May 25, 2006

Factors impairing ability to deal with bullying

The 2005 Survey of HR Professionals: Which of the following factors impair your organisation's ability to deal effectively with bullying?

Unwillingness to acknowledge a problem by management - 74.4%
Prevailing management style - 70.4%
Lack of training in how to deal with bullying - 45.4%
Lack of cooperation from management - 44.4%
Inadequate procedures - 30.2%

From: digital opinion

May 20, 2006

The target

'...The worker most vulnerable to being mobbed is an average or high achiever who is personally invested in a formally secure job, but who nonetheless somehow threatens or puts to shame co-workers and/or managers. Such a worker provides no legally defensible grounds for termination, yet usually fails to pick up subtle hints and leave voluntarily. An attractive solution, from the majority point of view, is to bring or wear this worker down, one way or another, however long it takes.

As the process drags on, both sides, collective and individual, dig in their heels. It is often as if the targeted worker has grabbed a hot wire and cannot let go, despite the pain and injury it inflicts. The worker’s investment of self and sense of having been deeply wronged prevent the one resolution that would satisfy the other side...'

From: At the Mercy of the Mob. A summary of research on workplace mobbing. By Prof. Kenneth Westhues, University of Waterloo

May 19, 2006

The cost to the employer

'... Often, the only symptoms of a bully boss are a steady trickle of staff resignations, low productivity and the glum faces around the water cooler.

Companies should remember the workplace truth that people don't quit jobs, they quit managers, human resource experts said.

Almost two-thirds of people who leave a position cite bad leadership, with compensation and benefits "way down at the bottom" of reasons, Wellins said.

Bullying causes stress, which costs corporations $300 billion each year and is responsible for 1 million absences each day, said Kathleen Hall, a stress-management expert based in Clarkesville, Ga., and author of "Alter Your Life."

"Employers have to understand it is going to kill and take the lifeblood out of their company," Hall said.

Bullies boost health care expenses and compromise business results by stifling both dissent and creativity, critics say.

"The mythology is they get results. The truth is, they prevent work from getting done," Namie said. "It's the highly competent minions who are getting things done."

Once saddled with an abusive manager, employers will have a tough time reforming that person, although training may help. It's easier to weed out potential abusers before they join the organization, Wellins said...'


'...The findings come after figures showed that Victoria's biggest government department — Human Services — cost taxpayers $2.4 million in WorkCover compensation for stress, anxiety or depression in 2003-04, with 195 employees affected.'

From: Bullying rife in public service

'...Some of the costs of behaviours associated with workplace bullying have been identified. In the United Kingdom, Hoel, Sparks and Cooper (2001) estimated that workplace bullying absenteeism contributed an extra 18 million lost working days annually. By contrast, Rayner, Hoel and Cooper (2002) argues that costs are rarely estimated reliably but rather are lost in the daily activities of those who are required to deal with the problem. As such, the true costs remain unaccounted for. In the Scandinavian countries, the need for intervention by personnel officers, personnel consultants, managers of various grades, occupational health staff, and external consultants in an endeavour to overcome the problem have been conservatively estimated at 30,000 to 100,000 US dollars (Leymann, 1990). Nevertheless, there is a lack of research quantifying the impact workplace mobbing has on organisations. Such a model would need to account for the hidden costs such as client and industry perceptions, investor confidence, and loss of knowledge capital. Generally, only the obvious organisational impacts are considered such as absenteeism, turnover and productivity (Hoel, Einarsen, & Cooper, 2003)...'

From: Workplace Mobbing: a proactive response

'...The company where mobbing occurs may suffer damage not only to its image but also to its finances. An evaluation by the International Labour Office has found that psychological harassment costs about EUR 150,000 a year in a company with 1,000 employees. Moreover, some researchers have found that a mobbing victim has a reduced working performance (by 60%) and an increased cost for the company (by 180%)...'

From: Increasing focus on workplace 'mobbing', european industrial relations observatory on-line

May 18, 2006

Justice, closure

'...How does the bullying end? The majority of survey respondents (61%) reported that bullying was current and ongoing.

The survey respondents for whom the bullying has ended reported what made it stop:

37% of the Targets were fired or involuntarily terminated
33% of Targets quit (typically taking some form of constructive discharge)
17% of Targets transfer to another position with the same employer

What it could mean: Once targeted, bullied individuals face a 70% chance of losing their jobs.

4% of Bullies stopped bullying after punishment or sanctions
9% of Bullies were transferred or terminated

What it could mean: Bullying is done with impunity. Perpetrators face a low risk of being held accountable. Targeted individuals pay by losing their once-cherished positions...'

From: The Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute

May 15, 2006

Coping, surviving, fighting back

'Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence.'
Leonardo da Vinci

'...the big challenge is to come up with a programme of action for surviving and thriving in the face of mobbing. That's a tall order. Davenport, Schwartz and Elliott describe options ranging from grieving, building self-esteem, using humour and taking care in choosing professional help. They also give advice on how family and friends are affected and how they can help. All this is quite valuable, but it is clear that there is no guaranteed way of getting through a serious case of mobbing. It often may be best to leave for another job...'

From: Martin Brian, 2000, Insight and advice about workplace bullying

'...Thus, these individuals [targets of bullying] find themselves in a prolonged stress- and in a prolonged trauma-creating situation. Instead of a short, acute (and normal!) PTSD reaction that can subside after several days or weeks, theirs is constantly renewed: new traumata and new sources of anxiety arise in a constant stream during which time the individual experiences rights violations that further undermine his or her self-confidence and psychological health. The unwieldy social situation for these individuals consists not only of severe psychological trauma but of an extremely prolonged stress condition that seriously threatens the individual's socio-economic existence. Torn out of their social network, the majority of mobbing victims face the threat of early retirement, with permanent psychological damage...'

From: Heinz Leiman, How serious are Psychological problems after mobbing? File 32100e [Difficult to navigate this site, but excellent information]

'...Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation...

...It seems that Complex PTSD can potentially arise from any prolonged period of negative stress in which certain factors are present, which may include any of captivity, lack of means of escape, entrapment, repeated violation of boundaries, betrayal, rejection, bewilderment, confusion, and - crucially - lack of control, loss of control and disempowerment. It is the overwhelming nature of the events and the inability (helplessness, lack of knowledge, lack of support etc) of the person trying to deal with those events that leads to the development of Complex PTSD. Situations which might give rise to Complex PTSD include bullying, harassment, abuse, domestic violence, stalking, long-term caring for a disabled relative, unresolved grief, exam stress over a period of years, mounting debt, contact experience, etc...

...The UK has one of the highest adult suicide rates in Europe: around 5000 a year. The number of adults in the UK committing suicide because of bullying is unknown. Each year 19,000 children attempt suicide in the UK - one every half hour. in the UK, suicide is the number one cause of death for 18-24-year-old males.

...The prolonged (chronic) negative stress resulting from bullying has lead to threat of loss of job, career, health, livelihood, often also resulting in threat to marriage and family life. The family are the unseen victims of bullying...

...The person who is being bullied often thinks they are going mad, and may be encouraged in this belief by those who do not have that person's best interests at heart. They are not going mad; PTSD is an injury, not an illness...'


'... Consider leaving - regard it as a positive decision in the face of overwhelming odds which are not of your choosing, not of you making, and over which you have no control. Serial bullies are obsessive and compulsive in their behaviour; once they start on their target they won't let go until that person is destroyed. For most people, the top priority is to be financially stable. What's more important - job or health? You may need to make the decision to move on and find an employer who values you and your skills. Refuse to allow your health to be destroyed and your career wrecked by an idiot...

... Consider suing for personal injury - solicitors may now do this on a no win no fee basis. Bear in mind that this might take 3 years (County Court - awards up to £50,000) or 5 years (High Court - awards over £50,000) or more. For many though, especially those suffering trauma, the legal system can be more abusive than the original bullying. Defence lawyers will often string out the proceedings as long as possible in the hope you'll get fed up and go away, or run out of money, or become so ill you'll have to withdraw, or even die. What a nice world we live in. They're also likely to go through your past and dig up any trauma (including bereavement) and claim that is the origin of your present ill health. This process is similar to victims of rape being portrayed as "loose women" and therefore responsible for the rape...

...Consider going public - awareness is rising, the media are interested and sympathetic; ask for anonymity at the outset if required... Bullies think they are above the law - but insist that you stay rigidly within the law...'

From: Helpline4u - control a bully

'... Abuse victims should first name the behavior, which gives them a feeling of legitimacy and banishes their shame, Namie said. Then, they should take some time off to heal, check their mental and physical health, explore legal options and build the business case against bullying.

Finally, employees must expose the bully for the sake of their mental health, while knowing they may lose a job, he said.

"In most cases, the bully is believed and the person is not," Namie said. Still, if you remain silent and "leave shrouded in shame, you never get past it."



'...On the issue of mediation, there is a practical consideration that needs attention. To what depth or degree will mediation be attempted in helping to resolve reported cases of psychological harassment? In our considered opinion, it would have to be very early on, likely before the label of psychological harassment or emotional abuse is invoked, to have the greatest chance of success. As we have pointed out in this review, targets remain likely victims of additional abuse once they report the mistreatment. Indeed, they are very reluctant to do so, knowing full well that retaliation is possible. Moreover, as most conflict experts would warn, mediation has limits in effectiveness depending on the dynamics of the conflict (Donnellong & Kolb, 1994; Keashly & Fisher, 1990; Rayner, 1999; Zapf & Gross, 2001). Situations that are advanced, emotionally charged, and characterized by heightened levels of intensity are difficult candidates for mediation. At such times, an important first step is ending the opportunity for harm, e.g., separation, and then investigating the situation...'

From: Emotional Abuse: How the Concept Sheds Light on the Understanding of Psychological Harassment (in Quebec), Steve Harvey and Loraleigh Keashly, in Pistes, Vol. 3, No 3, November 2005

'...At an individual level, it is clear from the above analysis that in most circumstances where hierarchical workplace bullying occurs, that individual counseling and mediation sessions will not adequately address the issue. We need to recognise some people who bully do so in full knowledge of the power they exercise and the knowledge their actions enjoy immunity from scrutiny or reprisal because of their location within the system and because they understand and manipulate the system to their advantage. There is a need for affirmative action that privileges the account of those who have been disempowered and degraded by virtue of simply doing their job. In addition, the individual who has been targeted needs to be encouraged to delink serial episodes of workplace bullying, for to see them as cumulative inevitably leads to selfblame and recrimination (Namie, 2002)...'

From: Mental health and workplace bullying: The role of power, professions and on the job training, Lyn Turney, AeJAMH, Vol. 2, Issue 2, 2003

The first quote above assumes that early intervention through mediation can have a positive outcome. However, I tend to agree more with the second statement. How is it possible to mediate with the bullies when we know they do not accept responsibility for their actions, they have no ethics? As for the academic managers, how likely are they to demonstrate empathy with the target, have awareness of what constitutes bullying and then encourage and support early intervention through mediation? I would agree that there is a need for affirmative action that privileges the target.

  • Lesson learnt: Mediation involving an external independent arbitrator is very rarely offered. Internal mediation is not likely to work between the target and the bully, because the former is already at a disadvantage.

Grievance procedures

ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has a code of practice available online on how to deal with disciplinary and grievances procedures.

Quotes from the code:

'...Employers are also required to follow a specific statutory minimum procedure if they are contemplating dismissing an employee or imposing some other disciplinary penalty that is not suspension on full pay or a warning... If an employee is dismissed without the employer following this statutory procedure, and makes a claim to an employment tribunal, providing they have the necessary qualifying service and providing they are not prevented from claiming unfair dismissal by virtue of their age, the dismissal will automatically be ruled unfair. The statutory procedure is a minimum requirement and even where the relevant procedure is followed the dismissal may still be unfair if the employer has not acted reasonably in all the circumstances...'


Why grievance procedures are inappropriate for dealing with bullying:

the person who normally handles the grievance is usually the bully, or a friend of the bully...

if the bully is a co-worker, the manager who would handle the grievance has already failed as a manager for allowing the bullying to occur and for failing to deal with the bullying before it got to the grievance stage.

the bully will deny the target access to records, sometimes rifling the target's desk and stealing notes...


In the beginning there is hope and expectation that the investigation will be held in a transparent and fair manner; that the truth will come out... At the disciplinary action brought against me by the bully colleague, there was no investigation, I had no representative, I was not told my rights. I entered an office to be faced with three managers who had already decided what action to take against me. It was summary execution. Bully managers can use the threat of disciplinary procedures to control, threaten and intimidate staff.

  • Lesson learnt: If you are invited to a disciplinary meeting, make sure you know your rights and always have a representative with you. Ideally somebody who can look the bullies in the eyes and can stand up for you.

  • Lesson learnt: The investigator is likely to be part of the system, so expect the worse, such as leading questions, ignoring your evidence and even your witnesses, and moving the goalposts. At all stages question everything and ask for written records of meetings so you can verify their accuracy.

The serial bully

'...Ensure you know how to identify, expose and deal with the serial bully, who is often an unrecognised sociopath. It is estimated one person in thirty is a serial bully. Find out how the serial bully gets away with their unacceptable behaviour repeatedly. Start by learning to recognise the serial bully from his/her behaviour profile.

Know how to investigate a case of bullying. it's a specialised job and an investigation is more than just asking questions and taking statements. The serial bully is adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise pool negative information about them whilst indulging their gratification of seeing others (employer and employee) destroy each other. The serial bully is also adept at distorting people's perceptions of them. In the event of the serial bully being identified and held to account, the bully may leave, resulting in the employer defending litigation (for the bully's behaviour) which may last years.

If you have a serial bully on the staff, then the bullying you see will be only the tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing by that person...'

From: Life After Adult Bullying


'... [The serial bully is] An individual who repeatedly intimidates or harasses one individual after another. A victim is selected and bullied for an extended period of time until he/she leaves...

Since there are often no witnesses, HR may accept the account of the bullying staff member, possibly a serial bully. The bully may even convince the organization to get rid of the troublesome victim. Once the victim is out of the organization, the bully usually needs to find a new victim. This is because the bully needs someone on whom he can project his inner feelings of inadequacy. The bully may prevent others from sharing negative information about him by sowing conflict...

Most cases of bullying involve a serial bully - one person to whom all the dysfunction can be traced. The serial bully has done this before, is doing it now - and will do it again. Investigation will reveal a string of predecessors who have either left unexpectedly or in suspicious circumstances, have taken early or ill-health retirement, have been unfairly dismissed, have been involved in disciplinary or legal action, or have had stress breakdowns. Serial bullies exploit the recent frenzy of downsizing and reorganisation to hinder recognition of the pattern of previous cases...

Most people with this profile are incompetent at their job and the bullying is intended to hide this incompetence...'


'...[The sociopath] Pathological Lying. Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt. A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

Shallow Emotions. When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises...'

From: Profile of the Sociopath

'...Imagine - if you can - not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern of the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools. Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience that they seldom even guess at your condition...'

From: Inside the Mind of a Sociopath

  • Lesson learnt: Look for the early symptoms, the unjustified behaviour, the lack of rational explanations, keep an early diary.
  • Lesson learnt: Academic managers have no idea how to recognise the signs of bullying. They need to develop awareness due to the organisation's duty of care towards the employees.

May 14, 2006

Start with a summary

'...The bully will fan the flames of fear in your coworkers suggesting you are mentally ill. He will continue to antangonize you hoping that you will slip up in your diminished and now highly emotional state. Your complaints to management, or if the bully is a manager, your complaints to company executives or HR will fall on deaf ears. The bully has already poisoned their minds against you. You will be dismissed as a paranoid troublemaker, possibly mentally unbalanced and a threat to company morale and safety.

As you take more time off work to try to get a handle on the situation it will be used against you. It will, naturally, impact your productivity. You will be called into the office where you will be blamed for what is happening. Your boss will tell you that your productivity is slipping, you are missing work, coworkers have been complaining about your poor attitude. You will be told to shape up or ship out. You will be asked, "Why don't you just quit if you hate it here so much?" You will tell them you love your job, that the bullying which management is condoning is effecting your health and making it difficult for you to do your job. You will tell them they are responsible. You will be disciplined, you will be punished and then -
you will be terminated...'

From: Mobbing Survival

'...Ironically, it is in workplaces where workers’ rights are formally protected that the complex and devious incursions on human dignity that constitute mobbing most commonly occur. Union shops are one example, as in the case of the factory worker described above. University faculties are another, on account of the special protections of tenure and academic freedom professors have...'

From: At the Mercy of the Mob

I have found that it is difficult for many people to follow a story if it is too complex and if it involves too many strands and persons over a long period of time. Also, it is useful to be able to summarise the story in brief because you may need to tell someone - specially if you are asking for advice - in a brief and precise way.

  • Lesson learnt: If your case of bullying is protracted, involves a number of people, is complex, then make an effort to summarise it in a few words, otherwise people around you will not be able to follow all the threads.