28 June 2009

NEWS - Australian Bullying bosses return as economic downturn bites

  • Domineering bosses reappear
  • Thriving in downturn
  • Working parents at risk
THE domineering bosses of the 1950s have reappeared in Australian workplaces because of recession pressures. Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says bosses are taking a tougher line on working women, flexible hours and working from home as the financial crisis bites, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

"When we're in a period of economic downturn, managers revert to traditional employment arrangements and go back to what they know," Ms Broderick said.

"When that happens, people with non-standard working arrangements, like working mothers, will be under increased scrutiny."

She said working parents were already feeling the brunt of dictator bosses whose attitudes belonged in the past.

These employers were determined to bring back a working model where preference went to those staff who were available at all times and had no visible caring responsibilities.

Financial pressures were driving companies to begin pulling back on more flexible working arrangements.

"This will, over the medium term, disadvantage people for whom work-life balance is essential - people with caring responsibilities and principally women," Ms Broderick said.

But she said some workplaces had been forced to adopt four-day working weeks to save costs and the challenge would be in maintaining flexibility once monetary constraints eased.

Dr Suzanne Jamieson, former NSW Anti-Discrimination Board member and University of Sydney workplace lecturer, says the credit crunch has exacerbated a "top-down approach to decision-making", with staff no longer being consulted.

"People previously had expected to have some say in what was happening and it's just not happening now," she said.

Dr Jamieson said with more workers facing the sack, many were reluctant to ask for a pay rise, promotion or flexible hours.

Exit Info director Lenore Lambert said businesses with a relaxed leadership style had more to gain than those that chose to control and command.

"Good managers understand that getting the best from people means motivating, inspiring and engaging them," she said.

"They should make an effort to keep their top performers. It was only yesterday that we were fighting to keep them."

Single mother of one, Wanda Carroll, 43, benefits from supportive bosses. The executive assistant at an information technology firm often works from home.

She said although she had to be switched on outside traditional work hours, the flexible arrangement was invaluable.

"It's one of the best benefits that I have in the company," she said. "Having that ability to be there for my son when he needs me is just great."

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