Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Are you multiple bullied?? Workplace bullying Cataclysm.


There is an area of bullying that is more complex and difficult than any of the issues described above. It tends to happen in organisations that deliver services such as hospitals, social work, teaching, the judicial system, personal banking and other vocational areas of work.


These industries are affected by multiple users. They may be the subject of statutory and legislative control, they are monitored by inspectors or similar, the press and the subject of public scrutiny. They have managers, clients, hierarchical structures, agents, official and lay users, for example, governors, judges, non governmental trustees and so forth. Frontline staff are answerable to all of these levels.

Service industries deserve a special mention. The frontline staff in these institutions are subject to the multiple layers of user-ship. They have to respond to change directed by legal and executive decisions at a political level. They are managed, but they also have to respond to lay and official users. They also have to respond to the needs of clients be they patients, children, victims of crime, members of the public etc.

In increasingly authoritarian and judgemental times these institutions risk staff being subjected to multiple layers of bullying and abuse. This behaviour can result in demoralised, traumatised staff.

Bullying increases in times of social change and unrest. These times are undeniably upon us, whether from changing economies, to changing views about public security and freedom. There is a sea change in the way staff are viewed. In some cases we may have become units and widgets rather than humans beings.

Some organisations have become mechanical structures in which human beings are expected to be part of a sort of mega factory. It is very interesting how some badly run service organisations, in striving for greater and greater savings and efficiency seem to have forgotten the human factor.

The service industries such as teaching, social work and nursing have long been recognised as being areas where staff can be at high risk of bullying in badly run parts of the organisation. (Source


We have talked in this blog about bullying by co-workers and managers. However, in service organisations, workers can be bullied at multiple levels and sometimes simultaneously across the layers.

Political ideas can sometimes adversely affect the quality of employment in ways never envisaged by our political masters. Below that, officials, who have a say in the running of such industries, can directly or indirectly affect the quality of work of frontline staff. This may be by the imposition of measures where the human input is not properly considered or by direct intervention. A good example could be badly trained governors of a school, collectively bullying a head or other staff.


Managers can bully, so can co-workers as we know. However, not much is said about bullying by clients such as patients or members of the public. These people have access to complaints procedures. Sadly some frustrated clients or users of services take out their frustrations on frontline staff. It is the duty of industry leaders and managers to back up staff where clients are abusive or bullying. This is right and proper and should not be a bar to the proper investigation of genuine complaints.


There is some anecdotal evidence from staff that there may be a decrease in the support available for frontline staff. Frontline staff are often the easiest and softest target in areas where blame cultures may flourish or that seeks to punish, rather than rectify mistakes. It can be in the interests of poor managers to provide a scapegoat to the media or other agencies rather than take executive accountability and political accountability. It appears that it is rarer than in the past for politicians, CEO's or chief executives to resign.

Some areas of media engagement can encourage senior staff, officials and politicians to find soft targets in an effort to pacify the quest of the press for a story. In these days of 24 hour news, it is essential that organisations do not take knee jerk action, but think through their decisions to name or possibly shame and employee who was just doing their job in straightened conditions. There can be an appetite for finding someone to blame. In some cases blame does not solve the issue, but rather a change in culture and dialogue from a place of openness and transparency.

The press also has a duty to look critically at their stories and ensure that investigative journalism thrives and gets to the bottom of the real issues.


The result of these multiple pressures on the individual,  is the breakdown of morale, depression, misery, trauma and even suicide.  Many service professionals have taken on their roles as a vocation. More and more they are being asked to work more for less pay, less resources and less advantageous working conditions. Vocational workers tend to suffer in silence and are slow to complain or take political action and their plight can go unnoticed or unacknowledged.

So what is the answer? On a personal level one must always keep sight of their humanity and their rights. You have the right to be selfish or rather self concerned and despite being a person who cares or indeed a care giver, you must begin to work on being self interested. You must work on taking care of you. You have the right to be considered and treated with respect. You have the right to express yourself and have an opinion. You have the right not to be abused no matter how high up the corporate or official chain the behaviour goes.

We often hear these days that workers have a general responsibility to society. They should not strike, they should not work to rule etc. However there is a reciprocal duty on society, officialdom and politicians to respect workers.

At Cancerbullied we believe that organisations have a duty to engage and consider staff. That in the creation of political, managerial and institutional policies, that people should be at the centre of decision making. That policies should be rigorously tested for their risks to staff well-being. You would be surprised how many times staff complain that decisions are made without consultation.

Demoralised and traumatised staff cost millions in sickness and mental health related days off. Talent drains from industries that do not address that balance.

Over and above this is YOU! You will already know, if the multiple layers of risk to bullying are encroaching on your professional or daily life, what it feels like to be under extreme pressure. Your health comes first, money comes second. We are big on the talking therapies such as counselling, coaching, resilience training and mindfulness. Make it your business to be selfish if your employer is also selfish to you.  In every service there is another bank, another hospital and another school.... Consider this when you are feeling put upon.....

There is lots more info in this blog so do take a look at our blog archive and quick links.

Tell us what you did when you were multiple bullied??

Take care of you!

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