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Workplace Bullying and Psychopaths

Aside from being a close Pacific watcher, Dr Mark Hayes is also a sociologist with interests in domination, power, how these phenomena operate, in struggles between the dominated and their dominators, and how those struggles can be better waged towards sustainable outcomes.

He has a particular interest in workplace bullying and the emerging topic of workplace psychopathology, not the least because he's been the target of workplace bullies and psychopaths himself, and now occasionally deploys his experience to assist other targets.

He's not a qualified counsellor or psychologist, nor is he a lawyer specialising in workplace matters, and urges anybody who resonates with what he writes here to seek qualified professional assistance or advice, making sure that those from whom counselling or legal advice is sought really understand and recognise that workplace bullying and related phenomena are real, serious, and require expert and decisive intervention.

This is the first of a projected two part discussion, and he'll produce the second part depending on what responses this first part attracts.

by Dr Mark Hayes

There's been some recent discussions of workplace psychopaths, turning around the release of Dr John Clarke's second book on the issue, The Pocket Psycho (Sydney: Random House, 2007, $17.95), a sequel to his Working with Monsters (Random House, 2005).

Dr Clarke's a forensic psychologist based at Sydney University. On the basis of his experience in consulting with police on serious crimes involving probable criminal psychopaths, he's turned his expertise to look at psychopathology in workplaces; he's a consultant hunter of 'snakes in suits'.

Web-based response areas set up after his work has been discussed in the media always produce depressing and occasionally chilling stories from responders who have been targeted by workplace bullies and even probable psychopaths.

The serious issue of workplace psychopathology received widespread attention thanks to the documentary, and accompanying book, The Corporation.

Essentially, the argument here was that corporations, as legally constituted 'individuals' or entities, are psychopathic because they exist and are required by law to single-mindedly maximise shareholder value to the limits of applicable law. Indeed, corporation directors are legally liable if they do not act in the exclusive interests of their shareholders within the limits of the law. Comparing the characteristics of psychopathology as set out in clinical resources such as the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), best used only by highly qualified and experienced clinicians, the authors of 'The Corporation' argued that corporations exhibit most of the same characteristics of diagnosed psychopaths: utterly unemotional, completely socially detached, remorseless, totally focused on extremely narrow sought-after, immediate, gratifications, narcissistic, parasitic, and similar.

The creator of the standard psychiatric psychopathology diagnostic tests, Dr Robert Hare, and his co-author, Dr Paul Babiak, in their recent book, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths go to Work (2006) were not pleased with this loose use of the term and the diagnosis: "To refer to the corporation as psychopathic because of the behaviour of a carefully selected group of companies is like using the traits and behaviours of the most high risk criminals to conclude that the criminal (that is, every criminal) is a psychopath" (at Page 95).

As a sociologist, I'm also extremely uneasy about deploying highly specialised individual psychiatric diagnostic criteria to 'diagnose' collectivities of people in complex social situations. It might be tempting to do so, and certainly garners considerable attention, as The Corporation phenomenon demonstrated, but this is ultimately unhelpful, particularly for those working in corporations, and elsewhere, who are targeted by workplace bullies, or worse, the tiny but devastating numbers of genuine workplace psychopaths.

While it is tempting to argue that James Hardie, for example, is a psychopathic corporation because of its all-but-universally condemned position with respect to limiting its corporate exposure to asbestos compensation claims, it seems probable that had it not vigorously sought to do so, its then directors and senior management would have fallen foul of applicable corporation laws because they didn't seek to protect and maximise shareholder value to the limits of the law. Even while James Hardie was being castigated, its share value was actually rising due to its rigorous corporate governance protecting the company from probable liability. Morally reprehensible? Absolutely! Responsible, lawful, corporate operator? It certainly appears so. Psychopathic? No.

To also suggest that directors or senior management of James Hardie, HIH, or AWB were psychopaths because of their largely successful, remorseless, single-minded pursuit of enhancing shareholder value to the limits of the law, and protecting shareholder's investment, would be impossible without subjecting them individually to a rigorous, clinical, psychiatric testing regime. It would probably be defamatory to so label them as well (which raises the issue of financial bullying, more below).

Rather, it appears extremely likely that contemporary workplaces, corporate employers as many are, provide breeding grounds and protected spaces where bullies and even the rare but devastating psychopath can seek out and torment their targets, they, and their employers, rationalising their behaviour in any number of ingenious ways. This seems to be the premise of UK-based Professor Adrian Furnham's reported claim that up to 50 per cent of business managers could have psychopathic or similar tendencies. Unfortunately, I cannot find any references to his work on this point in the refereed academic literature, and his reported conference paper is not online.

It's also unfortunate that the clinical term 'psychopath' is being used in the context of serious workplace monstering because it suggests workplace psychopaths behave in the same ways as criminal psychopaths or serial killers typified in television crime shows. They usually don't, certainly not with respect to physical violence. They're certainly intuitive, and practised, masters of the dark arts of psychological manipulation and intimidation.

Nor is it helpful to lump workplace bullies, whose behaviour can occasionally stray into, and thence be dealt with as, illegal behaviour such as assault (or at least the reasonable apprehension of assault by their target), with full-blown workplace psychopaths, whose presence can finally only be detected through expert specialist diagnosis. If you are a psychopath, would you voluntarily allow yourself to be tested by your HRM Department's consultant lest you be outed? Your behaviour may well be contributing to the organisation's bottom line, at least on a quarterly basis, and that's all the Board wants to know.

A serious personality disorder sort-of straddling the definition and description of psychopathic behaviour and the activities of a workplace bully is narcissism, which should only be diagnosed by a skilled and experienced clinician. Nevertheless, not a few CEOs and managers appear to exhibit narcissistic traits and behaviours, which include an overweening sense of automatic material and psychological entitlement, demands for and expectations of fawning deference and obedience from staff and associates, limited or no brooking of contrary opinions or suggestions, and the active interpretation of the positing of alternative opinions or suggestions as rank insubordination and disloyalty, requiring immediate sanction and retribution. Narcissists tend to have limited attention spans, tend not to see why they should be bothered with the details of policies or procedures, and can have ferocious tempers. Psychopaths often exhibit narcissistic traits, while workplace bullies can be more varied in their observed behaviours.

Workplace bullying involves an employee being targeted by a superior or a peer for harassment, aggression, and related behaviours the point of which is to provide psychological gratification for the bully. European studies often use the term 'mobbing' to describe workplace bullying, but this refers to groups of employees ganging up on their target, sometimes, to be sure, at the instigation of a single bully. If clinical rigour is to be applied to identify workplace bullying behaviour it should be observed or recorded and persistently observed over a period of three to six months or longer, though occasional or even once-off severe bullying incidents may be separated by many months.

The literature is uneven on this next point, but the best of it suggests that workplace bullies, particularly serial workplace bullies, repeat offenders, suffer from moderate to serious, diagnosable, personality disorders. They can be deeply insecure, maladjusted individuals who are extremely adept at concealing their problems, and externalising their insecurities through bullying behaviour.

But unlike school yard bullying, workplace bullying involves mature, supposedly well socialised adults, who do know how to behave better, but choose to engage in workplace bullying behaviour. The literature also suggests that the worse an offender a workplace bully is, the harder they can be to cure, and perhaps even impossible help them learn how to mitigate or control, their behaviour. They can even have their behaviour reinforced if their employing institution rewards them with promotion or salary bonuses, or simply ignores the damage they are doing. Some of the literature dwells on whether or not a workplace bully had a miserable childhood, or if workplace bullying can be predicted if, as a child, the adult bully was themselves bullied at school, or was a bully, or maltreated their pets. This material might be of interest to psychologists and workplace relations scholars, but personally, I think the target of a workplace bully should not have to be bothered with such speculations. The workplace is an adult domain, and those active in it must be expected to behave like mature, well adjusted and socialised adults.

An important question to always ask about workplace bullying and related behaviours: "Is this behaviour absolutely necessary?" Close in, "Is bullying behaviour absolutely necessary in this organisation or division for it to achieve its stated goals and outcomes as declared in its official statements, policies, and related documents?" More widely, "Is it absolutely necessary, crucial, and essential for bullying to be so widespread in modern workplaces for our economy and society to function and grow?" I've emphasised absolutely to stress the strength of how this question must be asked, and how any answers provided to it should be interrogated.

(Postmodernists would object to my strong teleology here, and the all but explicit strong ontology as well, but I'd suggest postmodernism, when pressed, sublates into hedonism or narcissism, as well as provides a philosophical rationale, of sorts, for workplace bullying. Too complex an argument to pursue here.)

If the answer to the above question is an emphatic 'No!' then we can clearly see that workplace bullying and related behaviours are really all about power, and contestations of power and domination, with a psychological cast attached.

In her excellent book on workplace bullying, from a New Zealand perspective, Andrea W. Needham draws parallels between workplace bullying and domestic violence, both being about the uses, and abuses, of power in workplace and domestic relationships (Workplace Bullying - The Costly Business Secret, Penguin NZ, 2003).

As another major caution, particularly if you have been targeted and monstered by a workplace bully, are struggling to figure out what the hell's happening to you, or are still recovering - this can take years - do not wallow in the depressing, and very large, as well as growing, popular literature on workplace bullying, thereby reinforcing your false sense of powerlessness and victimhood. Doing this means that the bully has largely won.

That said, Wikipedia's portal on workplace bullying is a good place to commence carefully understanding workplace bullying.

If you have access to a good University library, a search of its catalogue will pull up many books on workplace bullying. I was once contacted by a workplace bully's bewildered and distressed target working at a University, and within seconds had interrogated their institution's library and pointed them to excellent books on the issue they had within easy reach on their own campus. Their analytic and critical mental faculties had been blunted by the effects of being bullied, including severe insomnia, anxiety, loss of appetite, and hot flushes, and the side effects of medication like Prozac prescribed for the foregoing, and it hadn't occurred to them to check their own library!

Same goes for your local council library, though the quality of materials held here will be rather variable.

Cautiously, systematically, starting to clearly understand what's being done to a workplace bully's target and why, is the beginning of the return to empowerment, sanity, and health.

There is a significant stigma adhering to the target of a workplace bully, implying and even explicitly suggesting that they are somehow weak, unable to stand up for themselves in a tough adult world and workplace. The literature is almost unequivocal that quite the contrary is often the case. The target of workplace bullying - never a victim, with all the baggage notions of 'victimhood' contains - has usually been singled out for malevolent attention by a colleague or supervisor who usually exhibits the traits of one or more psychologically diagnosable personality disorders of widely varying severity.

The target of a workplace bully often, at least initially and often unless they get prompt and reliable advice or counselling, experiences anxiety-inducing bewilderment: "Why me?! What the hell have I done?! I've improved my performance and they're still not satisfied?!" When targeted by a workplace bully, you'll never satisfy what they usually declare as their entirely legitimate demands for improvement or more productivity. You could further amplify their torment of you.

The bully exploits the bewilderment and confusion they cause their target, continuing the ambushes, the insatiable demands, and the needling criticisms to keep the target always strung out and vulnerable, engendering a vicious cycle of torment. If a workplace bully is in a management or supervisory position, with a staff working to them, they can operate like a vehicle's commutator, metaphorically spinning around the workplace and zapping each staffer on a random or somewhat predictable rotating cycle of harassment, blame assignment, criticism, and intimidation.

This is why it is vital to seek advice and assistance from sources sensitive to and knowledgeable about workplace bullying, who can identify its peculiar dynamics, and its effects on targets. Many caring professionals still don't know about the phenomenon, or only vaguely understand it, might lump it in with other forms of workplace or even client's own life dysfunction, or misdiagnose the causes of, and thence mis-treat, the symptoms - stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Prozac or Xanax might get the distressed target over the immediate symptoms, or keep the target somewhat comfortably numb, but won't deal with the workplace bully who's causing them.

The fact that workplace bullies do know how to behave better is reinforced by the fact that, as research into the phenomenon has improved, and its massive, even staggering, economic costs have been calculated - employee or target misery never reaches the balance sheet except in escalating worker's insurance claims, employee turnover, or plunging productivity -, governments, government departments, most if not all institutions, and corporates, have all promulgated policies forbidding behaviours inevitably defined very carefully as 'workplace bullying' as opposed to sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, and so on. Go find your employing organisation's workplace bullying policies. But be careful, because doing so could alert your tormentor or their supporters in HRM that you are up to something.

I would suggest in passing that if an organisation has implemented and even sort-of polices a workplace bullying prevention policy partly or even wholly on the basis of organisational protection, to reduce spiralling work cover premiums and payouts, or to limit reputational damage - no organisation wants a reputation as a haven for workplace bullies - those polices and procedures aren't worth the paper they're written on or the hard drive space used to store and the electricity used serve them online. These policies have been implemented for the wrong reasons. An organisational culture forbidding workplace bullying, and management who rigorously deals with the practice when it erupts because it harms its employees is far superior, and fairly rare.

With these policies and procedures in place forbidding workplace bullying, and management often trained in the detection and investigation of workplace bullying - fox guarding the hen house if the bully is also the HRM director or company boss, or the bully is a mate of the HRM director or company boss, which often occurs - the clever bully quickly learns how to continue their activities sub-procedurally, in ways and at intensities calculated not to trigger their organisation's policies and procedures against precisely what they can rationalise as their preferred employee discipline or motivational practices. Workplace bullies often try hard to individually torment their targets, so there are no witnesses, and can also intimidate or buy off any potential witnesses, or allies of the target to ensure their silence.

The clever bully will attend the training sessions on the new anti-bully policies and procedures, closely study them, and associated policies and procedures, and adjust their behaviours accordingly. This will also assist them should a formal complaint be made against them, because they're already way ahead of the complainant, and probably also the investigator, in their 'bush lawyerly' interpretations of the local rules. Check if the 'standard of proof' required is 'beyond reasonable doubt' or just 'balance of probabilities' and if it's the latter, a bully will press for it to be changed to the much tougher criminal standard of proof, even if this is the only part of the organisation's procedures requiring the tougher standard. Bullies might be thugs, boorish, aggressive over against assertive, but they're usually not entirely stupid when it comes to organisational self-preservation.

In an environment of increasing employment insecurity, with massive and escalating household debt, escalating demands for ever greater efficiencies and productivity, our times are all but perfect for workplace bullies and even psychopaths to practice their dark arts with enormous impunity. Griffith University's Professor David Peetz's work, among that of others, on changing workplaces, drills into the contexts fertile for escalating workplace bullying (eg Brave New Workplace, How Individual Contracts are Changing Our Jobs, Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2006).

Parallel with the workplace changes described by Prof Peetz and others is the significant decline in the role of unions and employee associations. While the ACTU and some affiliate unions have been campaigning on bullying for several years, reported instances of the practice continue to escalate. As far as I am aware - and I beg to be corrected - the journalist's union, the MEAA, does not have an explicit policy, position, or campaign on workplace bullying, unlike the UK National Union of Journalists. The National Tertiary Education Union has made bullying a campaign issue but the practice seems to have become one of far too many University management's staff motivational techniques, alongside incessant professional reviews and organisational restructures.

Alongside Prof Peetz's work, Professor Margaret Thornton's 2004 article, 'Corrosive Leadership (Or Bullying by Another Name): A Corollary of the Corporatised Academy?' superbly describes the situation in Australian universities, and I commend it highly. If our major sites of intellectual leadership and best management practice - all universities teach this stuff! - are corrosively led, as Prof Thornton analyses, what hope for everyday employing organisations, and particularly their staff? Just do a 'find and replace' on her article to replace 'university' with 'your organisation'. But don't get caught at your workplace with a copy of this article, and don't retrieve or distribute it through your employing organisation's computer systems. Same goes for any collector or distributor of that equally subversive critic of the modern workplace, Dilbert.

(It's probable that had a more junior and thence less institutionally powerful or protected academic sought to research, and dared to publish, such a brilliantly excoriating critique of contemporary Australian academic management, suitable revenge would have been exacted against them, probably at their next probation or performance appraisal hearing, thereby, of course, reinforcing Prof Thornton's argument.)

These days, unions are largely consumed with and focused upon responding to the many permanent attacks against their very existence, and organisers visiting workplaces often have far more pressing issues with which to deal than member's complaints about workplace bullying, unless they are especially severe. As in the caring professions, unless a union or a workplace delegate or organiser is explicitly alerted and sensitive to the peculiar dynamics of workplace bullying, and how to properly deal with it, the tormented target may experience the same severe disappointment, and worse, they will probably experience if they dare use their employer organisation's policies and procedures to complain about even severe workplace bullying.

When a target of workplace bullying takes the advice often given by counsellors, and in the popular literature, to walk away, resign, get another job, they can often find the previous employer, or even the bully, uses their industry networks to quietly, and very effectively, put it about that this person is 'a problem' and spread lies about why the former employee left such a truly wonderful organisation. In interviews, prospective employees are often asked, "Why did you leave your previous employer?" It is a guaranteed killer to be truthful and say, "I left because I was monstered by a serial workplace bully". If a Termination and Release agreement was signed, often under duress and while still traumatised, thereby handicapped by impaired judgement, telling the truth about having been monstered by a workplace bully is almost certainly also legally actionable, leading to financial bullying and legal reprisals.

The tragedy is also that, despite policies and procedures in place forbidding workplace bullying which give targets some confidence that their complaints will be treated seriously, often they aren't. Aside from the person in HRM or management to whom a complaint is made being a mate of the bully, or even being a bully themselves, complaint receivers usually do tactical calculations about who could cost the organisation more: the target or the bully. If management calculate that it would cost the organisation more to investigate and discipline the bully than to assist the target, or even do nothing, almost inevitably management will do nothing when a genuine, verified, bullying complaint is made, unless it is simply too severe or outrageous to shelve. It's just too hard, too expensive, to deal with this, so if we ignore it, the nuisance will go away.

Despite policies and procedures in place to deal with workplace bullying, a phenomenon called 'ethical capture' can occur to significantly reduce the real effectiveness of those polices and procedures. While workplace bullying can involve occasional major, and usually continuing, calculated, sub-procedural, needling, harassment and intimidation, should the target seek to use those procedures, they can find themselves enveloped in a cloying net of suddenly oh so ethical requirements for fairness and due process, dragging investigations and usually unlikely redress out interminably, dangling the traumatised complainant in the breeze, in limbo, their complaint unresolved without the decisiveness these kinds of situations demand. The bully can go to ground, find another target, subtly intimidate or ingratiate themselves with potential witnesses. In exasperation, the target can, ill advisedly, seek formal legal protection and redress. The bully has also almost certainly scoped out precisely those procedures, so they know how to circumvent them.

This can also lead to financial bullying. Should a target take legal action against the bully, and against the organisation for failing to actually implement their own policies forbidding the practice, resolution of the matter, rarely, can end up in court, with the entire financial and legal resources of the organisation, and probably an employer association as well, ranged against the target. The point is to protect the organisation at all costs, silence the target, and financially punish them for daring to take the legal route to deal with the intolerable workplace environment. Legal redress can bankrupt the plaintiff, as well as subject them to still more psychological trauma.

Here is one of the parallels I see between whistleblowing and workplace bullying. In many important respects, both phenomena are all about contested power, and what happens to genuine whistleblowers is often identical to what happens to bully targets. In not a few cases, bullying occurs to prevent anybody aware of genuine maladministration or corruption from blowing the whistle about it, or to punish anybody who does. Workplace bullies detest whistleblowers.

Indeed, if the key defining characteristic of a psychopath is a complete lack of a conscience, a total absence of any empathy or ontological identification with 'the other' as a self-constituting self, then it suggests that having a conscience, and allowing one's conscience to inform one's actions in and on the (workplace) world, would attract the malevolent, malignant, and literally evil attentions of the serious workplace bully or even the psychopath, like Dracula seeking out a comely victim. (Readers familiar with the work of M. Scott Peck might find some resonance here.) The literature on whistleblowing strongly suggests the whistleblower has a particularly well developed and active conscience which, some commentators sadly suggest, overwhelms their otherwise good sense of self preservation.

As you come across media stories about workplace bullying or whistleblowing, you'll often see the same kinds of behaviours being repeated in parallel. The evidence produced before, and in the Report of the Inquiry, into Queensland Public Hospitals is just one example of many pointing to redolent, parallel, workplace bullying and harassment of whistleblowers.

Was it absolutely necessary for the bullying reported to that Inquiry to occur for the Bundaberg Hospital to operate efficiently and effectively?

Rather than demonstrating that 'the system' works, the largely successful outcome of the Inquiry, insofar as the key whistleblowers were completely vindicated, and some senior management careers were ruined, this is one of depressingly few examples where 'the forces of light' score at least a partial win. When reading the Report, do so mindful of what was dragged out of several reluctant or evasive witnesses about how they worked assiduiously to keep the 'Dr Death' situation 'in house'.

Even before the metaphorical ink was dry on the Queensland Public Hospitals Inquiry Report, it is virtually certain that workplace bullies in several government departments and well beyond were calculating and planning their moves to get around any new policies and procedures recommended be implemented as part of the major culture change for which the Inquiry called.

Workplace bullying has nothing whatsoever to do with 'tough management', 'employee motivation', 'productivity improvement' and similar nonsense. It's actually an incompetent, dysfunctional manager or supervisor who believes they must resort to crude threats or intimidation to encourage their staff, or who rationalises their behaviour in these ways. It hardly makes sense, if productivity increases are the goal, for workplace bullies, as part of their tormenting of their targets, to withhold needed resources or information, sabotage tasks or projects, or burden their targets with irrelevant, distracting or time consuming demands or trivial tasks, as not a few bullies do.

Indeed, the literature suggests that workplace bullies tend to be threatened by their targets in various ways and to deal with the threat, bullies seek to control, contain, or even remove the threat, all the while getting off on the torment they are causing. The threat can actually be the target's productivity, skills, talent, popularity with peers and even superiors, which, completely inadvertently, shows up the bully's inadequacies. Like whistleblowers, the bully's target may well have a strong conscience which all but drives them to speak and act truthfully because they cannot act in any other way. The target must be put in their place.

We are all variously socialised into assuming and accepting that our superiors, and peers, are pretty much like us. Quite well adjusted, socially competent, and that those exercising domination over us usually have our best interests at heart and in mind. We're allegedly protected by workplace occupational health and safety laws, regulations, and procedures. It can be a deeply disturbing, even shattering, experience to existentially, experientially, realise our collapsing physical and mental health is falling apart precisely because we've been targeted by a workplace bully, or even a workplace psychopath. And our employer, and even our peers, will do nothing to seriously or effectively protect us.

That's why Andrea W. Needham's parallels with workplace bullying and domestic violence are very illuminating, because domestic violence shatters the target's deep senses of personal identity and security at their most intimate levels and in their most personal of spaces.

Maybe a time will come when workplace bullying is at least as well understood and dealt with as domestic violence, though workers in this field will strongly argue there's still an enormous amount to be done on this front; entirely agreed.

Workplace bullying, and particularly any resistance to it, is also different because resistance to it also directly confronts the all but immutable and unchallengeable doctrine of 'Management Prerogative', or the exclusive right of management to manage as they see fit. Courts are extremely reluctant to rule against this doctrine and practice except when Management Prerogative radically contradicts occupational health and safety laws and legal responsibilities, or, more importantly, the fiduciary duties of management. The literature points to the fact that more extreme workplace bullying actually challenges the fiduciary duties of management because of the costs it causes in terms of productivity declines, staff turnovers, and escalating workplace insurance premiums. Whistleblowing also profoundly challenges management prerogative in similar ways.

Dr Clarke, and other writers on workplace psychopaths, suggest that the psychopath genuinely doesn't care about the damage they're doing to their employing organisation - a defining characteristic of a genuine psychopath being their total lack of empathy or remorse - and describe how insidiously clever psychopaths can be at covering their tracks. A workplace psychopath can literally destroy an organisation from the inside, and management can often be the last people to wake up to what's been going on. They usually can't claim they weren't warned in all sorts of ways. If only had they more closely interrogated those rising staff turnover or workplace insurance premiums and claims figures, or actually really listened to the few staff exit interviews their HRM department actually bothered to conduct.

The popular literature on workplace bullying almost inevitably suggests that, once a target has realised that they have been targeted by a workplace bully, or the all but genuinely diabolical as well as extremely rare workplace psychopath - and that can be too long coming in many cases - the best advice is to get the hell out of the place, fast.

Walking away or resigning from the toxic workplace environment might also be even medically indicated, but doing so leaves the bitter taste that one's career has been seriously damaged, that the workplace bully has had a major win, and can confidently go on to find other targets.

Almost all of the popular literature advises resignation as the best strategy to pursue. Obviously, one should have an 'exit strategy' planned, and preferably another job to go to. These days, this can be decidedly problematic, as I have argued above.

If the forgoing is deeply depressing, then I don't apologise for it being so. I've been there and experienced that.

But I've come out the other end, recovered my health and usually acute mental and analytical capacities, and have been able to offer advice to a few targets of workplace bullying which has saved their jobs and careers, and enabled them to recover from almost falling into the pit of despair and torment into which far too many targets of workplace bullying and workplace psychopaths plunge.

The second instalment of this piece will discuss how the potential and actual target of a workplace bully can actively protect themselves and deal with the tormentor, even stopping them in their tracks and decisively outing them. It's all about calculatedly taking their power away from them.


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Winner takes all

Thank you, Mark, for an interesting and timely article. Where I appear to disagree with you, is perhaps in perspective or detail.

Firstly, I would argue that that companies function primarily to create wealth for shareholders is a fallacy, both in practice and in theory. In practice, organisations operate on the basis of power, and benefit those in power, typically the chief executive and few senior managers. In theory, society invented companies, and has given them certain privileges such as limited liability and tax breaks. We control them through legislation and a number of  monitoring bodies to ensure that they meet OUR needs.

Secondly, what you characterize as bullying and psychopathy could also be characterized as competitive behaviour. The term competitive behaviour helps illuminate the pervasiveness of the culture.

Competitive behaviour is useful in a world of limited resources (which it is not any more). It is also easier to engender and motivate people through competition. Furthermore, collaboration requires not only task specific skills, but broader interpersonal skills which are poorly understood and taught.

We live in a world that actively discourages collaboration (I associate the word with Frenchmen who toadied to the Nazis). Collaboration, on the other hand, not only nearly always offers a greater total benefit, but may deliver synergistic, solution such that each person walks away with more than a single competitive winner would have achieved.

I also suspect that, not only are our leadership selection methods geared to those who prefer competition to collaboration (no matter what the ads may say); but that those with collaborative tendencies see little to attract them to either political or corporate leadership. Eastern cultures are not so competitive, and often put their group above personal interest. They nevertheless see their group competing with the wider world.

Your use of Bundaberg as an example intrigued me. I had felt that, in the early days, it was just one pack of bullies being replaced by another. To me, Tony Morris came across as a rather incompetent circus ringleader, strutting his stage and cracking his whip.

I look forward to reading your second article.

Lies, damn lies and Howardistics.

Generally in the Electorate of Eden-Monaro, there is an obvious absence of full-time employment in many areas. 

This concerned me so that I tried to discover whether the employment figures of the Howard "New Order" would inform the public how the "average" does not necessarily convey the true picture.

I am of the firm belief that the three major figures in this debate should be disclosed at the same time as are the claims of low unemployment.

They are: Unemployed; Employed and Underemployed.

The latter, Underemployed can skew the big picture in that it concerns "underutilisation" of Labour.

The ABS pattern describes "POPULATION" and sub headings of "IN THE LABOUR FORCE" and "NOT IN THE LABOUR FORCE".

In the "Labour Force" is "Employed and Unemployed".

"Employed" is further separated as "Fully Employed and Underemployed" - but then "Not in the Labour Force" is equally separated as "Hidden unemployed" and "Not hidden unemployed".

I am sure that the Howard government won't break a leg declaring how many are "hidden unemployed" so I will try to discover that with my limited knowledge of the Internet.

However, it is worthwhile knowing that according to the ABS graph, Figure 2, the UNEMPLOYED AND UNDEREMPLOYED are about equal in 2002, which apparently was the last time it was mapped.

This showed them both around 6%.

I wonder, if it was done again, would the "underemployed" be well in excess of the "unemployed"?

Can anyone provide me with a website where I may obtain that information?

Cracks in "New Order" scams?

Using the criteria of the Howard government, I have hypothesized that IF every registered Australian worker worked just one hour during the reference week - shazam - no unemployed at all!!!

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' media release dated 26 February 2006 stated: "Over half a million Australian workers are underemployed".

It stated: "Just over half a million (544,600) workers were ready and willing to work more hours in September 2006...".

"Most part-time workers did not want to work additional hours and so were not classed as underemployed - 2.3 million of the 2.9 million part-time workers (80%) would not prefer to work more hours."

So, when we look at "underemployed" this does NOT include the 2.3 million who do not, or can not, work more hours. These are mainly women who would obviously have other commitments with home and children, exacerbated by the Howard government's "blind eye" to their plight.  

And remember when Treasurer Costello wanted our women to produce "one child for the Mother, one for the Father and one for Australia"!  Fair dinkum. Shades of China.

The article also states: "The underemployment rate (the number of underemployed workers expressed as a percentage of the labour force) was 5.0% at September 2006.   When combined with an unemployment rate of 4.8% for the same period, this gives a labour force underutilisation rate of 9.8%." [Emphasis added]

AND: "Women make up 57% of all underemployed workers."

And: "More than (57% or 274,600) of underemployed part-time workers were looking for work with more hours."

"The most commonly reported main difficulty in finding more work was 'no vacancies in line of work' (20%). Other commonly reported difficulties included 'unsuitable hours' (10%) and 'no vacancies at all' (9%)."

To encapsulate, it appears to me that there are five major "employment" stats.

They could be:  The register of the Labour Force; the Employed; the Underemployed who want more work; Underemployed who cannot or do not want more work (2.3 million and not counted as unemployed or underemployed) and the resultant Unemployed.

The inference of "bludgers" by the millionaire "Jolly Joe" Hockey in his address to the National Press Club that the 2.3 million on welfare was a disgrace, looks as silly as most of his remarks of late.  But then Malcolm Fraser won an election on the false claim of 2% of the work force were dole bludgers when it was really 2% of the welfare numbers.

I ask this question of the "New Order".

Would the 2.3 million of Hockey's "workers on welfare" include; Indigenous people: the mentally or physically disabled: the aged pensioners and the service pensioners?

There is lies, damn lies and Howardistics.


Cracks and Labor Scams

Ernest William, what about the cracks appearing in "millionaire Rudd's" Labor Party, who knows what the media will dig up about this mob. It appears that they are rotten from the bottom up. Now we find out that Rudd's account of the "family farm" are figments of his imagination, then of course we know his memory is not that crash hot (his meeting with Burke) a prime example. Now he appoints Sen. Ludwig to a top job, for goodness sake this mans claim to fame was that he was once a lawyer for a union, didn't these people ever hold proper jobs. Just another incompetent hack being rewarded.

NT specialists

Hi Albie, you too mate. Happened to me in Darwin, 7 years ago. But then again the NT Government is a cess pool of bullies, no talents all clamouring for attention.

I got moved to Brisbane as a result and spent over 6 years isolating at home in deep depression. Just come out of it, it was bloody close.

All sympathy mate. Good you got out in time, I stayed too long in the dumb hope that legislation would look after staff. It does except when certain key people turn their backs. Ombudsman for one, refused to even see me.

Trouble with these workplace bullies is everyone is afraid of them. Same old story.


Enough 2 Party barracking.

Workplace Bullies...

Been the target of several vocational Nazis. RAAF Base Darwin MEOM's (2001 - 2002) as an APS Member - subjected to Character Assassination by Key Expected Results aka: Plans on A Page from the manager. Results...2 weeks of 'epistaxis'  (uncontrolled nosebleeds) lost weight dramatically, no sleep, no redress of wrongs, RAAF members involved were 'ordered' not to attend the group mediation sessions organised through EAS Counselling.

Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office said: "Not our brief..."

Wrote out a letter of resignation that night when my son came back from a school holidays southern states visit to rellies and saw me...saying: "Hey Dad you look like sh*t ...!"

No job is worth your life or family....

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