Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z. An A-Z of Workplace bullying- An Incomplete Journey

The areas of Workplace Bullying I've touched on over the past month for the 2011 A-Z April Blogging Challenge hosted by Arlee Bird over at Tossing it Out  include:

A      Angst & Anguish
B      Bullying behaviour - how to recognise it
C      The Courage it takes to stand up to a bully and the Climate in which bullies operate
D      Danger, Depression and Doctors
E       Ethical behaviour
F       Friends, and how important they are to support the bullied person
G      Guilt. The target may feel guilty for being 'weak'
H      Harassment and Health
I        International students and others
J        Journal - The importance of keeping a Journal
K      Known causes of bullying
L       Lies - bullies tell lots of these
M      Mind, Mates & Movement
N      Nurses and other Nice people
O      Obstructive and Outrageous behaviour
    PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Q      The Qualities we instill in our children
R      The Responsibility to tackle bullying
S       Sociopaths and Serial Bullies
T       Targets and Teachers
U      Underestimate and Unrelenting
V      Vulnerable - the vulnerabilities a bully looks for
W     Why Me? The personal and professional characteristics that make you attractive to a serial bully.
X      The X factor - why some people act with integrity and others go to ground.
Y      You can do something if you're being bullied.
Z       The A-Z of Workplace bullying. The A-Z April Blogging Challenge, 2011.

The focus of these posts was the serial bully in the workplace, however much of the information may be relevant other types of bullying, including:
  • abusive, manipulative and violent partners and family members
  • abusers of those in care
  • bullying neighbours, landlords, authorities
  • cruelty to animals
  • cult leaders
  • child bullies who will evolve into adult bullies
  • paedophiles
  • racial abusers
  • sexual abusers, rapists
  • violent offenders
  • ...
  • ...
Some reflections on the A-Z Challenge
There's so much I haven't touched on, including bullying between tribal or clan groups as we're seeing in the Middle East and human rights abuses throughout the world: Australia, America, Canada, China, Africa, India, we all do it. As societies, we treat people who have different beliefs as lesser human beings. (Think health care reform, religious intolerance, and rational climate discussion in the US and other countries.)

I haven't even touched on how countries such as Australia shamefully bully detainees - those people who used to be called displaced persons after the Second World War. Back then were often greeted with compassion and acknowledgement of the horrific experiences they'd survived, but nowadays similar people are incarcerated behind barbed wire for years as if they're criminals. I haven't looked at bullying between countries for scarce and dwindling natural resources. It's just too big.

Bullying is a huge topic, overwhelming in it's prevalence and complexity through all segments of society in Australia and other countries.
East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
If I've raised awareness, and helped someone, somewhere, then it's been worthwhile. I'd love to hear from you if something in these posts has supported or encouraged you or someone you know. If there are factual errors, let me know and I'll amend them.

Making Australia Happy was a short TV series which involved reputable health care professionals. The idea was to invite some very unhappy people to follow specific interventions (nothing weird or outlandish) to see if their happiness levels could be improved. Their Happiness Index was measured before, during and after the interventions. It's well worth looking at.  This link to the show includes a further link to the Australian Happiness Index.


How these posts came about
These posts are by no means an exhaustive coverage of Workplace Bullying. I had anticipated writing entertaining Drabbles for the challenge over at jumpingaground, but on March 31st (ie the day before the challenge began) suddenly thought I might be able to do an additional A-Z blogging challenge looking at Workplace Bullying here at traverselife. It wasn't anything I'd consciously planned ahead, although I do have some professional and personal experience.  


The posts were never intended to be academic in tone, but very user friendly with pictures complimenting the words. Each post took many many hours of writing and editing, trying to make them as accessible as possible, but even so I'm well aware many need extensive re-editing. However, I've done it! I doubt I'd have tackled such a big topic if it hadn't been for this challenge and my last minute decision to be involved. 

The Photos
Many of the photos I've used were taken at The East Side Gallery in Berlin in November 2009 as well as around that city. I happened to be in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and spent hours wandering along, jaw dropped in awe at the extensive, edgy, confronting and fantastic art at the East Side Gallery.  


The idea of the gallery was that it would be an international wall for freedom and encourage discussion about walls and borders.  It's a short section of the Berlin Wall that has been retained and is used as a huge outdoor art gallery, it extends for around 1 kilometre. The art is simply amazing, with artists coming from around the world to contribute. For some of the history of the East Side Gallery see hereWorkplace bullying seems to me to be a variation on the theme of walls, borders and obstructions.  

I hope to focus on the healing journey after being bullied and finish with this joyous painting by Terry Denton.
from Terry Denton's book Flying Man.
Terry's TV series "Gasp" has been nominated for an
ANNECY award in France as Best TV series. Good luck Terry! 


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. The FB group eBossWatch is well worth a visit for links to current articles. David Yamada writes excellent posts over at Minding the Workplace and his blog is well worth keeping an eye on.


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.

I'm going to take a break from blogging here for a while after Monday's review, though I'll possibly post some more lighthearted words and photos over at jumping aground. I'll be back with my haphazard non scheduled posts when my brain has recovered. I hope to see those who've become Valued Visitors as well as many of you who've dropped by without commenting. I'll probably focus on assertiveness and healing but if anyone has some ideas, please let me know - no promises, but input is welcome.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Y. You can do something if you're being bullied. Workplace bullying

This post is for Y in the A-Z blogging challenge 2011.


You can do something if you're being bullied:
Read everything available and decide whether you want to
     a) leave quietly
     b) fight
It's a personal decision that only you can make. Discuss your decision with trusted professional/s  (healthcare, union, legal etc) as well as family and friends who you may need to lean on for support for a significant period of time.

Awareness of the insidious nature of bullying is growing, particularly in Australia with some positive changes in legislation happening recently. However, many people would prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than face the issue proactively.

Pros and cons.
Official complaints
may involve the police
If you leave quietly you may feel guilty for allowing the bully to enjoy finding their next target. After all you're probably one in a long string of people who have suffered. Some people find this intolerable, and will choose to fight. "No one else should have to go through what I've suffered". Others are too worn out, and need to leave for the sake of their family and own health. There is no shame in this and it takes courage too.

If you fight, it can be frustrating, exhausting, demoralising, take a huge toll on your health and the patience of your family and supportive colleagues. It may will take significantly longer than you believed possible to come to a resolution.

The resolution may be unsatisfactory with the bully being paid 'hush money' and go on to work elsewhere and continue their murky nastiness, meanwhile smirking that they have won once again.

You need a strong support network - fighting bullying will take a toll on your health. The bully will be vindictive and do their best to discredit  and distort anything you bring up as evidence.

Your journal (see J) is vital, and you will have (hopefully)  recorded everything in writing, kept copies of emails, text messages and the time, date and place of the undermining comments. You will have also kept copies of the time date etc of any complaints you made, and what was done about these. The bully will generally lie and blatantly deny what you're saying. You need hard evidence and to be able to show a consistent pattern of behaviour.

Good investigators look for patterns.
Remember, for an investigation, it's the number and pattern of repeated comments or actions that are significant and meaningful. You will be called petty and jeered at for your fastidiousness, but it's important to be able to verify the pattern .

You may feel you've been chewed up and spat out.
This information also applies for children suffering with bullies at school, and with school authorities.

It's extremely hard to accept that the person you're dealing with isn't normal. The serial bully doesn't recognise their wrongdoing and will only pay lip-service to making amends. They remain deviousness, ruthlessness, cunning, and deceptive.  Once you accept that the serial bully could be a sociopath or has a disordered personality it becomes easier to keep fastidious records.

It's during the phase of trying to force yourself to believe that this person is a normally functioning adult that it's extremely difficult. Most of us want to accept that our colleagues are good people, and we keep making apologies for unacceptable behaviour, we're happy to accommodate difference, and try to accept that the behaviour may just be temporary or a quirk. However, if you've called the person to account once, explained the behaviour is unacceptable to you, and there has been no consistent shift or change - start keeping records.  The sooner you begin this process, the better.

I'll mention those three things again -
At the first sign of unacceptable behaviour:

     1.  Call the person to account
     2.  Explain that the behaviour is unacceptable 
     3.  If there is no change, start keeping records.

Here tomorrow: The A-Z of bullying - an incomplete journey.

(I can see that there is another whole series of posts to do with confidence and assertiveness. Thankyou to C who mentioned the healing process AFTER serial bullying.  I've begun researching and will come back to that when I've had a break.)

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. eBossWatch on Facebook here regularly posts links to articles and discussions about bullying. A blog post by Andersons Solicitors on bullying from a legal perspective is here. It specifically relates to South Australia, but is well worth reading wherever you are. They are well aware that ignoring workplace bullying is unhelpful and offer some suggestions to assist if you're the target of bullying.


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.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

X. The 'X' factor - why some people act with integrity and others don't - Workplace bullying

The 'X' factor

Why some people go to ground and others act with strength integrity and support the target.

Those who so stand up to bullies, whether by surviving the assault, as whistle blowers or by adding evidence to the growing file against the serial bully are showing courage, determination and integrity. Their motives are as varied as the people. Some say "It's wrong, I have no choice" others " I'm not  prepared to compromise my own values and watch this wrongdoing, I don't want to, but it's necessary", others "If I don't do something, who will?" and on workplace sexual predators "I want people like this ousted so my daughters never have to put up with this evil".  One client said "Management have allowed this to go on for over ten years. Most people stay a maximum of a couple of months then leave. I'm going to fight it." Some simply want the world to be a better, more harmonious place.
East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009
Too few onlookers have the courage and strength to stand up against bullying, harassment and corruption. Many otherwise good people turn a blind eye in the presence of an aggressor, particularly a devious, manipulative and possibly charming one. They may feel vulnerable themselves, and are relieved that they have been spared the trauma and are glad they can sit back and watch the unfolding drama. Some may even feel guilty for being complicit in the charade of protecting a serial bully. To speak out may force them to face their own inadequacies.

Understanding of bullying is improving, but too many uninvolved onlookers still state the target should have been stronger and stood up for themselves. I've often heard the phrase: "if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen", or "that person was so weak they left".

Some colleagues will say "I didn't know what to do" (so they don't do anything) or deny having been present when the bullying occurred. Turning a blind eye is less stressful, and at least it keeps the focus off them. They choose not to see what is happening.

Others will refuse to assist in providing supportive evidence when invited, possibly adding to an "us and them" culture and creating divisions in the department that are may be difficult to heal.  I recently heard the statement: "I was curious to see how the new person would handle x" (x being the department bully) much the same as if this was a bit of a game. This same person enjoyed being an onlooker at school when there were fights, and appeared to get some pleasure from the exchanges.  It reminded me of the descriptions of the Roman Circus where people were fed to the lions in front of thousands of enthusiastic spectators or when watching a hanging was considered a fine form of entertainment.

In instances of sexual predators, some colleagues will try to normalise the bullying attacks as "Oh you must have misunderstood, I'm sure he didn't mean it", or "He's a sad and lonely man, I feel sorry for him"  and by implication you should too. No, a serial bully should be exposed and held to account no matter what prestigious position they hold. Normalising the behaviour encourages the bully to continue unabated and immune from censure. Silence equals consent in the eyes of the bully, and when there is a perceived power differential, they'll use this for their own end, confident that the weaker person will remain silent. Co workers can be a life line for the target.

In environments where the bullying is deeply entrenched, it may be regarded as "normal" behaviour. Where employees have not experienced a genuinely normal work environment, they are conned into believing this is how all workplaces operate. When they eventually leave they express astonishment at how much stress they were under and how they had come to accept the bullying as something that happened in all workplaces.

Unless you have experienced serial bullying yourself, or know someone who has, it may be incomprehensible to understand the level of torment dished out relentlessly and maliciously day after day, month after month. If you're in a workplace where a bully operates, think about what small contribution you could make either to expose the bullying behaviour, or to support the target. Sharing stories, supporting the target, kind words and networking with other like minded people - the smallest effort is so much better than choosing to condone behaviour which is completely unacceptable.
These words on part of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery
are also appropriate in tackling workplace bullying.
Why else do onlookers stand against bullying?
What other support can they give a bullied colleague of friend?

Here tomorrow Y: You. What you can do?

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. eBossWatch on Facebook has links to current articles and discussion. 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.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W. Why me? Personal and professional qualities. Workplace bullying

This is the post for W in the A-Z blogging challenge 2011


Why me?
Because you have professional and personal qualities the bully is envious or afraid of. You may also be able to see through the bullies manipulative tactics. The bully fears exposure of his/her inadequacy and incompetence; your presence may feed that fear.

Professionally, you may be:
  • very good at your job- successful, respected, trusted, enthusiastic, creative, conscientious
  • popular with people (colleagues, customers, clients, pupils, parents, patients, etc)
  • an expert, the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional (ie you get more attention than the bully) 
  • your work may be published in respected journals
  • having a well-defined set of values which you work not to compromise
  • having a strong sense of integrity
  • you may be vulnerable (see V. Vulnerable in the previous post) in some way (tough home life, a minority group, different sexual orientation, sole breadwinner etc)
  • refusing to join an established clique
  • showing independent thinking, questioning decisions may be seen as challenging 
  • refusing to become a corporate 'yes' person 
  • quick learner
The normal boss is happy to have you on board! Not so the bully.
    The following edited list is from bullyonline and pinpoints the personal qualities of many targets of bullying. Follow the link for a comprehensive look at the target's qualities.
    • slow to anger, tends to internalise anger rather than express it
    • quick to apologise, even if not guilty, seeks approval
    • low assertiveness
    • high coping skills under stress
    • may defer to those with authority
    • diligent, industrious
    • a strong sense of fair play 
    • a strong forgiving streak (which the bully exploits and manipulates to dissuade you from taking grievance and legal action)
    • giving and selfless
    • helpful,  enjoys share knowledge and experience
    • strong sense of honour
    • high expectations of those in authority and a dislike of incompetent people who abuse power
    • indecisive
    • desire to tackle and correct injustice wherever you see it
    • high moral standards which you are unwilling to compromise
    • perfectionism
    • difficulty saying no
    • desire to be reasonable
    • a tendency to self-deprecation
    • sensitivity - including empathy, concern and respect for others
    • thinks well of others
    • tolerant
    • undervalues oneself
    • a strong well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise or abandon
    •  a need to feel valued
    • avoids violence (prefers to resolve conflict through dialogue rather than through violence or legal action)
    The target is often a high performing employee who is used to negotiating maturely through any difficulties or conflict in the workplace. They want to go to work to do the job, not to experience constant harrassment, this is not weakness, but a choice to act in a mature and responsible manner.

    Here tomorrow: X - The 'X' factor

    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. The Facebook group eBosswatch provides links to articles and discussion about bullying. 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.
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    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    V. Vulnerable. Workplace bullying

    This post is for the letter V in the A-Z blogging challenge 2011. 

    Vulnerable: Exposed to the possibility of being harmed physically or emotionally, susceptible to attack.  The bully will home in on those who they perceive as being vulnerable in some way.

    There are many and varied reasons why targets are vulnerable; they may include one or more of the following:
    • being alone in the world
    • being seen as 'brainy'
    • being a caring person
    • having caring responsibilities at home, being primary carer
    • having a disability or perceived disability
    • dressing differently or being unable to afford modern clothing
    • choosing not to join in with drinks after work
    • strong sense of fair play
    • feel guilt quickly
    • being scrupulously honest
    • suffering an illness, or taking time off to be with an ill family member
    • having integrity which you are unwilling to compromise 
    • suffering an injury
    • having a learning difficulty 
    • being unable to change jobs, limited job opportunities, being a specialist
    • belonging to a minority group, with a different religion and culture
    • having no other means of support
    • the need to pay the mortgage
    • very reasonable
    • being a single parent
    • being a student
    • being unsure of yourself
    Graffiti art on the side of a building in Berlin. 2009.
    If you are being targeted by a bully, it's valuable to have a support network who validate your experience and don't brush your concerns aside. Professional people who have expertise in the area, as well as family, friends or colleagues can support you if you choose to stay and fight the bully, or  decide to look for another job. (See Y: You can do something)


    Here tomorrow: Why me?


    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. The Facebook group eBossWatch here regularly posts articles and links to current issues on bullying. 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.
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    Monday, April 25, 2011

    U. Underestimate & Unrelenting. Workplace bullying

    It's best not to underestimate the tenacity of the serial bully. They will have bullied before, possibly for their entire life. They may have started in the rough and tumble of the playground and advanced to the more sneaky secondary system, to graduate into the workplace where their years of practice culminate in holding power over other adults who expect to work with a mature human being.

    The bully may have manipulated themself into a position of power where they can bluff and bluster by appearing busy doing important tasks which they tackle with a frenzy of busy work, meanwhile letting everyone around know how busy they are, how vital to the smooth running of the department.

    When tackled about bullying behaviour, the bully will profess innocence, insist there has been a misunderstanding, and they are in no way bullying. But they will go on with the same behaviour; they have no desire to change. The trusting target/s forgive again and again, underestimating the seriousness of the problem they face.

    Equally, don't underestimate the power of a friendly word to a friend, colleague or family member who is being bullied. A simple "good on you", a supportive email or text message, a friendly comment can strengthen the target's confidence. Your assistance can make the difference between the target feeling completely alone and knowing that others are in the background; reliable and solidly dependable. I've found it best not to assume that those close to the target will be there when needed (for all sorts of reasons). Kind words are usually very welcome.
    "Thoughts are like traces of birds in Heaven" as are kind, supportive words.
    East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009. 
    The serial bully is unrelenting in their desire and ability to systematically undermine the target. The bully will continue leaving devastated co-workers or subordinates in the wake of their malicious, vindictive behaviour.  On closer investigation you may find there have been a number of unexplained dismissals or staff leaving without a specific reason. There will be a feeling of tension around the department where a bully operates, a sense of unease and possibly talking behind closed doors.  Co-workers may give veiled hints alluding to a lack of harmony behind a blustering facade of togetherness.

    The serial bully will manipulate situations shrewdly and deviously to gain any advantage, their goal is to underminine the target and possibly avoid being seen for being out of their depth. Their self serving goals are obtained at the expense of others and they may have no scruples about tampering with data or systems to make the target appear incompetent. One person I worked with found that whenever data needed to be entered on the computer system, it inexplicably 'crashed', but whenever those on the inner group needed access, all was well.

    Bullies are masters at manipulation and deception and are operating from a different set of values and moral code than normal, mature adults. It isn't possible to use the same sort of rational discussion or assume they will behave in ways that are calm, considered, rational and reasonable. Bullies manipulate shamelessly, they are devious, cunning, unreliable and simply not to be trusted no matter how many times they promise to change.

    ***
    Here tomorrow: Vulnerability


    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.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    T. Targets & Teachers. Workplace bullying

    Target: a person, object or place selected as the aim of an attack.

    Targets of bullying go to work to get their job done and are rarely interested in office politics or conflict, they're not interested in power plays. They may have high moral values, integrity, a strong sense of fair play and dislike arguments and aggression. The target often has a mature understanding of the need to resolve conflict with dialogue and negotiation. Many are reluctant to make a formal complaint against the bully and would prefer to forgive and get on with the job at hand. They are often extremely strong individuals who are able to withstand serial bullying for years.

    The target may be vulnerable (see V) is some way, for instance need to pay a high mortgage or may be a sole parent living off one wage. They may need to stay in a work environment to cover expenses, even though they may be experiencing daily torment and feel locked in, as if there is no escape. They are not weak because they stay.

    The target  may be artistic, imaginative, creative, academically above average, or may be different in some way. Many targets are caring and empathetic, forgive easily and are unwilling to resort to the lying and deceptive tactics of their tormentor. They are often criticised by the bully as being soft and overly sensitive, but in reality are showing a mature ability to respond to the concerns of others gently, with respect, dignity, consideration and tolerance. In addition, the target may show a strong sense of independence and self reliance, they have little need to be part of the 'inner clique'.

    The bully on the other hand will generally try to recruit others into the 'chosen' group. They are malicious, callous, and uncaring about the needs of others. The bully manager may refer to his or her management style as 'tough', 'rough and tumble', 'strong', or 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen' and respond with impatience, irritability and aggression when this style is questioned or when he is referred for management mentoring.
    East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
    Teachers as targets (link to information for Queensland teachers who are being bullied. Some of this information is relevant for others)
    Teachers who are independent, self-reliant, self-motivated, imaginative, innovative, and full of ideas may be targeted by others in the profession, particularly if they have an envious, malicious, bullying department head. The bully boss may be threatened by the competence and popularity of this staff member.

    Sadly, many excellent teachers who are keenly aware of the difficulties faced by their caring, gentle students - the loner, the nerd, the learning disabled, the child who is a bit different in some way - may be hounded out of the profession. The hierarchy appears afraid of the very qualities that make them excellent teachers, and often does little to support them in the face of ongoing, relentless bullying.

    Sometimes these very teachers have been able to protect the student targets from bullying by other students and staff. When they are "let go" the students are again vulnerable.

    Teachers as bullies
    Teachers who are serial bullies may also delight in targeting vulnerable students as well as other staff. They are devious, cunning, vicious, undermining, cruel and vindictive when they have found their target.  These malicious teachers not only restrict the child's access to enjoyable activities as punishment, but devise humiliating, belittling punishments on a daily basis for the target, possibly making fun of a mild physical deformity or a learning difficulty. They make cruel and callous criticism of the child's work, calling them 'dummy', 'failure' or bringing the classes attention to the simple fact that the child is different is some way.

    This constant undermining and bludgeoning of a fragile self esteem can affect the child for life. Many adults have told me that whenever they try to prove that they can do something challenging, the face of their teacher tormentor and the onlooking class appears in front of them, and they hear the belittling, undermining, cruel and malicious comments, even 50 years after they've left school. Many never achieve their potential.
    East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
    "You'll never amount to anything, I don't know why you try", "What a loser", these and other cruel phrases prevent the student from learning and actually encourage the child to go into a protective mode and should never be used in the guise of "It'll make him try harder".

    Uncontrolled shouting is excruciatingly painful for a child with certain hearing difficulties. They cover their ears to prevent the pain, which increases the rage of the out of control teacher. Students in a classroom with a teacher like this will have difficulty learning.

    Teacher Training
    Teacher trainers please take note: all trainee teachers should be explicitly taught how to manage a classroom effectively so all students can learn, this must include thorough training in effective management of child bullies. Every primary teacher trainee should be given thorough training in how to teach mathematics, reading and spelling to all students including those with learning difficulties. Sending trainee and new primary teachers out without these vital basic skills is appalling, and that it is happening in 2011 is .... (words fail me)...

    The importance of tackling bullying in Primary schools is well documented, and makes obvious sense. Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco have written some excellent papers that I hope to discuss at a later date.

    Further information on bullying at school here. For schools, teachers and other interested parties: CASSE (Creating a Safe Supportive Environment) has an inexpensive conference in May 2011 in Melbourne, link here.

    What is your experience as a student, teacher or target? 


    Here tomorrow: Underestimate & Unrelenting


    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, often with an environmental theme.
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    Friday, April 22, 2011

    S. Sociopaths & serial bullies. Workplace bullying

    This is my post for S in the 2011 A-Z blogging challenge. 
    Sociopaths
    Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is the current term used by clinicians to refer to what most of us refer to as sociopaths or psychopaths. The condition is considered in part to be "...a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of the rights of others.”

    Some professionals estimate that about 4% of the adult population could exhibit these symptoms. Many never commit crimes, or if they do, they aren’t convicted because of their skill in manipulating superiors and their general deviousness and outstanding ability to lie and twist the truth. Many bullies behave in similar ways to a sociopath.

    A sociopath lacks interpersonal, social and empathic skills.  They may be described as being silver tongued; the can learn to talk the talk, but are unable to consistently walk the walk. They will persistently and aggressively deflect attention away from their own failings onto the target/s while appearing to be extremely busy and needed by other departments. (There is a checklist at the bottom of this post.)

    Genuine heartfelt empathy is lacking, expressions of remorse, concern or respect are shallow and glib.
    Sociopaths learn to reflect traits of empathy,
    but the emotion is shallow and fragmented.
    Psychopaths 
    Whilst the professionals debate the definitions and differences between sociopaths and psychopaths, many non professionals consider that psychopaths are less interested in learning to show compassion and that the sense of feeling inadequate and insecure is lacking. 

    Years ago I worked in a teaching facility for difficult teenagers where I heard one boy describe a vicious street fight. He expressed no emotion at all about the victim who was being kicked repeatedly and violently in the head. He described the bloody situation analytically, dispassionately, chillingly, and with apparent pleasure. The other students were very aware that he wasn't like them and were disturbed by his description, even though they were all living with violence themselves. Some were fearful, others wary, but none wanted to be involved with him and his callous coldness.  This behaviour may have been psychopathic (Please note, I am not a clinician and am in no way making a formal assessment).

    Serial bullies
    As adults, bullies of all kinds are extraordinarily skilled at deflecting questions, comments or concerns away from themselves. To the observer it’s uncanny how smoothly and seamlessly this is done. People describe being stunned at how the bully seems to be able to anticipate and say what is needed in any given situation.

    The bully will often protect anyone accused or suspected of sexual abuse and will frustrate or obstruct investigations into that person. Complaints will go unrecorded and uninvestigated. It is extremely difficult when the bully is the person to whom any complaint must pass through, and incredibly frustrating when information about a bully or sexual predator is not passed up line. The bullying supervisor becomes angry when anyone goes above them to report serial abuse. They enjoy the power of being a gatekeeper and use it to their own ends by filtering information coming up and down.


    Bullies are very clever at creating conflict between those who would otherwise pool negative information. They like to divide and conquer. Bullying can be a cover for a deep fear of being found out for being incompetent. They hate to be held accountable but may be able to deceive and evade responsibility whilst manipulating co workers into looking foolish. In reality, they have low self esteem and poor interactions with others. If you have high or normal self esteem you have no need to bully.
    The serial bully seems to be able to avoid responsibility for their actions
    (Photo: Eastside Gallery. Berlin 2009)
    Bullies fear exposure of their inadequacy, immaturity and insecurity. They want to dominate or control and have never learnt how to interact with others normally. The manager who is proud of being "tough"  hasn't learnt how to manage maturely and wisely. Some bullies revel in attention seeking behaviour and like to be the centre of attention, they may overdramatise to be noticed and constantly refer to how busy they are - they need to be noticed. Many are emotionally needy, and are unable to act like normal, mature adults.

    When recruiting
    Employers who are recruiting should always check qualifications and references extremely carefully. Sociopaths, psychopaths and serial bullies are shameless in their ability to lie and deceive to gain a position of trust. Some have been known to recruit allies to pose as respectable and reputable referees by giving misleading information and false names and contact details.

    The bully may appear angelic to some
    people, but NOT to the target.
    Check list
    Have any of these terms been used about any of your co-workers?
    If so, it's possible they may be a bully.
    • callous, cold and calculating, conniving, clever and cunning
    • devious, disinterested
    • won't negotiate
    • ruthless in the extreme
    • scumbag
    • slime
    • snake in the grass
    • tough manager in the extreme
    • twofaced
    • unreliable
    • untrustworthy
    • wolf in sheep's clothing
    • scheming
    • obnoxious

    This website gives a layman's checklist of qualities to beware of in the sociopath or psychopath.

    Do you have any stories to share? 
    What words would you add to the checklist?

    Here tomorrow: Targets & Teachers



    There are many outstanding resources on line. A few I find useful are Bullying. No way! an Australian resource for teachers and students, CASSE 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, often with an environmental theme.
    .

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    R. Responsibility. Workplace bullying.

    Responsibility
    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.
    Environment
    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.
    .

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Q. Qualities we instil in our children. Workplace bullying

    This is my post for the letter Q in the A-Z blogging challenge 2011.


    Bullying at school
    Let's think for a moment about the qualities we aim to instil in our children. The ones we're proud of them for exhibiting - things like honesty, kindness, caring for the underdog and trying to resolve conflict with negotiation. In general, parents, society and schools (with a few exceptions) encourage children not to resort to violence.

    As a society we say we value these qualities. And yet conversely when our child is the target of bullying in the playground, many parents demand of the same child "stand up for yourself". It's a very mixed message for any youngster. Equally perplexing to many children is the bullying which seems to be celebrated on the sport field and in business and the political areas.

    Often we encourage children to "ignore them, they'll go away if you don't react".  But if the little tacker is being hounded day in, day out with sly and not so sly kicks, pinches and punches as well as verbal abuse,  ignoring the bully, or attempting to defuse the situation simply isn't going to work, particularly if school back up is ineffective. The bully is generally devious and sneaky enough to present a smiling, innocent face to any adult who happens on the event. They manipulate the situation so the target suffers doubly.

    As parents we often don't know how to respond anyway, particularly if the school is weak and avoiding their responsibility for providing a safe environment. See CASSE (Creating A Safe Supportive Environment) to receive e-news and information on how schools can help raise awareness to counteract bullying. There are also links to academic papers by Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco. (Click on the tab "Bullying always happens in a social context" or "Disconnected youth are a high risk to schools".)

    Bullying needs to be nipped in the bud at the very first instance. We need to celebrate schools that tackle the issue head on. Schools that excuse, condone or ignore the behaviour need to be encouraged to follow the best examples. Every child has a right to attend school to learn, each child has a right not to be bullied, harassed or assaulted by either students OR staff.

    All children should be taught how to identify bullying tactics. We must not accept school yard bullying as an inevitable part of schooling. It doesn't toughen anyone up, has detrimental affects on a child's capacity to learn, they have more days off school which in turn means parents need to take time off work to care for the bullied child. Ignoring thuggish behaviour is in effect condoning it. Children should not be expected to handle these damaging situations alone. They need competent support and reliable mature assistance.

    The bully may appear to have friends; sadly others often tag along due to fear of being targeted themselves. The bully may be envious of your child and their very good qualities, their humanity, their compassion, their academic achievements, envious of their loving home and caring environment which may be sorely lacking in their own life.
    Children shouldn't be expected to cope with bullying alone.
    The damage from childhood bullying can affect people for life.  As an adult, children who have been targets of serial bullying may be uncertain and apologetic, they often question their abilities and competence and fail to achieve without intensive support. (Ricky is an example of someone who struggled academically after years of serial bullying at home and school.)

    Some adults who have been bullied as children lack a sense of security and trust in others. They haven't been taught appropriate strategies to counteract the unwanted, unasked for attention, and go on to be bullied in the workplace as adults. In addition, schoolyard bullies who haven't been held accountable for their unacceptable, thuggish behaviour as children, often (but not always) go on to be adult bullies, often rising to positions of considerable power at work. In these instances, the damaging effects can undermine reasonable requests for corporations to take responsibility for their actions, affecting health, families and the lives of people far beyond the immediate work environment.

    Depending on the cause of the bullying, some adults bullies can be mentored in better, more mature management techniques, and discover the new skills create a happier more productive workforce.


    Qualities of the schoolyard bully
    For the qualities that childhood bullies display see Bullying (April 2, 2011).


    Further information on bullying at school here. For schools, teachers and other interested parties: CASSE has an inexpensive conference in May 2011 in Melbourne, link here. Further programmes here


    Here tomorrow: R - Responsibility


    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. The Facebook group eBossWatch regularly posts links to articles and discussions about workplace bullying. 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, often with an environmental theme.
    .

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    P. PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Workplace bullying.

    This post is one in a series on workplace bullying for the 2012 A-Z Blogging challenge.

    PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can be described as:
    an invisible injury occurring as a result of major traumatic experiences, including violence, harassment, assault, rape, accident, fire, explosion, disaster, or witnessing such events.
    (from bullyonline) 
    PTSD is a natural emotional reaction to a shocking and disturbing experience which has overwhelmed one's ability to cope. It causes significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

    There is growing awareness and acceptance that PTSD can also result from an accumulation of many small, individually non-life-threatening incidents such as being exposed to prolonged and relentlessly abusive bullying. To differentiate, the term "Complex PTSD" is generally used.

    The feelings and emotions resulting from serial bullying which are similar to those of PTSD include:
    • Avoid discussing or thinking about the events
    • Avoid going places that remind the person of the trauma
    • Chronic gloominess
    • Concentration is shot, often confused
    • Catatonic. Some people experience an inability to get out of bed (this is very different to laziness)
    • Distress at being asked to recall the events or being around people discussing bullying
    • Detached, as if watching others from behind a screen
    • Exhaustion which is not relieved by sleep
    • Flashbacks may be common, with frequent distressing recollections of the events
    • Flight or fight response is on constant alert
    • General disinterest in life
    • Guilty for being weak
    • Hyper-vigilant
    • Irritable
    • Loss of libido
    • Nervy
    • Pacing the house at all hours of the night
    • Recurrent nightmares - adds to sleep deprivation 
    • Snappy
    • Startles easily and frequently
    • Sleep is disrupted constantly, may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
    • Unable to find meaning or fun in life
    • Vomiting or nausea at mention or discussion of the event
    East side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
    Click here for information about stress.

    Here tomorrow: Q. Qualities we instill in our children (which make it easier for them to be bullied)


    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

    Minding the Workplace by David Yamada is regularly updated with interesting and useful articles and research, and eBossWatch on facebook links to articles about workplace bullying from around the world.

    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, often with an environmental theme.
    .

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    O. Obstructive & outrageous behaviour. Workplace bullying

    Bullying has nothing at all to do with class, race or gender but everything to do with a person who fears being seen and exposed as weak and inadequate. Bullies have low confidence and low self esteem, and may fear being revealed after having "been promoted to the level of their incompetence". They choose to do everything in their power to avoid their incompetence being exposed.  They are often highly stressed and afraid, although they cover this up with blustering, bravado and the appearance of being frenetically busy.

    Exposing the angel might present something a lot more sinister.  
    Street theatre. London 2007
    Street theatre. Berlin 2009.




















    Many enjoy power and control in a workplace and may be extremely charming in their devious, obstructive and manipulative ways to achieve this. They get a kick out of telling different stories to various groups and make each group feel more highly valued as if they are the only ones to have the important information. One group is chosen and preferred over the others. "I wouldn't tell this to ... but I'll let you in on it" - this creates an 'us and them' culture where manipulation and bullying can more easily and sneakily occur.  Groups may be played off against each other,  it's an example of 'divide and conquer'.

    Those who see through this ruse are definitely in the outer group and may be frozen out of being given important information thus exposing them to ridicule when they appear to be incompetent.  Meeting schedules and agendas aren't forwarded in a timely manner, passwords to key files are given incorrectly, vital information is withheld. Sneaky, undermining obstruction prevents you doing the job you may well love. (Sorry, have loved - past tense.)

    The bully has a need to discredit those who have observed their bullying behaviour as well as others who they see as more intelligent, competent, popular, enthusiastic or even calm. They haven't learnt to accept their responsibilities as a fully functioning adult.

    Some behaviour is outrageous in its outright cheek. Initially, you may be asked to do a small personal favour. It's presented as if it's an honour - your skills and knowledge are special!   As a well functioning adult you are unaware of the potential for bullying and when the privilege of doing this work becomes arduous or eats into your private time, the bully becomes cajoling and manipulative.

    For example, if the bully is also your supervisor, it's extremely difficult to back track and decline the little bit of unpaid extra typing for their private life or second job. This could evolve from typing a short letter, then expand over many years to include typing and editing a thesis or producing class notes for their own benefit. You've been conned. When you become aware of what's happened, you may feel abused and violated. Your good, trusting humanity has been taken advantage of.

    You''ll never be given credit for the huge amount of work you've completed. The bully on the other hand acts without integrity and appears unaware that their constant demands are inappropriate and that they have overstepped the boundary of appropriate behaviour.

    Bullying isn't the occasional flying off the handle when things are going badly. When a normal angry person has let fly, they realise the inappropriateness of their behaviour, and learn better ways to manage and put these into action. Serial bullying happens time and time again, without let-up, it is persistent, undermining, malicious.

    It can be an entrenched part of the culture in a workplace. In Australia this month (April 2011) the spotlight has been on a number of services (Armed Forces, Police, airline industry) where the underlying culture appears to be problematic and well entrenched with little change occurring after numerous investigations going back 10 or more years.







    The bully may present a charming facade one way, but their obstructive behaviour prevents employees working to capacity.  Their chosen bahaviour damages people and companies, often beyond repair.

    Berlin Wall. East Side Gallery. Berlin 2009.







    Here tomorrow: PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


    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, often with an environmental theme.
    .

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    N. Nurses and other nice people. Workplace bullying

    The caring and voluntary sectors are rife with serial bullies who find the endless supply of vulnerable clients and vulnerable workers irresistible. Many people in the caring professions have vulnerabilities (developed from suffering their own pain) which provide them with the high levels of empathy necessary for specialist client care; these vulnerabilities also mean that such people are ripe for control, manipulation and punishment which are favourite pursuits of the serial bully.   (from bullyonline)
    Many of the caring sector workplaces are chronically understaffed and rely on agency casuals to fill shifts. This leaves the ongoing staff with the extra responsibility of constantly explaining procedures to new workers who have no commitment to the specific workplace.

    They report being overworked, unsupported, and discouraged from providing the level of care that patients require. Anecdotally nurses say they believe that all too frequently 'accidents' happen due to the time constraints that are covered up to save 'the good reputation' of the facility.
    "Caring" workplaces all too often don't care for their own employees adequately.
    (Photo: East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009)
    Nurses who speak out are often bullied and given the least desirable shifts week after week. The situation is extremely demoralizing. Nurses go into the profession because they care, but are squeezed out; hurt, frustrated and angry. The financial and personal costs from bullying in the health care sector are  enormous.

    Highly trained, competent and caring staff leave because they are so concerned at the short cuts that are being taken and the inadequate patient care. In neo-natal units nurses have discussed their concern at how babies and parents are treated, and in some cases they are also on the receiving end of highly emotional and aggressive parents with little or no support for their own suffering.

    Nurses have discussed violence in operating theaters with doctors physically abusing junior (and not so junior) staff.  How dare anyone question their competence! Speaking out is considered to be undermining the department, with cases of malpractice going unreported for months, because staff are intimidated into keeping quiet.

    Not only are nurses vulnerable due to the chronic understaffing, but become targets from management determined to cut costs by whatever means available. This has been noted in many other industries where 'the bottom line' holds more sway than professional service, all too often putting the consumers at risk.

    Recently (April 2011) pilots at one of the Australian airlines complained about fatigue from long shifts and night flying. These were bluntly dismissed, with the pilots being told to "toughen up princesses ... you're tired and can't be bothered going to work". (Link here.) As a sometime passenger on long haul flights, I can confidently say I'd prefer that pilots are well rested before flying. I wonder about the culture in the industry, and whether profit or safety is a higher priority, particularly when the economy is stressed.
    Northern New South Wales

    Here tomorrow: Obstructive


    I'd like to thank San over at Informed Sharing for her perceptive review of my blogs. I am not only honoured, but humbled that the information I share at traverselife and the fun I have with words at JumpingAground has been acknowledged so thoughtfully and generously. Thankyou San.


    Click here to find out how to do a hyperlink signature.


    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, often with an environmental theme.
    .