Bullies are not bad people

Your boss may be a bully but that doesn’t make them a bad person. We have a problem of bullying in the public sector and we’re not going to solve it by treating it as just a few bad people. Getting rid of these individuals or putting more safe guards in place that reduce the ability of managers to abuse their power won’t  work. Even if it were that simple it wouldn’t work because the problem is a culture of bullying. Its the way things are done these days in the public sector. It’s a combination of job insecurity, an excessive focus on performance targets and an obsession with budgets. It’s a consequence of a decade of austerity which has changed the way managers manage. It’s a climate of anxiety which for too many managers results in an abrasive, dictatorial, autocratic management style. In this environment low morale and a loss of good will are seen as an unfortunate consequence of the requirement to impose unpopular changes and certainly not a reflection on a managers people management skills. 

Those impossible targets, those imposed changes to working practices, the ban on overtime, the recruitment freeze, the new get tough absence management policy, the compulsory redundancies and the unwelcome redeployments were forced upon  managers as much as their staff. From the cabinet to the front line debate is considered pointless because it’s going to happen, some resistance is anticipated and managers show their loyalty and ability by over coming this. Hence what staff experience as bullying is often dismissed as strong, effective management, reflecting the combative tone set by senior managers and the organisations intolerance of any dissent. This is a bullying culture, it’s the organisations style of management and it won’t be changed by making an example of a few low ranking managers who lack the wit to make their threats  behind closed doors and away from witnesses. 

Blair Mcpherson former Director ,author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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