is the strongest predictor of difference in blood pressure.
Conclusion: An unfavourably perceived supervisor is a potent workplace stressor, which might have a clinically significant impact on supervisees’ cardiovascular functioning.
Keywords: work stress; supervisor; blood pressure
Abbreviations: CD, coefficient of determination; CHD, coronary heart disease; CI, confidence interval; CVD, cardiovascular disorders; DBP, diastolic blood pressure; SBP, systolic blood pressure; SD, standard deviation