I’ll make your life a misery

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 adHangBabyult 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.

Albert Einstein

The details of this case are printed with the full permission of the individual concerned.

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2 responses to “I’ll make your life a misery

  1. was there any physical harm done to the person or the property? Was there a credible threat that there would be physical violence?

  2. Hi. Thanks for your question. Adult bullying causes psychological harm and sometimes also physical harm. It could be argued that there was no physical harm done to the target in this case (but see below) however this incident was one of many the person being bullied experienced and the bully continued to taunt the target and worked to turn colleagues against her.

    Here is an excerpt from a post you should read:
    “When suffering at the hands of bullies, fear is felt, triggering the fight-flight mechanism, which was designed to help us escape dangerous situations. Stress hormone production increases, causing a rise in heart rate, constriction of the blood vessels, tense muscles and increased energy release. With repeated action, as would occur on a day to day basis when bullied, these can lead to raised blood pressure that can contribute to heart disease, muscle pain and weight loss, which are all symptoms frequently reported by victims.”

    You can find additional information here: http://bulliedbythebossblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/week-272-bullying-is-damaging-to-mental.html

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