Short contracts blamed for culture of bullying in public service

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Source of Article:
Short contracts blamed for culture of bullying in public service | The Australian

SHORT-TERM contracts are being blamed for poor management within the Northern Territory public service as the Henderson Labor government faces pressure to stamp out bullying and harassment among workers.

A survey of the Territory’s 17,000 public servants this week revealed 43 per cent say they’ve suffered workplace bullying and harassment,, although some of the alleged behaviour was no more serious than petty criticism of their work.

A quarter of all Territory public servants participated in the survey and only 54 per cent say bullying and harassment is not a problem in their office. Twenty-two per cent reported they were bullied or harassed in the past year. Of these workers, 67 per cent complained to someone in authority, but only 28 per cent said they were satisfied with how the matter was handled.

The most common source of alleged bullying was managers and supervisors, followed by other employees.

Workers accused management of intimidating body language, nitpicking, withholding vital job information and unfair treatment.

The Community and Public Sector Union’s regional director Paul Morris says many public servants were reluctant to participate in the survey because they feared the computerised answer system would allow their views to fall into the hands of superiors.

“People were worried there’d be some retribution from a manager if they were too open and honest,” Morris tells Inquirer.

Fully 26 per cent of managers in the Territory’s public service are on temporary contracts and are under pressure to prove themselves, Morris says. “Some of the managers are out to prove themselves in a short period of time and tend to get a little heavy-handed in order to hang on to their contract. This culture of short-term contracts can breed a culture of poor management [and] lead to a culture of bullying.”

He has called on the public employment commissioner to investigate the bullying allegations and invest more in training managers.

Territory Public Employment Commissioner Ken Simpson has given assurances that survey confidentiality will not be breached. He says comments to the contrary are unhelpful and may discourage people from participating in the next survey, due next year.

Simpson says while he takes note of the sentiments expressed, “there are always two sides to the story” in cases of bullying. “Many of the complaints that are raised using the word bullying quite often refer to issues that have arisen in a particular workplace around a person’s performance.”

He says the survey is a way of ensuring staff get proper feedback and at the same time it acts as a reminder of their obligations. “For the first time we’ve asked the question about what our staff think about the public service and it gives us a lead into areas we need to pay attention to.”

The Territory opposition has seized on the survey.

Country Liberal MP John Elferink has blamed the situation on a leadership vacuum within the government of Chief Minister Paul Henderson as reason for sour faces in the public service.

Aside from the personal cost, it’s estimated bullying incidents on average cost $20,000 to an organisation in lost productivity and output, Elferink says.


My comment.

The above article appeared in The Australian, I wonder how the statistics compare with the UK and the rest of Europe. 

Whatever the reason given for it, workplace bullying should not be tolerated, whether it be for reason of disability, race, sexuality or any other reason.  Workplace bullying can significantly effect a persons mental health through depression, stress and wellbeing, as well as lowering levels of confidence and self esteem, increased eating problems and sleepless nights.  It impacts not only on the victims ability to function at work but also on their home life and out of work relationships.

Adequate sanctions should be put in place to deter managers and colleagues from bullying staff members and all staff should be aware that complaints are treated confidentially, fairly and should a finding be made against the offending person that a punnishment made is suitable harsh that it sends out signals to others that the organisation will NOT tolerate behaviour of this nature by anyone.

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Bullying in the workplace on the rise

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I was concerned to read this article in the Guardian about workplace bullying.  Bullying has no place in todays society and to find it is on the increase must be a concern for many.  Typically the person who does the bullying is showing his or her power of size, mental quickness or position. 

Sadly bullies seek out the weak and vulnerable to focus on and target unwanted behaviour towards, they then can start a campaign of bullying against a collegue or worker which lasts months or even years.  But what of the victim?  Often workplace bullying can destroy their confidence and self esteem, afraid to speak out and unsure where to turn the feelings of isolation and desperation can lead to stress and depression.   

What is often worse that whistle-blowing whilst encouraged by many employers in writing is actually not practiced in many workplaces and those members who are brave enough to step forward to protect their co workers can often find themselves too at the receiving end of workplace future bullying and some fear of speaking up incase their own hopes of career progression are shattered. 

Dealing with the situation head on by employers will send out the right message, there is no place for bullying within the workforce, complaints will be taken seriously and bullies dealt with effectively.  The employers should then be taking steps to help the victims of workplace bullying to build up their confidence and self esteem, any staff absences due to the bullying should be set aside and regular training on workplace acceptable practices should be the norm. 

If you, or someone you know, has been bullied at work then coaching may help.  Personal coaching can help to deal with increasing the employee’s confidence and self esteem, team coaching can aid building relations between co-workers who no doubt have also been effected by what has happened and the bully if allowed to remain in post will benefit from coaching to understand the consequences of their actions and how to ensure their future conduct is acceptable within the workplace practices.  Contact me if you would like to discuss how coaching could help you.

I have posted the relevant article below with a link back to the original.

Bullying in the workplace on the rise | Money | The Guardian

Bullying in the workplace on the rise

• Cases have doubled in last six months, survey shows
• Lawyers say economic downturn is to blame

Incidences of workplace bullying have doubled over the past decade.

The recession has seen a big increase in bullying at work, the Guardian has learned. One in 10 employees experience workplace bullying and harassment, according to the conciliation service Acas, while a survey by the union Unison reports that more than one-third of workers said they were bullied in the past six months, double the number a decade ago.

“The fact that bullying has doubled in the past decade is shocking,” said Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison.

Fraser Younson, head of employment at the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said: “In the last year or so, as running businesses has become more difficult, the way managers interface with their staff has become more demanding. Managers are chasing things up, being more critical. If they are not trained to deal with increased levels of stress, then we are seeing them do this in a way that makes staff feel bullied.”

Samantha Mangwana, an employment solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker, said: “We are getting a very high level of cases. Most of the people who come to us with a problem at work talk about bullying. It frequently arises in people’s line-manager relationship.”

Employment lawyers say allegations of bullying have become a frequent feature of claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

Support groups are struggling to cope with the rise in cases, with one helpline recently forced to close.

“We have been overwhelmed by a huge rise in complaints over the last two years,” said Lyn Witheridge, who ran the Andrea Adams Trust bullying helpline until last year. “We had to close the charity and the helpline because we couldn’t cope with the number of calls – they more than doubled to 70 a day.

“The recession has become a playground for many bullies who know they can get away with it. Under pressure, budgets have got to be met. Managers are bullying people as a way of forcing them out and getting costs down.”

News of the increase comes amid a number of high-profile employment tribunal cases, including a News of the World sports reporter, Matt Driscoll, who was awarded almost £800,000 by an east London tribunal after he suffered “a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour” from staff, including Andy Coulson, now David Cameron’s head of communications.

Last month two yeomen were sacked from the Tower of London after an inquiry revealed a campaign of bullying against Moira Cameron, the first female yeoman warder in the tower’s 1,000-year history.

“We see some cases of bullying in discrimination where the employer invokes what we colloquially call the ‘bastard defence’,” said Mangwana. “Their defence is that they were a bastard to everyone, so it’s not discriminatory.”

Academics have long warned of the link between economic conditions and bullying, with studies in the 1980s and 1990s predicting that workplace competition and the threat of redundancy were most likely to cause an increase. The decline of trade unions and of collective action has also been cited as a factor.

Experts also believe that press coverage of bullying cases has raised awareness, encouraging more employees to take advantage of what has been described as an “explosion” of individual employment rights over recent years.

Although “bullying” is not a legal term, cases of bullying at work have arisen through employment law, health and safety and protection from harassment legislation. But news of the rise in bullying cases across different jurisdictions, which research suggests contributes to the 13.7m working days lost every year as a result of stress and depression, has prompted criticism that the government has failed to adequately address the problem.

“The increase in tribunal claims this year is part of a lurch towards the American culture of litigation, but that is not necessarily the answer,” said Witheridge. “More should be done to resolve bullying disputes without litigation, and for people to be treated with the dignity they deserve at work, while also being strongly managed.”

The government said it was working to tackle the problem. Lord Young, the employment relations minister, said: “Workplace harassment and violence is unacceptable and the government is committed to addressing these problems.”

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