I’ve frequently observed a manner of bullying not easily described, a below the surface iceberg of bullying. It can range from a parent relentlessly nagging a child with “You don’t love me”, to a manager at work asking a worker – with a fixed grin, “Don’t you love me anymore, matey?” whilst requesting (always with good humour) a dangerous task to be done, for the good of The Team. It’s here that language and gestures are used as instruments of camouflage.
A permanent tone of obligation is present, constructed on illusions marketed locally as axioms of behaviour: “We’re a team, Team, aren’t we Team?!”, “Our first concern is the H&S of our employees”, “They are our most important resource”, “We take their safety issues most seriously”, “Nothing comes before that”. This is a hybrid form of insidious double bind, but much more subtle than ‘You‘re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t’. It’s a single theme with regular pin pricks often generating permanent anxiety and learnt helplessness.
I have seen workers completely worn out by it. They are silently humiliated and angry because the truth of the matter is never exposed. I’ve seen them sitting quietly eating their lunch surrounded by fancy documents in thin frames or dutifully laminated for posterity: The Corporate OHS Policy, The Family Support Policy, The Anti-Discrimination Policy; The Anti-Bullying Policy; The Fatigue Policy. Continue reading “The Iceberg of Bullying”