Thursday, 26 November 2009

It's not been a particularly good week for the bullies!

Sadly the following anecdote is totally true, and I feel obliged to apologize in advance if it causes any offence.

In the early 1990's while working for a major UK company, I was telephoned by a regional sales manager, who asked me without any apparent embarrassment, "Are we allowed to recruit black people?" After picking myself up from the office floor, I asked him why we might not do so, and he in turn responded that as the national sales force was 100% white, he wondered if the company had an unofficial "whites only" policy. The issue being clarified, the discussion continued to that of him wanting to recruit a West Indian sales representative, which in time he duly did.

In 2009 it seems (I hope) unimagineable that our companies might be populated with managers who consider that any such discrimination is acceptable, doesn't it?

But change the scenario from discrimination to that of bullying behaviour, and it quickly becomes evident that we haven't evolved or developed as much as we might like to believe.

Take this week for example:

Headteacher Catherine Maltbaek seems likely to be struck off the GTC teaching register as a result of her bullying behaviour towards members of staff. An employment tribunal described the case as "the worst case of bullying ever seen in the workplace”

The News of the World was yesterday fined a jaw-dropping £792,736 for the excessive bullying and harrassment of one of the tabloid newspaper's former sports reporters.

Also yesterday, two of the Tower of London Beefeaters found themselves out of work when they were sacked for bullying Moira Cameron, the first female Beefeater. The 44-year-old became the first female yeoman warder in the institution's history after completing the required 22 years of service in the Army.
Comments that have been left on this blog clearly reveal that bullying (in a variety of disguises) is more prevalent than we care to admit, but at least it seems that there is a surge in public sentiment that such behaviour should no longer be tolerated.

HR Managers have a crucial role to play in the eradication of inappropriate workplace behaviour, and strong words may well have to be exchanged with established and otherwise successful managers. But unless HR is prepared to put itself in the firing line, it will be delinquent in discharging its duties.

By the way, Crabbe and Goyle: Dumbledore has passed his CIPD exams, and he wants to see you in his office after break!

  • Open question: are we doing enough to make workplace bullying unacceptable?


  1. In a word, No.

    In order to change a leopards spots you need to put it in an environment where spots are definitely a disadvantage. Natural selection will then do it's work.

    In an organisation, you need to change the culture so that those who bully stand out like a sore thumb and tackling their behaviour is the only course of action - action that is supported at the highest level.


  2. EBTG: As ever, thanks for the comment. I like the leopard analogy - turning a perceived advantage into a weakness which in turn eliminates the undesired behaviour!

  3. Interesting article, are poeple putting up with bullying because they are frightened of loosing their job in this climate?
    I am researching for a piece on corporate bad manners and would be grateful for any more feedback. Please help by taking my survey you can find the link on my blog at or post a comment on the discussion tab of my facebook page WalkingTall

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  5. Marry: thanks for the comment, but no blatant advertising thank you