Few things make my blood boil as much as hearing excuses for workplace bullying.
I’ve heard otherwise intelligent people put bullying down to a personality clash or the fact the ‘target’ – one doesn’t say victim anymore – is outgoing, quiet, quirky or some other lame excuse.
Crap. Bullying is a serious business issue costing employers billions of dollars every year. It eats into the investment employers make in hiring, training and paying their staff. It can also ruin a person’s health - sometimes permanently.
Managers should have a chat to every new employee to spell out what is considered bullying and that such behaviour is unacceptable. It would put the manager on notice as much as the new employee. Research by Dr Barbara Griffith of Macquarie University has demonstrated how rudeness drives down productivity, particularly when it comes from a manager.
There are HUGE cost savings to be made by blocking bullies. When someone is being bullied he or she is not thinking about the job they are paid to do. Nor is the bully or the supporters of both sides. Bullies intimidate colleagues. They suppress good ideas and block talent from rising. Add in the cost of absenteeism, legal costs, compensation, insurance and counselling. And many people never report the bullying – they just walk out the door and need to be replaced.
Yesterday I spoke to Marie Hutchinson, a lecturer at Southern Cross University about a massive research project she co-authored with Professor Margaret Vickers of the University of Western Sydney on the health sector.
At a time when Australia was experiencing a critical nursing shortage, well trained nurses were choosing to drop tens of thousands of dollars in pay so they could reduce their hours just to avoid a bully. Staggering.
In the years I’ve been reporting on work, I’ve had a tonne of email detailing some awful cases of bullying and I stay in touch with some of those people. Here are just two that show how employers can lose the good employee and be left with the dud bully.
John was bullied by a woman he actually recommended for promotion. He had worked for the Queensland tourism company for seven years and won every sales award it offered year after year. After putting up with the bullying for a year he left with a pay out after contacting lawyers – it didn’t go to court – and now works for a competitor. “I have great contacts in the sector and won every award they offered now I am using everything I have to help a major competitor succeed. She is still there and they are bleeding staff and clients because of her. It’s a shame because I really got on well with the owners and totally believed in their vision.”
Tanya from Melbourne was bullied by her boss at a charity (sadly I’ve had a fair few complaints about bullying from staff working for charities). She hung in there for 5 years and four months but felt she was “going mad”. “I was forced to leave because of his behaviour. This has been a really tough decision as I really believe in the organisation and my role/work in it. I also am a single working parent and financially it is quite scary. I’ve never been without employment.” Tanya left very recently and has since heard other employees have made complaints but for now the bully is still employed.
The really sad thing is there is really little support out there for the targets. I would urge anyone experiencing bullying to talk to your GP as soon as you can. So many people wait until they can’t sleep, can’t eat or are over eating, hitting the bottle or are depressed. Also read up on bullying starting with Beyond Bullying.
Share what you know. Have you experienced bullying? Did you report it and what happened when you did? Also, if anyone knows some support groups out there or other websites please share them.
I have just read Surviving the Office Monster. Dr John Clarke has
opened my eyes, even though I already knew. It is my immediate boss who is the bully in my case. He is very clever and powerful in the community and government sectors and I feel that no-one can touch him, and his behaviour is ignored and/or massaged by our head organisation, but all this is being kept from the board. I work in the
Community Sector and we deliver programs to help people with a disability.
After I left, HR received complaints from other people. It reached boiling point during the busiest time of the year when a lot was happening. The bulk of the bullying and harassment occurred in the form of oppressive micro-managing and delegation with blame.
I am feeling scared and emotional about the future but just needed to get out away from him.
Sadly, I loved my job and it is why I’ve held on for so long.
The whole team felt the strain but because I ws there so long, more than five years, I reached my capacity to tolerate the situation. I used up sick leave - HR recommended I do this - and was put on stress leave.