Let’s suppose a child has a favourite toy, a doll or an action figure perhaps. Then imagine that another child grabs it unnoticed, puts a noose around it’s neck and strings it up so all the kids can have a good laugh at it. How would your child feel? What would you think about what motivated the other child?
Such a scenario might be considered disturbing if it happened, although very young children will not necessarily perceive a problem with hanging anything by the neck. Transpose this situation to the workplace, however, and a whole new set of nuances emerges.
The adult version of this story is real. An arts worker brought a present she had received into work – a wooden figure. In her absence this was removed from where she had left it and strung up by a rope, fashioned into a noose around its neck, in a communal workspace.
Photo courtesy of papergreat.com
The incident happened recently to the museum employee whose story I have been telling in earlier posts. She made an official complaint about being bullied by a colleague, which has had the effect of forcing management to do something. Evidently, this angered the bully who promptly stepped up the bullying. Management’s attempts to ‘investigate’ have been clumsy and heavy-handed, causing unnecessary distress; the bully has produced a vitriolic account claiming the employee did the bullying – counter-accusations are very common in these circumstances; and the employee is still suffering from acute stress, as are her friends and family members.
Why is this being allowed to happen?
Organizational culture and climate affects perceptions of bullying behaviour. In some employment sectors where a ‘command and control’ style of management is in place, bullying may be regarded as the norm.
Resources and skills available undoubtedly affect the ability of individuals and management to deal adequately with bullying behaviour. A lack of appropriate training exacerbates this.
The structure and systems of an organization relate to the organizational culture – even if bullying is not, knowingly, condoned by management, by ignoring or belittling it leaders and managers are indicating that it is permissible. A lack of satisfactory procedures to address complaints makes it extremely difficult to resolve bullying situations in a fair and reasonable manner. In this case, management is exhibiting Ostrich Syndrome.
The world is a dangerous place,
not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.
The details of this case are printed with the full permission of the individual concerned.