22 September 2010

EXCLUSIVE: The Irony, Australian WorkCover Authority That Helps Investigate Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace, has been covering up its own bully

Intimidation and fear: welcome to agency charged with stamping out bullying
Cathy Wilcox

THE state government agency responsible for investigating workplace bullying is harbouring a serious bullying problem in its own ranks which it has been attempting to keep quiet.

There was a ''pattern'' of bullying within WorkCover's Licensing Solutions Unit, the agency's money-spinning department that approves workers to drive forklifts, operate cranes and work on construction sites, an investigation last year found. But the report has been buried and the agency has attempted to cover up the problem, telling its minister it revealed no bullying.

The inquiry, conducted by one of WorkCover's own safety inspectors, Petar Ankucic, found bullying had been ''occurring for a prolonged period of time and that various factors, including selective supervision, multiple chains of command, workload equity, continuous negative feedback and a somewhat autocratic management style … have contributed to unintended bullying''.

But when the Finance Minister, Michael Daley, was asked about the bullying, he twice denied it existed. In May he told Parliament: ''The investigation revealed no evidence of bullying as defined in the WorkCover publication, Preventing and Dealing with Workplace Bullying.''

A senior manager told workers in April there was no bullying in the department. But the report noted staff cried when interviewed. They also showed a ''mixture of intense dislike, fear and almost hatred'' towards two of their bosses.

In a follow-up review, the atmosphere improved, but Mr Ankucic said the ''seemingly calm work environment … is still very fragile and … is best described as a good work in progress".

A Herald investigation has discovered the agency is still plagued by mistrust and fear. A number of current and former employees claimed bullying was rife within the Gosford-based organisation.

Licensing officer Paul Newton, fed up with the ''spying'' and ''controlling'', resigned last week. He said colleagues had been reduced to tears and likened the workplace culture to East Germany. ''It's like the Stasi,'' he said.

''I just think it's terrible that an organisation that exists to protect the emotional and physical well-being of people in the workplace fails to protect the emotional well-being of its staff.''

An online survey of 816 WorkCover staff in April, seen by theHerald, showed problems extended beyond the licensing unit.

Almost 60 per cent were not convinced people avoided politics and back-stabbing and only one-third believed management was almost always ''honest and ethical''. Just 20 per cent thought it was nearly always an emotionally and psychologically healthy place to work.

''Licensing is the bullying hot spot, but not the only place that has problems,'' a worker said.

"WorkCover's just so demoralised.''

A spokeswoman for WorkCover said it had firm internal policies to prevent and address bullying. ''All reports of bullying are taken seriously and investigated on the evidence,'' she said.

''A culture survey conducted in 2010 … found that 66 per cent of staff found WorkCover 'a great place to work'.''

In the five years to mid-2007 there were more than 4000 workers compensation claims for harassment or bullying in NSW, costing $80 million.

Queries about dealing with workplace bullying are now among the top five reasons people contact WorkCover's information centre.

'I hate working at WorkCover.'

Paul Newton, who resigned from the agency this month, said managers used bullying and favouritism, sometimes subtly, as a means of ''controlling staff''. Colleagues were encouraged to spy on each other and collect information to be used against workmates. "It's like orchestrated management bullying," he said.

'My hair started falling out.'

A former long-term staff member, granted workers compensation for work-related depression arising from bullying, said she was so stressed her hair fell out in clumps. One manager turned an allegation of bullying against an individual into a ''bitch fest''. The woman said she was accused of bullying without explanation. "During this time I was a mess.''

Probe ordered into WorkCover bullying claim

The NSW government has ordered an independent inquiry into allegations of widespread bullying in a division of WorkCover.

Finance Minister Michael Daley announced the inquiry - to be conducted by someone outside the government - following revelations in today's Herald that a "pattern" of bullying existed within WorkCover's Licensing Solutions Unit.

WorkCover is the state government agency responsible for providing "safe, secure and productive workplaces", which includes "preventing and dealing with workplace bullying", its website says.

The Licensing Solutions Unit approves workers to drive forklifts, operate cranes and work on construction sites.

Mr Daley said he had been previously told by WorkCover that the agency was addressing the problem but wanted to be sure the alleged harassment was stopped.

He has asked the director general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet to commission an independent review of the allegations.

"Due to WorkCover's role as the regulator of workplace safety, including bullying matters, I have requested that this review be conducted by somebody independent from WorkCover and the government," Mr Daley said in a statement.

"Bullying and intimidation in any workplace is unacceptable."

The Greens said a premier's department probe does not go far enough and a parliamentary inquiry should be held.

"If WorkCover can't stop bullying in its own ranks, how can it be up to doing its job in other workplaces in NSW?" Greens MP and the party's industrial relations spokesman, David Shoebridge, said.

"Neither WorkCover, nor this government, can be trusted with getting to the bottom of this.

"We must have an open and accountable parliamentary enquiry into WorkCover's palpable failure to deal with bullying.

"It is not good enough to fob it off with another behind closed doors report on a report." source

20 September 2010

STUDY - The Calculated Tactics Revealed In How People Climb To The Top - Brown Tongue, Sucking Up, Bosses Pet, Manipuator

Flattery will get you far

Research by Assistant Professor Ithai Stern suggests that corporate leaders are more likely to win board appointments at other firms when they use subtle forms of flattery and conformity within their organizations.
New research reveals seven types of ingratiation that increase boardroom prospects for top executives
In the corporate world, board appointments are typically perceived as markers of success. However, new research from the Kellogg School suggests boardroom entrance strategies are rarely based on merit alone.

According to the study, “Stealthy Footsteps to the Boardroom: Executives’ Backgrounds, Sophisticated Interpersonal Influence Behavior and Board Appointments,” corporate leaders are more likely to win board appointments at other firms when employing subtle, but sophisticated, forms of flattery and opinion conformity within their organizations.

“Past research has demonstrated the effects of corporate leaders taking part in ingratiation and persuasion tactics,” said Ithai Stern, assistant professor of management and organizations and co-author of the study. “However, our study is the first to look at the effectiveness of specific tactics in increasing the likelihood of garnering board appointments at other firms, as well as which types of executives are most likely to effectively engage these tactics.”

As part of the study, Stern and his co-author James Westphal, strategy professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, drew from theory and research on interpersonal attraction, as well as interviews with 42 managers and CEOs of large U.S. industrial and service firms, to identify a set of tactics that are less likely to be interpreted as manipulative or political in intent, and are therefore more likely to bring about social influence.

The researchers identified seven effective forms of ingratiation most likely to help executives win board seats:
  • Framing flattery as advice seeking: Occurs when a person poses a question seeking advice as a way to flatter the subject (i.e. “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”).
  • Arguing prior to conforming: Instead of agreeing immediately, a person will yield before accepting his/her manager’s opinion (i.e. “At first, I didn’t see your point but it makes total sense now. You’ve convinced me.”).
  • Complimenting manager to his/her friends: Praising manager to his/her friends or social network with hopes that word gets back to manager.
  • Framing flattery as likely to make manager uncomfortable: Positioning a remark as likely to be embarrassing (i.e. “I don’t want to embarrass you but your presentation was really top-notch. Better than most I’ve seen.”).
  • Engaging in value conformity prior to flattery or opinion conformity: Expressing values or morals which are held by one’s manager (i.e. “I’m the same way. I believe we should increase minimum wage.”).
  • Conforming to opinions expressed by one’s manager to a third party: Covertly learning of manager's opinion(s) from his/her contacts, and then conforming with opinion(s) in conversations with manager.
  • Referencing social affiliations held in common with one’s manager prior to flattery or opinion conformity: Mentioning an affiliation, such as a religious organization or political party, shared by both individuals. (i.e. “I watched the Republican National Convention last night. The keynote presented some great points.”).
As part of these findings, the authors also discovered that managers and directors who have a background in politics, law or sales are significantly more likely to engage in sophisticated forms of ingratiation. Similarly, managers and directors who have an upper-class background are more sophisticated in their ingratiatory behavior than individuals with a middle- or working-class background. The authors argue that this proclivity is consistent with social norms in these environments. These findings shed new light on why there are only a few top managers with backgrounds in engineering, accounting or finance, as compared to top managers with backgrounds in politics, law or sales.

“Lawyers, politicians and salespeople routinely take part in flattery and opinion conformity to complete their jobs, similar to those operating in an upper-class social environment,” said Stern. “Ingratiatory behavior is a form of interpersonal communication that is acceptable and expected in both arenas.”

Stern and Westphal note that acts of flattery are successful in yielding board appointments at other firms if the influence target doesn’t recognize these acts as a favor-seeking motive.

“To tap into the corporate elite’s inner circle, a person cannot be too obvious,” Westphal said. “Being too overt with one’s intentions can be interpreted as manipulative or political. The more covert the ingratiation, the more sophisticated the approach and effective the outcome.”


The study, “Stealthy Footsteps to the Boardroom: Executives’ Backgrounds, Sophisticated Interpersonal Influence Behavior, and Board Appointments,” appears in the current issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.

Illustration by Cathy Wilcox.
This kind of subtle flattery can also help employees climb up the corporate ladder. The more you disguise the sucking up to bosses and managers, the less likely you will be seen as manipulative and scheming. According to one study quoted here, managers were more likely to come down hard on people they see as sucking up to them, who are not being subtle and who are going over the top. But the study notes that when managers are fooled into believing the compliments are sincere, they are more likely to rate that person’s performance highly.
In other words, you have to do it right. It takes practice and skill the fool the other person.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Andrew O’Connell says flattery appeals to people on an unconscious level. When people are gushing all over you, you don’t believe it. But on an unconscious level, he says, you want to believe it. So the trick is getting the person on an unconscious level. “Persuade a customer or colleague on a conscious level, and he or she will retain that conviction only until a better counterargument comes along … Persuade a person on a gut level, and the feeling will last and last. And last.”

15 September 2010

What Makes A Great Leader? ... Listen, have a heart, be inspirational, don't Bully, don't harass or be arrogant ...

The secret to being a great leader isn't to bully or harass your underlings - it's to be a sensitive listener.

Researchers say the best politicians, businessmen and managers stay in touch with their followers and support those they lead. Their findings also revealed most leaders have a natural shelf life and that over time they tend to become so isolated they fall out of favour.

Margaret Thatcher and John Major William Hague

Good leader, bad leader: Baroness Margaret Thatcher was a good leader while William Hague was bad because he lost credibility over his beer boasts

The study sheds light on the rise and fall of some of the most influential leaders of the last 100 years, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

Prof Alex Haslam and Dr Kim Peters, psychologists at Exeter University, have spent the last year distilling the wisdom of 85 self-help books and biographies.

They discovered most leaders have seven secrets to their success and that most of those are surprisingly 'touchy feely'.

The most common of these was to be sensitive to followers, a trait cited by 57 per cent of the books. More than half of those studied were 'positive and inspirational', while 48 per cent treated followers with respect, the researchers told the British Science Festival in Birmingham.

Other so-called secrets included meeting staff expectations and avoiding arrogance.

Dr Peters said the findings clashed with conventional ideas that the best leaders were driven individuals with domineering personalities.

'Actually, it's someone who is always looking to their followers and who is concerned about their relationship with them,' she said.

The researchers identified a 'leadership trajectory' which eventually sees leaders fall from grace. This happens when, instead of recognising that their success depends on keeping a good relationship with their followers, they begin to believe their own hype and the decline in popularity begins.

Good leaders must also hide the fact they are trying to be 'one of the people'.

Former Tory leader William Hague lost credibility when he boasted about drinking up to 14 pints a day as a teenager.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela and wife Graca Machel with former British prime minister Tony Blair. Mr Blair and Mr Mandela were among 81 leaders analysed by researchers at the University of Exeter. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Former South African president Nelson Mandela and wife Graca Machel with former British prime minister Tony Blair. Mr Blair and Mr Mandela were among 81 leaders analysed by researchers at the University of Exeter.

BECOMING A great leader is less about bluster and command and more about caring and sharing, according to a new analysis of the psychology behind “leadership and followership”.

It also shows that, no matter how popular, all leaders have a shelf life. The study of 81 “leaders” from Hillary Clinton to Attila the Hun, and from Tony Blair to Santa Claus, was one of the topics discussed on the opening day of the British Science Festival.

Prof Alex Haslam and Prof Kim Peters of the University of Exeter described their analysis of 85 books about the world’s greatest leaders, putting their findings into a soon to be released book, The New Psychology of Leadership.

The analysis provides insights into what makes a successful leader, and offers seven “leadership secrets” that can help achieve this.

Prof Haslam said leaders gain power and hold power not by being rough and tough, but by being recognised as one of the people. Leadership is a process of “social identity management” that counts on a leader’s ability to create in followers a sense of being “special” and a feeling of belonging to the group, he said.

“The real secret about leaders is it is not about me, it is about the group.” While ultimately it is all about power, getting there is about getting cosy with the followers. “Emotional connectivity is important for leaders because it shows they are part of the shared group,” said Prof Haslam.

Margaret Thatcher hardly seemed to depend on emotional connectivity, and yet she also depended on her support group, those who disagreed with the power of the trade unions and those who backed an approach suited to the middle class.

Tony Blair was also particularly good at making an emotional connection, said Prof Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews. Successful leaders ally themselves with those they represent, all the time remaining ordinary members of the group, he added. “They are extraordinary in feeling ordinary.”

They also, however, tend to follow a familiar trajectory, said Prof Reicher. Early success as a popular leader often begins to make them think they know better and have all the answers, in effect losing contact with the group. “Leadership has a shelf life. The risk is they begin to believe in themselves, and lose the sense of us.”

US president Barack Obama has faltered in the polls because of this, said Prof Peters. He assumed power with a close emotional bond with the voters. Yet he failed to see and respond quickly enough to strong public anger about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This has broken his link with the public, she said.

Those with leadership ambitions also need to be convincing when attempting to connect with the people.

Former Tory leader William Hague failed miserably in this regard, Prof Reicher said. “He was the quintessential ‘other’, he was a geek politician.” The baseball cap fooled no one.

Choosing the greatest leaders was likely an impossible task, said Prof Michelle Ryan of Exeter. “It depends on who is deciding. There is no one greatest leader,” she said.

The participants were slow to suggest a top three, but Prof Haslam tentatively offered former South African president Nelson Mandela. He was extraordinary compared to other leaders in that he also knew when to bow out, “exiting gracefully”, Prof Haslam said, adding that it could be difficult to make people leave when their connection with the public was lost.

The science festival got under way in Birmingham yesterday and continues into the weekend.

Ruling class how to command

A STUDY of world leaders by Prof Alex Haslam and Prof Kim Peters of the University of Exeter has established seven “leadership secrets” for success:

1 Be sensitive to followers;
2 Be positive and inspirational;
3 Treat followers with respect;
4 Work hard for the group;
5 Meet or exceed followers’ expectations;
6 Support followers;
7 Don’t be overbearing or arrogant.


06 September 2010

Whistleblowing on Bullying - Time for Management to take ownership and deal with the Bullies

There is a conspiracy of silence when it comes to workplace bullying. In the many thousands of words recently written about bullying at work in the local press the conspiracy has been maintained.

A conspiracy of silence occurs when everyone knows that bad behaviour is occurring but there is a tacit decision not to talk about it and certainly not to do anything. It was first used to describe incest in families and, more recently, other forms of abuse. People don’t do anything because they don’t want to rock the boat, to avoid conflict, and because it is just too hard. Sadly, by not speaking up or doing anything the observers validate the perpetrator and invalidate the victim.

As I have often seen in clinical practice, the effect of these conspiracies on the victims is monstrous. The victim feels as if he or she is somehow at fault, they are confused, and feel alone and unsupported. Most importantly they come to feel powerless and it is this that results in anxiety and depression, the most common effects of being bullied.

In all that is written about bullying at work there are two major conspiracies of silence that result in enormous pain and suffering for victims. It also seems that workmates who see the bullying can also be badly affected resulting in significant symptoms on their part too.

The first gaping silence is that senior managers in organisations prefer not to do anything about bullies. This conspiracy of silence occurs despite the fact that bullying is against the law and CEOs and boards of directors are in fact culpable by not acting. It is interesting to watch an organisation move a victim of bullying to another branch or even another job, and leave the bully in place: even after admitting openly that the bullying has occurred. Sometimes, it is easier to call a case of bullying a personality conflict and call in a mediator. The damage these behaviours do to the victim is enormous.

It’s also common to blame the victim. This is easy because the bullied worker has repeatedly made complaints, as instructed by the legislation and the bullying literature that is lying on the coffee table in the CEO’s waiting area. The victim, who has become increasingly distressed over time, can be simplistically labelled as unstable or over-sensitive: a trouble maker. Let’s not forget too that bullies often pick on already vulnerable people who might have a reputation already for being over-sensitive.

There have been some notorious bullies in organisations in and around Lismore that have been allowed to get away with bullying behaviour time and time again: I have seem many of their victims at the clinic. Many of these bullies get promoted. There are also large numbers of senior managers that know that their staff are being bullied but do nothing. Under the legislation they are just as culpable as the bully and their organisation can be fined many thousands of dollars. But they still engage in the conspiracy and more often than not put the fox in charge of the chook shed.

The preferred personality profile of a successful manager (or one on the way up) appears to be someone who is aggressive, dominant, single-minded, achievement-oriented, and task-focused. Throw in a little pinch of narcissism, low empathy for others and an unsatisfied need for power and this is a nasty recipe for bullying behaviour. These are not easy people to deal with which makes it so much easier to turn a blind eye. Bullies often appear so good at their job and they create the right relationships with the right people to protect themselves.

And it happens every day in organisations in which we all work. In a recent case a colleague of mine was told by the human resource manager of her organisation that it would be better to let a case of bullying drop because it was against a very senior manager. The reason being that the consequences would not be worth it in the end.

The other conspiracy involves an unholy alliance between the organisation and the insurance company. Despite the pretty advertisements, insurance companies want to avoid liability. To do this they will find any excuse to blame the victim rather than make the workplace deal with the problem. Everyone’s a winner: the insurance company doesn’t have to pay out and the organisation’s premiums are protected.

The main way this is done is to find a pre-existing condition in the victim such as a history of previous abuse, anxiety, depression, previous bullying or any other negative behaviour. This is then used as a means of blaming the victim. This is easy to do by running an unbalanced investigation and being highly selective with ‘the evidence’. For someone who has genuinely been bullied at work this outcome is extremely damaging.

It is time for the conspiracies of silence to be broken. Those with the power to act need to make the hard decision and deal with the perpetrator rather than leaving it up to the victim, who is already disempowered.

Dr Stewart Hase is an Adjunct Fellow with Southern Cross University and a consultant psychologist.