Recently, a good friend of mine has been experiencing a long stint of being bullied by her two managers in the Public Service.
The first manager was acting in a managing position above my friend, who used to manage her. The manager above this person has been wreaking havoc for a few years.
Now things have finally come to a head and my friend has gone on stress leave due to the severe emotional trauma that has resulted from the simple act of trying to do her job in an ever-changing, ever-more-demanding digital workplace.
As a mature woman, one must also ask if there is not a touch of age discrimination going on here.
Bullying is rife in the public service and the media has not spared us the gory details of the tens of millions of dollars that have already been paid out to those poor souls who have been subjected to bullying and subsequently forced to make a formal complaint.
It takes a brave soul to make a formal complaint.
We all know how intimidating bosses can be. Personally, I have taken on a supervisor who bullied me, gone on to mediation and come out the other side with a good result. But, I am one tough cookie, raised by a father who instilled in me from an early age to “stand up for your rights”….most likely in the face of his own experiences with racism when he came to this country in the late 60s. He never let anyone make him feel small, and his feisty and fiery temper seems to have filtered down to me where injustice is concerned.
Back to my friend.
Managers who think they are “managing” while they are acting out, belittling others, showing favouritism, acting inappropriately as a result of having vested interests in certain colleagues, making assumptions about a person’s private life, their capabilities, their past history…..these are the monsters of the deep dark corners of the office.
Ironically, the public service spends millions on consultants to conduct workshops to create an atmosphere of inclusivity in the workplace. One cannot help but feel this is all but tokenism when I hear the sort of behaviour that goes on in my friend’s workplace.
Where is the accountability of managers to actually “walk the talk” when it comes to these taxpayer-funded workshops aimed at creating the more perfect workplace where everyone – black, white, gay, straight, trans, short, tall, fat, tattooed, disabled – can feel that going to work is a safe place for them?
Where is the accountability of human resources managers to ensure that the message is adequately being delivered by those who should be setting an example?
Is it okay to have someone feel so anxious and traumatised about their managers and workplace that they cannot even bring themselves to enter their building? That they feel that they can no longer speak freely, be themselves, enjoy their worklife and simply, be?
When the young turks are nipping at your heels as a mature worker, how is it they are allowed to behave like voracious piranhas with a mandate from their manager to climb on everyone’s face as they proceed up the ladder?
Where is the respect for the years of experience collected by older workers, in the workplace and in life?
I hope my friend can resolve her issues with her workplace but right now the mere thought of being in the same room as their former manager/s is enough to fill them with dread, cause palpatations and rising blood pressure.
In the meantime, if you are a manager, take a minute to think about how you and your acting managers carrying out their commitment to creating a safe, healthy and happy workplace.
Yes, we are all different. We will never all get on all the time. But far too much of our lives are spent at work for that time to be a soul-destroying journey into misery, anxiety and depression.
Thankfully my friend is not a male because if she were, she would also be in a dangerous category for suicide.
Be kind to each other. Be mindful that we are all on this planet together, milling around like ants doing things that, in the scheme of the billion years of this earth’s existence, is mostly meaningless.
Let’s not get too carried away with power.
If you see someone being bullied, give them the support they need. If you are being bullied, stand up and resist, because if you don’t, it will never end well.