June 20, 2006

Practical strategies to deal with workplace bullying

Now is the ideal time to take a hard look at bullying behaviour

The Independent Voice April 2002 Volume 2 Number 2 Page 4

'...The target's colleagues must demand justice, not revenge, because bullies are often the symptom of faulty systems rather than the actual disease. In healthy workplaces the target's problem must be the group's problem. A workplace must focus on peer mediation and collective responsibility, i.e. don't bring in consultants or outsiders to initially resolve issues. Workplaces need to develop their own definitions of bullying and write protocols to deal with targets and bullies.

The practical strategies

Healthy Workplaces can easily begin to address bullying through:

- Induction programs,

- Awareness programs for all continuing employees,

- Clear policies and procedures,

- Peer mediation program, and

- Providing staff with opportunities to self manage issues.

All approaches to changing workplace culture must include senior management and establish a formal grievance procedure. Each workplace must find its own answers rather than generic procedures being imposed from above. Moreover, each site needs a "driver" to help keep bullying on the agenda and ensure that all staff are involved.

A successful approach to addressing bullying in the workplace needs to:

1. Gain a commitment from management

2. Conduct surveys to gauge level of response required

3. Run awareness sessions

4. Establish consultative forums (e.g. through WH&S, SCC, etc)

5. Develop policies, procedures (e.g. maintain confidentiality) and strategies

6. Gain feedback from all staff

7. Plan the implementation and evaluation process

8. Conduct regular training for key staff'

From: Queensland Independent Education Union, Graham Perrett, gperrett@qieu.asn.au

Adelaide Workplace Bullying Conference - Skills for Survival, Solutions & Strategies

The Independent Voice, April 2002, Volume 2, Number 2, Page 4. By Paul Giles, pgiles@qieu.asn.au

Organisers Paul Giles and Graham Perrett report on the March 2002 Adelaide International Workplace Bullying Conference "Skills for Survival, Solutions & Strategies" they attended recently which brought together international experts on workplace bullying.

'...Norwegian research into workplace bullying presented at the Conference suggested that those who suffer most from bullying are often those with the most to give...

Einarsen also noted that the "[p]ersonality of the victim and offender as well as psychosocial factors at work seems to play a role in bullying at work as do the cultural values and norms of the corporate culture".

"Bullying seems not to be an either or phenomenon but a gradually evolving process" - often triggered by a work related conflict which escalates. In early phases the victim seems to be attacked only now and then. As the conflict escalates however, the frequency of the attacks becomes higher and the behaviour harsher...

Einarsen also noted that victims of bullying at work are often conscientious, literal-minded, often overachievers who have high expectations of themselves and their work situation...

Post traumatic stress following victimisation is largely due to the shattering of basic assumptions victims hold about themselves and the world. Specifically that:

- The world is benevolent;

- The world is meaningful;

- The self is worthy.

This research would indicate that often those who suffer most from unacceptable bullying behaviour in the workplace are those with the most to give - those with high expectations of themselves and those who are prepared to go the extra mile because they believe that what they are doing is meaningful and important.'

From: Queensland Inependent Education Union - Bullying and Harassment Conference 2002

Workplace bullying among business professional - Thesis by Denise Salin, Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration


In the section on organisational culture it was stressed that a very 'tough' and autocratic culture could be conducive to bullying. Similarly, a very autocratic style of leadership has been shown to be correlated with higher reports of bullying (Hoel & Cooper, 2000; O'Moore, Seigne, McGuire & Smith, 1998; Vartia, 1996). Ashforth (1994) has discussed potential destructive sides of leadership identified what he refers to as 'petty tyrants', i.e. leaders who exercise a tyrannical style of management, resulting in a climate of fear at the workplace. Such abusive leadership styles would be closely related to vertical bullying, i.e. superiors bullying their subordinates.

However, certain leadership styles may also be conducive of bullying among colleagues on the same hierarchical level. Several researchers have shown that a laissez-faire style of leadership is associated with higher levels of bullying (Einarsen et al., 1994a; Hoel & Cooper, 2000). Thus, the reluctance of superiors to recognise and intervene in bullying episodes may convey the impression that bullying is acceptable. Similarly, Einarsen et al. (1994a) reported a relationship between higher levels of bullying and disatisfaction with the amount of and quality of guidance, instructions and feedback given. Thus, bullying and leadership style seem to follow a curvilinear relationship, so that bullying is particularly frequent in cases of either very 'weak' or very 'tough' management styles

From: Thesis by Denise Salin, Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, 2003

June 19, 2006

National Union of Teachers (NUT) resolution on workplace bullying

NUT on the web. Posted on Site: Tuesday May 2 2006

'Workplace Bullying

Conference acknowledges the negative effects of workplace bullying on a teacher’s career. The persistent criticism of performance, attendance or other personal factors serves to undermine a teacher’s confidence, self-esteem and health.

Conference acknowledges that bullies are usually those in a position of power, head teachers and other senior and line managers. The abuse of this position causes unnecessary stress and suffering to a teacher who may or may not be vulnerable to this abuse. Furthermore, bullying succeeds where individuals are isolated and unsupported.

Conference believes that bullying is best challenged by a collective and organised response, and that union officials and union groups need up-to-date information and a range of strategies to help them eradicate bullying in schools.

Conference recognises the need to strengthen Union organisation at individual school level so that schools may more effectively deal with school health, safety and welfare concerns such as those caused by bullying and harassment.

Conference notes the vital and influential role played by safety advisers in
improving school safety and supporting school safety representatives.

Conference notes that silence serves to perpetuate this deplorable behaviour and believes that all teachers deserve to have dignity at work.

Conference acknowledges that bullying can take other forms including harassment by pupils or other members of staff who are not necessarily in more senior posts. This kind of bullying may particularly affect women, black & minority ethnic, and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual & transgendered staff who have long struggled against discriminatory attitudes.

Conference notes that there are varied reasons for a teacher to be vulnerable, including unjust OFSTED criticisms, poor staff relations and more often than not actually being more competent than the bully themselves.

Conference believes that the constant pressure and criticism from government, local authorities and OFSTED creates unreasonable expectations of schools which, in turn, help to create highly stressful environments in which bullying becomes commonplace. This is exacerbated by the continuing pressure placed upon schools to rise up the increasingly discredited and educationally damaging league tables to which schools are subject.

Conference believes that staff who are attempting to create a healthy work-life balance are often bullied into giving up time and resources beyond that which is reasonable. Staff with carer responsibilities are likely to be unfairly overlooked for promotion and training opportunities. Such staff are often challenged about a perceived lack of commitment to the school. They are also unfairly prejudiced in their attempts to secure management positions in schools.

Conference condemns the growing tide of homophobic bullying in schools and deplores the effect this has on staff and pupils. Conference believes that the tolerance of homophobic and sexist language creates an atmosphere in which people feel undermined, undervalued and despised. Conference congratulates the Union for its work in this field and instructs the Union to further explore ways of building campaign activities in schools.

Conference calls on the Executive to:

1. Build a public campaign to tackle the issue of workplace bullying and force it to be discussed at all levels.

2. Work with other organisations, particularly those with an expertise in this field, and trade unions in developing this campaign.

3. Ensure that all Health and Safety Reps and Advisers have appropriate and thorough training on dealing with issues of bullying in the workplace.

4. investigate (a) to (c) below and implement according to best current practice in the Union and other unions: (a) How safety representatives and safety committees (see Safety representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977) in schools can be most effectively promoted and established as a means of improving school union organisation for the health, safety and welfare of staff. (b) The use of safety representatives and school safety committees as a means of combating stress related to bullying and harassment. c) The impact on the content and provision of health and safety training at local and national level.

5. Ensure that all schools have meaningful and supportive policies to protect teachers from harassment and bullying.

6. Campaign vigorously against aggressive and hostile sickness, absence and capability procedures.

7. Give publicity through Union journals and press releases to significant cases where the Union has intervened successfully to support members who faced bullying;

8. Publicise and promote the benefits of flexible working and less hierarchical
forms of management.'

Are there similar resolutions in existence from our academic union UCU? (UCU = AUT + NATFHE following the recent merger)

June 14, 2006

Bullies continue assault - Some recent and old surveys & figures

Bullies continue assault on world of work - Employers' LawThis article first appeared in Employers' Law magazine.

Workplace bullying is becoming a global problem that is more prevalent in larger organisations, despite the proliferation of anti-harassment policies.

A major global study of more than 1,800 HR and finance professionals has revealed that one in four work in an office where bullying has taken place.

In the UK, around 24% of respondents reported bullying in the workplace, despite the fact that 86% had anti-bullying policies.

According to the survey, bullying is far more common in firms with more than 100 staff, with 27% suffering, compared with only 19% of staff in smaller companies.

Despite a recent strengthening of harassment laws and a plethora of high-profile employment tribunals, more than a third of firms still don't have policies to deal with workplace bullying.

The survey by recruitment consultants Robert Half covered 11 nations and identified The Netherlands (39% of employees bullied) and Germany (38%) as the worst offenders.

Employers in Ireland fared well, with 98% providing a confidential system for their employees to talk about bullying or harassment.

Phil Sheridan, who commissioned the research for Robert Half, urged HR professionals to take a more proactive stance. www.roberthalf.co.uk


A quick search in Google for 'Phil Sheridan research bullying', brings up a summary of the report in pdf format, titled 'Robert Half Finance & Accounting Calls on Employers to Address Workplace Bullying', dated 16 February 2006.

Another quick search in Google for 'Phil Sheridan research bullying', brings up 'Employers urged to tackle workplace bullying' from the 'Manchesteronline - Jobs & career news stories'. Here, in addition to the figures from Phil Sheridan there is a concluding statement from Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary:

'This report shows that bullying is as rife as ever in the UK. It reinforces TUC research which shows that around two million people have been bullied at work in the past six months, usually by a manager.

Management must start taking this problem seriously as it lead to the loss of around 18 million days a year. But more important is the social cost to those whose lives can be ruined by workplace bullying.

All employers should have policies in place to tackle bullying. In addition it is clear that existing laws are not enough and we need a dignity at work act to protect workers from this kind of treatment.'

While in Manchester we decided to visit http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk// and a search for 'bullying' brings up:

'Work bullies costing business millions - Monday 7 November 2005

BULLIES are costing businesses 18 million working days a year. A new study has found victims take time off sick because their employers are unable to deal with the problem.

In fact the TUC survey discovered managers and supervisors are the worst perpetrators...

Separate research carried out by UNISON/ACAS found 49 per cent of middle managers have also suffered from bullying, most commonly at the hands of their own bosses.'

June 10, 2006

What were the Governors doing?

'...The bullying behaviour of an "autocratic" cathedral school headteacher drove her deputy out of her job, a tribunal ruled yesterday.'

'...After a five-day hearing the tribunal at Exeter ruled that Mrs Preston had been constructively dismissed from her post at the Catholic primary school. The tribunal chairman, Brian Walton, deferred the question of compensation, but said Mrs Preston was likely to receive the statutory maximum, which is £56,000...'

'...The tribunal also criticised the governors of the school, Plymouth city council and the Roman Catholic diocese for rejecting a report on the school they had commissioned from the National Bullying Helpline...'

'...Christine Pratt, founder of the National Bullying Helpline, told the tribunal she was horrified by what she found."This is the worst case I have come across because of the magnitude of incidents over a number of years, the number of people involved and, most importantly, the number of people in authority who could have and should have done something...'

'...She said 16 people had come forward to tell her they had experienced bullying by Mrs Maltbaek. She also claimed Mrs Preston was offered £8,000 in exchange for her silence...'

Complete article at: Education Guardian Online


All I can say to the above is that it is of course hard to get justice, but it is nevertheless possible sometimes to get it. And one more interesting point: what were the Governors doing?

  • Lesson Learnt: Make sure that your Governors know what is going on, and even if they choose to ignore workplace bullying, they still carry some responsibility.

June 06, 2006

Dismissal as an academic boomerang

'...Attacks sometimes recoil against the attacker, a process that can be called the boomerang effect... Attacks can boomerang when they are perceived as unjust by participants and observers... The dismissal of an academic can be interpreted as an attack on the academic or on academic freedom, and thus can potentially boomerang...

For getting rid of an academic without repercussions, the cover-up is a powerful tool. If few people know about the reasons, the processes and the outcome, then the potential for generating outrage is minimal. Many academics cooperate in a cover-up because they are ashamed by the criticisms of their performance and because they are not accustomed to seeking publicity. Indeed, most academics avoid public engagement, much less publicity, seeking recognition only among peers through scholarly publications and conferences. This means that if discreet efforts are made to get rid of them, many are inclined to go quietly. For them, going public is not dignified. Scholarly self-image can get in the way of the quest for justice or even for survival.

In some cases when academics sue for wrongful dismissal, they reach a settlement with the university that includes a payment to them only upon acceptance of a silencing clause, namely a settlement condition that restricts future public comment about the case. Silencing clauses are potent means for cover-up

From: The Richardson dismissal as an academic boomerang

June 05, 2006

The Department for Education and Skills had the worst record on bullying...

Civil servants face high levels of bullying and dissatisfaction, June 2006. This article first appeared in Occupational Health magazine.

Government statistics have revealed high levels of bullying, dissatisfaction and low morale among workers across Whitehall and the Civil Service. At the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), a third of around 75,000 employees did not believe their working environment was "healthy and safe".

The Public and Commercial Services union said it was unsurprised at the high levels of dissatisfaction in the DWP. It argued that job cuts and insecurity had caused staff morale to take a hammering. It also warned that many workers in the department, where some 30,000 jobs are being cut as part of the Gershon efficiency reforms, had little or no confidence in their senior management...

The Department for Education and Skills had the worst record on bullying and harassment, with 15% of staff saying they had suffered in the past 12 months...

From: http://www.personneltoday.com/

June 03, 2006

Workplace bullying and the insignificance of (academic) trade unions

Quotes from emails:

'...After 2-3 years of inaction and no support from my union, with the last few months on medication and receiving mental health councelling, all this while on suspension because I tried to expose institutionalised bullying, and while I watch the serial bully being promoted and taking over my office, I very reluctantly decided to write to the top persons in my union a very polite letter reminding them that I have not received the support I needed. This is the reply I received: "Our union does not have a specialist on workplace bullying to deal with your case now. We do not normally use any specialist consultant..."

'...After the TUC (Trades Union Congress) I will be writing to the ILO, and then last I will resign my union membership making sure that the media know why...'

'...The trade unions already see, realise, understand the plague of bullying in the workplace. They are quite happy with it. That is the way things are meant to be. One man's [or woman's] workplace bullying is another man's [or woman's] strong management / flexible workforce mantra...'

'...It is one thing to have my employers not understanding bullying, and it is another thing if the union itself is ignorant...'

'...I have no doubt that unions and TUC are hopeless [with workplace bullying]. I still think it is worthwhile showing the world how hopeless they are - at a cost of a stamp...'

'...The TUC general secretary will say that he has no powers to intervene in the affairs of an individual trade union. The TUC is simply the trade union's trade union... I would have been relatively happier if my trade union had maintained indifference. They ended up working against me by destroying and delaying documents, passing confidential info to my employers, all sorts of things...'

'...I have first hand experience of one particular union that has sat on its hands twice, in cases I have seen and been involved in. That union of shame is XXXXXX. No wonder so many health workers live in fear, there is no protection whatsoever...'

'...The actions of my union have damaged my mental health and sense of trust far worse that the bullying of my employer...'

How to make TUC and trade unions more accountable.
From Freedom of Information Act, Department of Constitutional Affairs:

'...If an organisation is not covered by the Act, it might be possible to bring it within the scope of the Act at a later date by either amending the list in Schedule 1, or by designating it as a public authority... If an organisation doesn't meet the conditions for inclusion in Schedule 1, section 5 of the FOI Act gives the Secretary of State a power to designate private organisations as public authorities if either:
  • they appear to him to be performing functions of a public nature; or
  • they are carrying out functions under contract with a public authority which would otherwise be up to the authority to provide.'

No designations have been made yet... Are you thinking what I am? I can see the newspaper headlines: Union members lobby Secertary of State to make TUC accountable by designating it as a public authority!