Saturday, May 18, 2024

John MacDonald: Come Monday, the bullies will be back on the job

If you talk to anyone who has been a manager and you ask them what’s the best thing about being a manager and what’s the worst, the answer will be the same for both. The people.

I know, because I’ve been a manager before, and I know exactly how brilliant it can be when things are going great with your people. But, when they’re not, it can be a nightmare.

And a new report out today from the Human Rights Commission and KPMG shows just how much of a nightmare it can be when those problems are caused by bullies. They’ve actually put a price tag on it.

Which has prompted someone who says they were bullied out of a job —and who is something of an anti-bullying campaigner— to say today that they think bullying is part of New Zealand’s culture.

And I agree. We like to think we’re a bunch of good sorts, but if you start to think about it for even just a minute or two, you start to realise that we are deluded on that front. And that bullying happens everywhere.

Now it’s no coincidence that this report has come out today, because it’s Pink Shirt Day which is one of those annual awareness things.

But, when it comes down to it, do you think everyone turning up to work and school in pink shirts and maybe having a morning tea together is going to change anything? Good on you if you are getting involved in all of this today, but I think it almost trivialises bullying.

Because there will be no shortage of people today who are being bullied —in workplaces, for example— who will see people in the office running around in pink shirts and they will just know that, come Monday, it will all be back to normal. And the bullies will be back to normal transmission, and nothing will have changed.

So, this report by the Human Rights Commission and KPMG says bullying in the workplace collectively costs employers $1.5 billion every year.

They’ve worked it out by measuring things like people taking more time off work because of bullying, people not performing at their best because of what’s going on, higher staff turnover, and the time it takes to deal with complaints about bullying.

Anti-bullying campaigner James Hilford says he was bullied out of a job and says it's rife everywhere.

When I first heard what he was saying, I thought ‘oh here we go’. But then I thought about it, and he’s right.

When we’re out driving, we’re bullies. Parents, at times, bully their kids. The All Blacks, we bully them endlessly. Social media. Whatsapp groups. I’d go as far as saying that we even bully ourselves. That’s how ingrained it is.

You’ve got your passive aggressive types, they’re bullies. Then you’ve got the people who don’t even try to hide their bullying behaviour.

I remember working somewhere once —and I wasn’t the manager— and they had a thing up on the wall recording how much money everyone was bringing into the business. That was bullying.

They probably thought it was about driving performance. But it wasn’t. It was bullying. It was shaming the people who weren’t bringing-in as much revenue as some of the others.

This isn’t to say, by the way, that things haven’t changed. Things have changed in terms of bullying, at least, being talked about, which is a start. But I reckon that might be as good as it gets.

And we can have Pink Shirt Days until we’re blue in the face. But with bullying so ingrained in pretty much everything we do —so ingrained in our culture— I think we’re stuck with it.

John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

I am female but have to say that male bosses have always been the best. The old fashioned male white bosses with their shirt and tie and kids at home were not bullies. Women bosses however can be jealous of other wonen and make their lives hell in the workplace. I have had it happen to me. There will be hundreds of similar stories out there. They don't yell but they will do things like encourage others to make false complaints to HR or do everything to stop your bonus, say your work is not up to scratch when you know it is. They have power over you in a management position and they use it. This is the new bullying and it is out there.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8.19 I too am female and totally get where you are coming from.

Add to the list female career climbers who pulverise other women on their grasping way up the ladder.

Bullying is insidious and almost impossible to 'prove'. Bullying seems to associate with lying including describing itself as 'coaching' and ' feedback' and 'guidance'.

I too quit a job when the bullying was put fair and square in my face as my problem. There was simply no way around it.
Quitting is the only resolution of the situation that I can see that truly works. And it leaves a sense of deep bitterness.

Anonymous said...

One day I saw two 9-year-old kids being overly excited and getting in the face of a third. The third kid was frightened and cowering. However, it struck me that the problem wasn't the bullies. The problem was the third kid was timid. He was the same size as the others and if he stood up for himself - even a little bit - then the situation would have been completely different.

Seeing this explained the behaviour of my teachers at school. It's not as simple as saying "no bullying." The other half of the equation should be "no weakness" or "get stronger" or "stand up for yourself" or "fight back." The difficult truth is that resilience and strength come from challenging circumstances. And teachers and leaders should encourage strength rather than lamenting bullying. In other words, it is not a simple one-sided problem.

Anonymous said...

Agree not one sided but stick up for yourself and the bullying gets worse. Too many frightened people. That is why there are so many anonymous comments on this blog. Me included.