February 23, 2007

Workplace Bullying research from the University of Portsmouth

In May 2006, Professor Charlotte Rayner from the University of Portsmouth (South England) co-authored a research report available online. Below some interesting extracts from the report:

'...A wide variety of circumstances was reported in organisations. No one suggested that bullying and harassment could be eradicated. Through embedding a set of clear values within the culture of the organisation that were fairly enforced, with the organisation owning the problem rather than seeing it as primarily that of individual conflict, it could be minimised however. Organisations which were effective in tackling the issue had clear differences in values and action compared to unsuccessful organisations. Some organisations failed to acknowledge the problem at all, although our sampling meant that these were in the minority... A key finding for future project work has been the issue of engagement by employees at all levels of the organisation for change to be effective and ‘owned’. Thus superficial attempts which do not reach the endemic values and culture of the organisation are unlikely to succeed...

Threat to reputation

In general we found these were of either high concern or of very little concern to employers. Third sector organisations which gain most of their funding from trusts, government or charities treated reputation as a key issue. A single press report of bullying or harassment was seen as very damaging (potentially terminal) for a small voluntary sector organisation. An example of this involves an organisation which relied on charities for medically-related funding. Our participant explained how all IIP and other ‘box ticking’ exercises were completed with employees being told that failure to maintain a completely ‘clean’ image would erode their competitive position in obtaining funds. This HR specialist suggested that several employees left the organisation when harassed or bullied as they would never make a serious complaint for fear of endangering funding and their colleagues’ jobs...

The leadership role in assisting definition

It was agreed that management and senior management lead by defining acceptable behaviour through their own actions and their reactions to the behaviour of others. That their behaviour was watched and followed by others throughout the organisation was stated in almost every forum of the research and is a message that participants suggested needed reinforcement. The commitment of top management by ‘walking the talk’ was agreed on by all in the research.
It was not seen as a ‘desirable’, but rather as an ‘essential’. Almost everyone participating in the research cited examples of very poor behaviour at top level with senior managers bullying and harassing, contradicting any definition which might be in a policy.

In addition, senior management seen avoiding, proactively covering up or excusing bullying and harassment was seen as negatively as if senior managers had themselves been bullying or harassing. Such actions were judged as collusion by all participants, and created an unsafe atmosphere which was reflected in the comment
‘If you sit on the bullying fence, you get splinters’. While everyone is responsible for their own behaviour, cues from senior management act in two ways: they make such behaviour appear acceptable and they suggest that anyone acting against such behaviour will be unsupported...'

From: http://www.port.ac.uk/research/workplacebullying/


Anonymous said...

A single press report of bullying or harassment was seen as very damaging (potentially terminal) for a small voluntary sector organisation.

Way to go, Batman! Of course alternate media count too, and linkage, linkage, linkage - get those URLs into your home pages and into your signatures, sign up to BB communities, post URLs in your comments on blogs, comments on news servers and just plain old email. Promote change.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said...

Yeap! And if you wish, you can also use:


to name and shame universities that are known for having a bullying culture.

Anonymous said...

Naming and shaming is one strategy-

- there are lots of others as well.

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Are they doing it in South Africa?


Aphra Behn