Workplace bullying possibly increasing

A United States report draws a parallel between increasingly difficult economic situations and an increase in workplace bullying.   This video report is lightweight but is a recent airing of the issue with a different approach.

The angle taken in the story is that of a “pink elephant” that women are just as likely to bully their workmates as men are.  Some of the speakers in the video try to relate female bullying to issues of female empowerment but bullying is more often a reflection of personal nastiness than a social movement.

Bullying received increased focus when workplace culture emerged but rather than a gender issue, our increasing intolerance for bullying is coming from a broader cultural movement than just through the workplace.

The video report originated through research undertaken by the Workplace Bullying Institute, an organisation that has existed for sometime and has very recently upgraded its website.

Kevin Jones

3 thoughts on “Workplace bullying possibly increasing”

  1. hi Kevin
    1. I think the dire shortage of funds in the sector has resulted in huge workloads and very tight financial targets within each school budget. My own experience suggests that unless there are external funds from some grant or award there are no funds to recruit more staff.
    Many of the support staff in universities have worked there a long time and I think we will notice shortly many female support staff coming up for retirement and perhaps looking at pre-retirement contracts. These people are too expensive to be offerred redundancy packages – many have not taken long service leave throughout their uni career so that too will be factored in. There is also a culture in all the unis I have worked in of not taking annual leave and that hangs around like the sword of damocles. Which all adds up to any new female manager or head of school being confronted with a worrisome budget blow out. The only thing left to \”manage\”, when restructuring is too expensive, is to tighten performance and trim the processes. This is not easy in a uni environment.
    It is my cynical belief that the only way they can see to tidy the budget and lessen the payroll is to get people to leave \”voluntarily\”…..or rather without redundancy packages.
    it appears that there are now more women who are now reaching that Head of School position. Although I cant really swear to that without some proper data.

    If I am asked why do I think women do this so badly I think I may resort to many un thought through theories. It is a huge question and I do have a lot of theories about that. I haev observed that there is often a conflict between those women who are keenly work focussed and those who see work as part of their life rather than their life – this is very marked in a tertiary environment where there are many talented female researchers and academics. There seems to be a mismatch there with some discordancy and the nature of the environment means that these differences are more marked than say in the corporate environment. But this topic is one for a huge discussion….

    With ref to the male managers question – I think perhaps there are less now and those that are there often delegate the HR functions to females and HR in the sector has rapidly become a form filling role. I also feel that the male managers within the uniuversity (that I have met in the years have worked in the sector and across 10 unis) have a different attitude to the whole management function. It appears to be less \”personal\” and more functional.
    I dont know about the other educational sectors but I do know that when a mature person – male or female is forced out of a job it is a very expensive exercise in that the corporate/deparmental memory that leaves with that person is invaluable in the successful running of a school. It also leaves others feeling very insecure and uncomfortable – I have noticed that many of my staff keep applying for jobs just in case they are next.With insecurity around a workplace like that there is not and optimal performance nor committment to the work at hand. Everyone who works in a university knows that if there is trouble NEVER EVER go to HR. There is no confidentiality within the HR function and all information is passed on. The unions are frightened, under resourced and unskilled and in my opinion no longer worth the union dues. (I was the union rep for many years in a number of unis)> The workcover (HR again) staff are interested only in covering the universities back so where does a person get to go for support?
    For a mature person leaving a job it is a very tricky decision and I have watched some endure some terrible situations rather than leave – for example if you are a researcher it is difficult to get back in the game in some other uni, if you are a support person there is little chance of finding another job if you are over 50. It is even worse if you happen to be leaving in a fragile psychological bullied state.
    There are a majority of female support workers in the sector although I have heard of some bullying of men. I know that there are many bullying cases going on currently at the last uni I was at according to the psychologist used by that university to deal with employees. This is disturbing. Is it related to finances? I wonder if rigorous research would really identify a growth in numbers or if this is normal and is just not heard of under less stress conditions.

    Is there a solution?I dont think there is a quick fix solution Maybe we need to train our senior managers to recognise their responsibiliies do include the appropriate behaviour toward staff. Maybe it is a gender based problem. I do personally think there is fear of failure driving much of the poor behaviour and that those women I have observed have a great need to prove themselves as good financial managers .

    Moving on to a new job particularly for the mature workers can be tortuous. I am a pretty robust person and I certainly suffered a crisis of confidence after being bullied and leaving a job. I have also seen younger workers -some with enviable CVs and qualifications choose to walk away from careers because of the bullying experience. Recently I met a young woman who was a producer in a large public radio she had a MA Radio was doing a PhD and had 10 years experience producing A list names – her male boss (with no quals, little experience) made her life impossible with snide remarks exclusion marginalisation, making fun of her in front of others, stopping her promotion etc until she took unpaid leave to recover. She wont go back and she will probably give up her career. He would never do that to a male employee because he wouldnt feel able to.
    The issue is so huge and so unacceptable but the solution seems even more inaccessible.

    Sorry if you wanted a point form answer!!

  2. As a mature worker in Australia in the public service (unievrsities) I have seen a marked increase in bullying by female managers – especially against older woman workers. There is nothing that can be done either as the industrial officers for the unions on campus are untrained and are too busy with negotiating new agreements (most of the year it seems) and the Workcover officer is paid by the university (many of which are self insured) and therefore are protecting the interests of their employer and not the staff – HR DEFINITELY protect the university and are not there to look after the staff – that role changed many many years ago.
    I have been very active in union and workers rights in the university sector both within Australia and the UK for over 35 years. Up until this year I would have told the person being bullied to fight it – to go to the union or do something but now I will definitely say just leave the job because there is no way you can win in this climate. There is no support for the worker. That\’s a real shame after all the work that has been done for university based workers.
    Robyne Chamberlain

    1. Robyne

      Why do you think female managers are bullying more in the tertiary sector? I would have thought there had been considerable activity on this issue over the years.

      Are there less male managers in the sector now? Are male managers too cautious on HR issues?

      Is it a similar case in primary teaching where the discrimination, harassment other employment issues are so sexually touchy for them to involve themselves in these areas?

      It is a shame that leaving a job is the most viable option now but does leaving a job after being bullied fix the problem or is there now a confidence issue or mind-set that one would take to a new job?

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