• Bullying Bosses

    I was on the number 100 bus - my favourite in Newcastle - listening to two young women discussing a terrible boss one of them had.  Clearly the claimant was not only distressed, but furious with herself and her boss for the situation she found herself in.  One minute she'd be saying, "I need to just tell her, like, NO", and the next she'd say, "I can't tell her that, She'd KILL me".  I guess this is why bullying goes on for so long... there is a lot of self doubt and fear of being over a barrel.

    As for what the boss was doing; there wasn't one singular, nasty thing that the girl could report.  It was more a series of passive aggressive and occasionally overt unsavoury actions.  If the research is  correct, it is more common to experience bullying in the workplaces as "death of a thousand cuts" than having your head flushed down the toilet.

    In July 2012 an Inquiry in to Workplace Bullying was commissioned. The summary page states: 

    Workplace bullying is a problem that the Productivity Commission estimates is costing Australia between $6 billion and $36 billion annually. At the workplace level, the negative cost implications are far reaching and include decreased productivity, low workplace morale, mental health issues, increased workers’ compensation claims, absenteeism, investigation costs, legal costs and reputational damage.

    Michelle McQuaid, Australian psychologist and author reports that surprisingly high numbers of people in the Australian (and American) workforce rate their boss as being the number one reason why they don’t want to go to work. Her book Five Reasons to tell Your Boss To Go F**K Themselves is an international with a punchy title.  I would wager most of us at some time have fantasised about telling our own boss exactly that: GO GET F**KED.

    But the thing is, I am not surprised hearing the girl on the bus. Hers is just one of many similar conversations I've heard. I'm also not surprised there are professionals making a living out of writing about it, and money is given to research it.  I don’t think anyone really is.

    It's gloomy to me that I am more UNSURPRISED by it.  As though, I am more likely to accept that as someone's workplace reality than I would be if someone said "I love my boss, he's awesome".

    What if, despite the HR policies demanding Zero Tolerance workplaces, despite the abundance of training and education for managers and bosses around what gets the best results out of employees.  Despite money going in to researching the causes of absenteeism, not much will change? I wonder if, like any good revolution, it needs to come from the ground up? Is it up to us to back ourselves and say: not acceptable?  

    What other alternative is there?

    Like with any bad behaviour, attitude, movement that is allowed to go unchecked, the consequences can be devastating. Bullying in the workplace is like stigma.  A bully's actions grow in quantity thanks to stealth and naivety.  They are watered by fear and ignorance, they are mulched by self doubt and fertilised by the culture in which they operate.

    They are not policed, held to account, challenged or investigated in fact in may instances they are promoted to top shelf of the green house.  Sadly as well, investigations often come far too late for those who have already experienced lasting damage.

    While a very funny movie, Horrible Bosses cleverly depicts some of the subtle and not so subtle ways a bad boss can get under the skin...


    There are several avenues you can go down if experiencing bullying in the workplace.

    A senior manager in the same team or office can be approached if you are not comfortable talking to your line manager.  In many instances you will be counselled to communicate your concerns directly with the "offender".  You are entitled to have a person of your choice accompanying you to this meeting.

    Your HR department can be contacted directly.

    There are union delegates to seek advice from.

    Seek legal advice.

    Most big organisations have an Employee Assistance Program for free counselling and advice.

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