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Workshop report: Bullying in the Workplace


Jon Seaton Hi Catherine!

Catherine Hi Jon,are we it then?

Jon Seaton Yes, so far! There’s normally a small time lag! Let’s wait a few minutes!

Catherine Ok. Thanks. I’m very pleased to see this topic being covered

Jon Seaton Perhaps while we wait, you’d maybe like to outline your interest?

Catherine Of course. I work in a Company where harrassment and bullying issues have been raised, by me.

Catherine I want to find ways to improve company culture. Am concerned that reaction is very defensive.

Jon Seaton Is it a large company?

Catherine No, head office in which I work has around 30 staff.

Jon Seaton What sort of situations raised your concerns?

Catherine Staff, particularly personnel, are very defensive ie. harassment awareness sessions with only certain staff

Catherine people accused of bullying – not asked to attend

Jon Seaton …so the people who may be doing the bullying may not be aware of the extent of their action?

Catherine They should do now..formal complaint made and investigation carried out 2 months later.

Catherine Also previous verbal and written reports made to senior management

Jon Seaton Gosh! obviously seen as a high priority! (not)

Catherine Well. It is rather disconcerting, I admit. I’m very concerned at personnel carrying out investigation

Jon Seaton Why do you think there is a defensiveness surrounding the issue?

Catherine Staff turnover very high, people leave, or are sacked regularly. People bringing suits against company.

Jon Seaton Are you talking of ‘personnel’ in the HR sense or as staff generally?

Catherine HR sense. Person investigating complaint reports to person accused of bullying.

Jon Seaton Hi Toni, Grainne, Bill

Jon Seaton and Jo!

Grainne O Boyle Have you any policy

Catherine Yes, Bullying and Harassment

Jon Seaton There is a link at the bottom of this page to the transcript so far

Grainne O Boyle In your policy do you have a contact person who is not in the line management area

Jo Clifton Hi sorry I’ll be a bit slow, I’ve broken my arm only one finger typing!

Catherine no, have been advised can only discuss issue with Personnel Officer

Chris Douglas Catherine, Elaine Douglas has published a manual ‘Bullying in the Workplace@ out today through Gower. Would you consider going public with your situation? Bullying in the Workplace by Elaine Douglas

Catherine I’ve thought about it. I’ve been diagnosed as having a stress disorder due to the situation.

Jo Clifton I have a book called ‘Bully Off’ published by Russell House. this gives details of policies etc

Catherine I don’t want compensation, which is what the company is scared of. I want to work and fulful my duties without bullying

Catherine I’ve done a lot of research into bullying over last 6 months. Am concerned that systems set up to resolve it, are themselves flawed

Chris Douglas Elaine has been asked to consider an article in the Daily Mail but it must contain true details and photo of the sufferer, would you consider talking to Elaine?

Jo Clifton I think that’s what everyone wants, it’s not a matter of ‘compensation’ after the event

Jon Seaton That’s a crucial point Catherine. Is the company aware of your desired outcome?

Catherine I would lose my job. They have told me if I discuss it with anyone except the company, or my legal/union advisors I will be subject to disciplinary action

Chris Douglas Catherine, check out Gower Website it details Elaine’s book – it may help

Catherine Yes, I have told them. Ok. shall do.

Jon Seaton Is your union also clear on your desired outcome?

Chris Douglas Catherine, this is the problem Elaine is having everywhere. There is a situation of fear running rife through this area, so we do understand your situation. Thanks anyway.

Jo Clifton Catherine you’re right, an organistion must be aware that if it has policies it must act and take the consequenes

Catherine If I could write without giving personal details I would. I want to work with company, not against it. But they are scared.

Chris Douglas Catherine, if you know of anyone who would be prepared to publicly discuss having being bullied, please let me know.

Catherine A previous employee of the company might be interested – she resigned

Jo Clifton useful website for bullying

Chris Douglas Catherine, if you still want to work with the company they must have something going for them! Would they consider talking to Elaine about their problem and how to overcome it?

Toni Court Exactly how far up in the company has the complaint gone and how far up the chain is the bully

Chris Douglas Jo, another usefull website is also – this is Tim Fields site , he has written widely on the subject.

Catherine My union knows that I want to keep my job. But am I being naive? Chris, I think the owner wants to overcome problems. They have grown massively in 5 years, and change management is now being implemented, at senior level I believe.

Jo Clifton yes I use that a lot for info

Catherine It’s a lifeline for me, to be honest. Given me lots of useful info.

Chris Douglas Catherine, sounds to me like your company needs some advice on how to manage the changes in a way that is not going to impact negatively on its workers.

Catherine I want to stay in the company – it can provide me with lots of experience in an area I want to move into. Toni, the complaint is against a senior director.

Jo Clifton ther’s a difficulty for an organisation to admit it’s happening because of the fear opf litigation, they don’t seem to have realised it’s not about money for compensatiopn, but actually addressing the problem

Catherine It’s a small close knit company – senior management long time friends. Multi-national now, with resulting problems from rapid growth

Jon Seaton Catherine’s case tends to highlight the situation where a company makes the right noises but is fearful of the compensation culture and where the personnel staff are themselves careful of upsetting personalities.

Catherine Jo – you are absolutely right – but how do I convince them that when the Personnel Officer is herself part of the problem now.

Chris Douglas Catherine, ouch! that could be a problem. The most important thing about stamping out this type of behaviour is getting total commitment from the top. That could be difficult, depending on the Director’s position.

Catherine There are two people higher. One is my immediate line manager and who is staying out of things in case I want to “appeal”. Except I haven’t been given a decision yet.

Chris Douglas Joe, if the company set up their anti-bullying policy in the right way, they will minimise their problems in respect of the ‘compensation culture’. By not tackling bullies at source they leave themselves wide open.

Toni Court To have a policy adn then fail to follow it just makes it even worse

Grainne Have you any other support throughout this , it must be difficult for you

Toni Court Are other employees in the same boat, could a collective greivance not be raised.

Chris Douglas Catherine, what are your company “actively” doing to ease your situation?

Catherine no one from the company at all. Ex employees too. Union Rep is around, but very difficult to get hold of

Jo Clifton Chris, Fife Council have a comprehensiove ‘Dignity at Work’ Policy and it’s still going awry!

Catherine Company’s initial reaction was to send me for a medical – they are concerned about my stress – first time in my life I’ve ever suffered from work related stress

Jo Clifton Catherine, where does ‘duty of care’ come in here?

Chris Douglas Jo, what do you mean exactly by going awry? Give me some examples.

Catherine Chris – you are absolutely right – I’ve even mentioned this to them. Toni – people are scared to lose their jobs.

Jo Clifton Things are beiong exposed, not just bullying, but poor management practice [without the intent to bully] and people are starting to ask is there any support at all?

Grainne How long has this been going on?

Toni Court But if no-one takes any action no progress can be made. I don’t doubt it is a very difficult situation to face I ended up with clinical depression after months of harrasment

Jon Seaton Jo, the employment contract itself implies a duty to protect from any actions which cause ill health or put safety at risk. This includes actions taken by other employees and directors.

Jo Clifton sorry that was an ironic remark

Chris Douglas Jo, this is classic. The most prevalent type of bullying is ‘pressure’ or ‘cascade’ bullying. This is never usually intentional, however, is still very potent and harmful. The main cause of this typpe of bullying is poor management skills. The answer is to look at the way managers are trained in areas such as delegation, time management, prioritising etc. Do you see where I’m coming from?

Jon Seaton No worries Jo, I put it in for clarification!

Jo Clifton thanks

Catherine Luckily Toni I’m not depressed – but now physically ill and off work. I’ve been complaining (in writing) about bullying since Nov 2000

Toni Court But how long until your physical illness is used as an excuse to justify terminating your employment, if the company are as bad as they sound I would not be suprised

Catherine I have tried to say all this to my Chairman – he admitted in November there was management problems.

Jo Clifton i feel a big part is in the induction which tells you what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and means it!

Grainne Sounds like they are not listening…complain to relevant external authority

Catherine Absolutely Toni. It is my great concern – I come under the DDA – so they need to be careful though.

Toni Court Have you been making detailed notes of all the incidents including who and when you complained about the behaviour?

Catherine Yes. All the way. Learned that from Tim Fields’ site.

Catherine But I’ve attended 10 meetings, had to provide “evidence” in report format, emails, phone calls, dates, times etc.

Grainne Gotta leave the room…talk again?

Catherine Nice to talk to you, and thanks for support.

Toni Court Whatever ‘benefits’ there are at this company in terms of your career progression I would seriously consider if it worth the grief. It’s so hard to make the decision, i know I’ve been there.

Catherine I understand your point, but why should I feel pushed out due to something not of my making.

Jo Clifton you sound as though you still have fight left in you

Catherine I want to help improve things for me yes. But I want other people in this company to know it need not always be this way.

Catherine I want them to take my ideas seriously, work with me, not fight against me.

Toni Court But it sounds as if you have done as much as you can

Chris Douglas Catherine, contact Elaine on [email protected] or through our website she should be able to give you some pointers on how to achieve positive results.

Catherine I sincerely hope not. Thanks Chris..I want to be proactive here, but not frighten them into pushing me out of the door.

Jon Seaton We’re coming to the end of the formal workshop time but we can run over for a few minutes. You’re all welcome to contact me if there are resources on this subject that you would like to see on HR Zone

Catherine I’m concerned that this session has concentrated on this one case, I hope it has been of some benefit to others as well.

Catherine Thank you all so much.

Jo Clifton support is the name of the game

Jon Seaton The danger for the company Catherine is that the more they push you out the door then the more they leave themselves at risk of litigation

Toni Court Hope you manage to make some progress

Jo Clifton good luck Catherine

Chris Douglas Catherine, either you are not putting yourself across in a way they can accept or, – more likely – they are not listening to what you are saying. There are ways of presenting yourself in such a way they will find difficult not to accept, but it is too complicated to discuss here. Get in touch, I’m sure we can help.

Jon Seaton Remember, that this is a supportive community! It’s what we’re here for! We can run this subject again.

Catherine Thank you Chris. Problem is they won’t allow me to discuss it now. I will be in touch.

Jo Clifton this is actually the second time it’s run

Jo Clifton it’s shocking that we need it

Jon Seaton You’re right Jo – on both counts!

Catherine Thanks everyone, have to go now.

Chris Douglas Jo, I think that would be a good idea. Elaine was really disappointed not to be able to participate. Heavy commitments in other areas. She would appreciate the opportunity to help.

Jon Seaton OK, I’ll see if we can schedule one soon, keep your eye on the discussion forum area too, I’ll see if we can raise the issue there.

Jo Clifton goodbye, thanks for the discussion

Chris Douglas Everybody, thanks I’ve enjoyed this experience and look forward to the next one. Nil vcarbarundum il desperante. Good luck all.

Jon Seaton Bye everyone, thanks for participating!

2 Responses

  1. How about putting it in a positive light?
    Instead of Titling course “Coping With Difficult People”, how about something like “Leadership 2000” or “Leadership for Results” by the Achieve-Global Company? I’d start with your top management and work down.


    Kari Uhlman
    United States
    State of California
    County of Sacramento
    Probation Department
    (916)-875-0263 PST

  2. Coaching can help
    Coaching people to deal with Bullies can be viable and productive.
    The book “Coping With Difficult People” provides excellent methods.
    Coaching is valuable in these situations. The
    site maybe helpful. also has coaches listed.
    If you do this again I’d like to hear about other people’s successful
    means of dealing with the issue.
    Coaching both managers and staff I have found that by
    writing out the actual dialogue in the situation, people can create a kind of “Wish I’d said that” script that can lead to resolution and growth for all
    Respect, tone, and non verbal gestures are amazing triggers.
    Conflict workshops are also good.
    Best wishes,
    Ann Lurie Berlin
    NYC, USA

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