Where do workers and managers learn about respect?

The origins of workplace bullying behaviour seem many.  One of the issues to, hopefully, emerge from Australia’s inquiry into workplace bullying is how to prevent and minimise bullying, but to do so, one will need to identify the causes.  And these causes need to be more than an amorphous, unhelpful concept like “workplace culture”.

David Yamadamake this comment in his blog, “Minding the Workplace“, about a recent article in a New York Times blog (gosh, social media feeds social media.  What’s a newspaper, Daddy?):

“Doctors and lawyers in training may have no idea how to conduct themselves as practitioners, other than being influenced by a lot of unfortunate “role models” on television. If we want to prevent workplace bullying, the training schools for these professions are the first and perhaps best places to start.”

This point links thematically to several recent SafetyAtWorkBlog articles about defining a safety profession, moving from a practice to a profession, workplace culture and workplace bullying.

Recently on one of the LinkedIn discussion forums in response to my post on OHS and productivity, a contributor speculated on the lack of occupational health and safety training or awareness in the business course in Australian universities, particularly the Master of Business Administration (MBA).  He said

“It would be reasonable to think that the ethics and law of OHS would be covered in considerable detail in business management courses, particularly MBA courses at university, but the sad fact is that managers find out about the nitty-gritty of OHS on the job – sometimes by listening to good advice and sometimes by accident. This might explain why safety management is not integrated into business operations but is seen as an add-on accessory.”

So doctors and lawyers can learn skewed social values through their professional education.  Future executives and CEOs are not taught that OHS is an integral part of business administration.  Newspapers rarely cover workplace incidents.  The media also rarely reports on OHS prosecutions unless there is a sexual element such as harassment or sex during a work trip.

With this confused and inadequate OHS information strategy, how can we expect to change the world into a better place, into one filled with respect for other people?

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

6 thoughts on “Where do workers and managers learn about respect?”

  1. The motive is the desire for power and control.

    The tactics are abuse in various forms:
    – physical abuse
    -verbal abuse
    – financial abuse
    -emotional manpulation
    -belittling
    -claiming privelege
    – more (look at the wheel)

    I see direct correspondence between these tactics and tactics in the workplace. The venue may change, the nuance of expression may change, but the tactics and motive remain the same.

    The cycle by which this happens is narrated in the Cycle of Violence.

    You ask, Has this been applied successfully in the occupational environment? Not to my knowledge. That would involve showing the Cycle of Violence to executives, managers, and bullying co-workers, and seeing their response to the assertion that they are on that Cycle. It would be a useful hypothetical.

    The Cafe Vamp co-workers and managers of Brodie Panlock, in my opinion, certainly were.

  2. Bullying everywhere!Who can stop it ? No idea Where it started ?why it started? How it started ? I am trying to figure it out. but getting nowhere.Modern world is only after dollars. Dying to make an extra dollar whichever way possible . Sympathy ,empathy,respect , humanity no one cares. Workcover inspectores managers ,HR everybody will join together to coverup their sins. In return they all will make an extra dollar in their pocket not a bad idea. That\’s all it matters to them .Who cares about the one who is injured or dead by the silly action of a Bully Manager or a team leader. Who will hear about them? No one .
    The true story is covered and buried by the Big Bosses.

    This story will continue..

  3. In teams that I coach I don\’t ask that the players provide respect for others, although I do want that outcome. The problem I see with having and providing \”respect\” is that it externalises the feelings and conditions needed, as if it is something you owe to another person. So it can then depend on whether the other person is seen to deserve respect or not.

    Rather, I teach and ask for \”integrity\” because it internalises the feelings and thoughts needed and it is fully within the control of the person who is acting. They must work to maintain their own precious integrity and respect for others then becomes one of the outcomes of serving ones own integrity.

  4. Bullying- lack of respect. same thing. Unfortunately it all starts at home and instead of a caring and nurturing attitude to others, people confront rather than communicate.
    In the workcover environment, claims managers rarely inform their injured persons of their entitlements and fight the claimants for everything from taxis to home help to hydrotherapy. Noone i know ever went to work to get injured, yet the sobering fact is the insurers treat their claimants generally very poorly.
    The most used word in a massage parlour is \’\’next\’\’ and it seems that the insurers have the same attitude.\”next, next, next\’\’.
    Then again the VWA or whatever you call them, overload the insurers with work and want good returns dollar wise. Now we have doctors and other medical people refusing to do workcover patients because the insurers/vwa wont pay or if they do it is months down the track.
    If a provider seeks a late payment fee they are bullied-\’\’we dont pay late payment fees\’\’. This goes on and on and is a vicous circle started at the top- at the very top.

  5. This goes back to known models – in schools, parenting, television, orther normative influences. Safety at Work blog curiously has argued against schools as being relevant to workplace bullying.

    The core issue remains that bullying is an under-the-line tactic to achieve power and control. Like all such behaviours it is driven by fear and, in response to get away from that place of fear, a desire to dominate. Or (in Cafe Vamp) guys just getting a kick about dominating.

    Behaviours to achieve power and control are listed in the Power and Control Wheel developed by the Duluth model of violence intervention. http://www.theduluthmodel.org/training/wheels.html

    Their evidence base is that perpetrators of bullying can change. Their methods work, but significant intervention is required.

    Don\’t expect doctors to change. As a profession the are prone to magical thinking. How else to explain the endemic belief that by calling someone a \’junior\’ they are able to work for 30 hours straight without fatigue?

    1. I have argued that workplace bullying has a separate set of power relationships to schoolyard bullying and should be treated differently, however I have not argued that students should not be made aware that bullying can occur in the workplace, and what their OHS and legal rights are.

      I would argue that secondary schools should spend a little more time preparing students for work than simply preparing them for work experience – two very different activities.

      Thanks for pointing out the Duluth model, although I note its emphasis seems to be on domestic violence and for the benefit of women. I would be interested in knowing if it has been applied successfully in the occupational environment and for non-gender-specific workplace bullying.

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