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Upward bullying: When bosses are targets of harassment

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HC Online | 10 Aug 2011, 12:00 AM Agree 0
With awareness of bullying and its insidious effects on the rise, one aspect that receives little attention is the small but not insignificant number of cases where managers are bullied by team members. Harriet Stacey assesses the damage it can cause.
  • Bernie Althofer | 10 Aug 2011, 04:18 PM Agree 0
    It can be a fine line that managers have to walk betweeen getting the job done and being targeted or accused of being a bully. Sometimes it is the simple things that are said such as "As a matter of interest, what do you have on next week" can result in findings that this was unreasonable management. On the face of it, the average manager would say "How could this be?" Sometimes managers may be targeted because they are trying to instill a sense of responsibility and accountability in an environment where the workers have stacked the decks by 'currying' favour with the upper echelons of the organisation and create a belief that they can do no wrong. If managers raise the 'b' word, they find little support from upper management and end up being 'lame duck' managers with a giant target painted on them. Don't under estimate the power that some workers have when they feel threatened or challenged when they are being called to account. Fear of change can do mysterious things to workplaces. Upwards bullying could also be used to 'target' internal experts or those who might be well educated in the area of workplace bullying and harassment. Allegations can also be made to 'restrict' promotional opportunities. Some organisations may also have a culture where it is expected that managers 'grin and bear' everything that is thrown at them, and a failure to do this, can be a career limiting move. I was recently discussing this issue with a colleague. He indicated that the "b" word had been raised in a performance interview. The person was told to think of another word or words to describe what happened, otherwise management would have to do something about it. Coercing staff even at management level to change their view about what has happened to them is just another way of sweeping it under the carpet. So, as indicated in the article, investigations might uncover some nasty truths about what really happened.
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