Thursday, April 21, 2011

R. Responsibility. Workplace bullying.

As a society we all have the responsibility to act responsibly, ethically and courageously to spotlight cases of bullying, particularly where the targets are unable, for whatever reason, to speak out for themselves.

Is it easy to report bullying? * No, it takes courage; you may feel out on a limb, extremely insecure and vulnerable.  However, once you become aware of bullying in your workplace, and choose to turn a blind eye, you are in effect condoning the behaviour in the eyes of the bully and helping to perpetuate it.

Some targets of bullying resort to sharing their story with the media. They feel let down by those in power who they should have been able to trust to act. Many are vilified and are further targeted with disciplinary action.
Sometimes the burden of reporting bullying can be very heavy.
Children growing up in dysfunctional homes (independent of class and status) need particular care and attention, as do their parents. Vilifying and excluding them is not the answer. We train people to drive cars, but anyone can become a parent, no matter how ill equipped.  Many vulnerable families are left on their own after the birth of a baby to sink or swim. Children die; painfully and tragically when their parents are incapable of tending them. Others are scarred for life, emotionally stunted, and never reach their potential.

Midwives discuss their distress when delivering babies they know will be raised in abusive, dysfunctional homes. They are aware of the abused mothers, the alcohol and drug addicted, those with acquired brain injuries and others with low IQ who have little or no reliable support. The importance of a stable, secure upbringing, particularly in the early years has been well documented.

Who takes responsibility?

Responsible schools
Schools can play an important role in counteracting bullying. There is no excuse for schools not to be proactive. All children need to learn to identify bullying, to understand that the behaviour is inappropriate, and learn better ways of behaving, either as an onlooker, bully or target. Every child has the right to learn in a safe environment. Every teacher has the right to teach in a safe environment.

Most bullies can learn to behave appropriately if taught explicitly, supported carefully and supervised kindly, firmly and without condemnation. They need to learn how to take responsibility for their actions, understand there is no excuse for bullying behaviour and crucially, to learn acceptable ways to manage their inappropriate behaviour.

CASSE's (Creating a Safe, Supportive Environment) approach seeks to understand and address the underlying causes of problem behaviours such as bullying and violence. Their aim is to provide safe and supportive environments in schools so that students can grow, play and learn, which will facilitate the formation of resilience and cognitive development. (from their website)

If governments and schools are unwilling to tackle these issues, teachers, parents and the public may need to exert pressure to have effective programmes adopted in all schools. Further information regarding effective school programmes here.

In Victoria this month (April 2011) legislation was announced to provide jail terms of up to 10 years for workplace bullies. Link here. It's a positive step, but there are many more fundamental steps to be taken before everyone is aware that the behaviour is unacceptable.

Information here relating to bullying which has been ignored at school.  

*Some targets of bullying have very good reasons for not reporting the bullying. Every case is different, and each target and onlooker will respond in line with their own personal situation, and should not be criticised for their choice.
A message of hope. East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
Here tomorrow: Sociopaths and serial bullies

There are many outstanding resources on line. A couple I find useful are Bullying. No way! an Australian resource for teachers and students, and a UK site Bully On Line. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and each country will no doubt have equally good or more relevant websites. If you're being bullied please seek advice from a professional health care practitioner experienced in this area.

Over at jumpingaground I'm spending the month Drabbling using alliteration, many with an environmental theme.


David L Macaulay said...

very thought provoking Sue - and you are always one step ahead on the A-Z challenge

Tundiel said...

As usual, a very detailed and thought-provoking post, Sue. You are quite right too, if the less-able parents had more support, perhaps we would have less damaged children out there.

Tony Payne said...

Bullying can be as drastic as leading to suicide, but even on a lesser level it can lead to bullying your own victims, or to seeking revenge in later life.

My wife and I were both bullied at school, and to an extent in our adult lives, but at least we not have each other for support.

Nobody quite knows what it's like to be bullied, other than another victim.

Dafeenah said...

Great message that you're sharing this month. I think a lot of people don't realize how much bullying has changed from years ago. It's good that you're shedding light on this issue and ways for people to help.

Arlee Bird said...

Responsibility is shared by many. Often others might be aware of a bullying situation and not do anything or may even encourage a bullier. Sometimes an outside party needs to step in and say something or take action.

Tossing It Out

Lucy Adams said...

Without going into details, I have experienced workplace bullying, which is far more subtle than schoolyard bullying. And though in my case I was not the only one and it resulted in divisiveness among a faculty who up to the time when the "bully" was hired had been quite congenial, the upper administrators viewed it as nothing more than workplace drama.


Anonymous said...

I don't like bullying or any form of intimidation or manupulation. Live and let live is my motto. Looking forward to your post on sociopaths.

sue said...

David, I believe it's something we all need to think about. I need to be one step ahead to keep on top of it.
Tara, support for parents is so important isn't it. Parenting is extremely hard work, and there's no let up, and precious little on-going assistance.
Tony, yes, suicides are a tragic consequence of serial bullying for children as well as adults. Support is so important for our emotional wellbeing, and I believe reaching out and sharing in the online world is helpful too.
Dafeenah, The devastating effects of bullying have received media and medical attention, and in Australia at least legislation is finally catching up to hold serial bullies to account.
Lee, *huge sigh* that's a really tough one. Bystanders can encourage the bully by their lack of action. It takes courage and strength to stand up to the bully which isn't easy for many complex reasons.
Lucy, the subtlety can be viciously undermining and malicious as well as relentless. It sounds like Management needs retraining if they're hiding their collective heads in the sand.
Stephen, intimidation and manipulation damage lives and workplaces. Most of us just want to do our jobs and don't expect to be undermined by a serial bully. We often don't have the skills to detect and counter the bullying tactics at the moment they begin, because we expect to be working with mature human beings.