30 August 2015


Great piece by an acquaintance who works at a respected institution which has had several bullying cases lately.

Note the lack of black and white.

I am intrigued by the proposed solution: a very 21st century solution!

I think that this kind of dynamic is well understood by people who understand bullying, and institutional failures to deal with it. It certainly was to the wife of the victim, who works for a worker's compensation insurance organisation. She indicates that she sees a lot of such cases. 
I have no idea how widespread the bullying culture is. We have a new director at the site, and since he removed one particular individual, as I said, the place is much less conflicted. I think that there is less a culture of bullying as a culture of allowing bullies to get away with it. Subordinates are too afraid to speak up, peers consider it not their business to criticise someone else's "management style", superiors get a very one sided story for a long time unless they make an effort to investigate - have to work with the perpetrators, are busy, put off making difficult decisions. Bullies often see themselves as simply political realists who play hardball office politics. Groups who isolate and bully (mob) individuals see themselves as just getting on with the job and developing a consensus team position, while victims see a conspiracy to exclude them from important discussions. Groups who mob often genuinely see the victim as a waste of organisational resources who aren't making an important contribution, and that they are merely enforcing socially approved norms, while victims see a co-ordinated effort to undermine their professional goals.
I think that a major contributing factor is the perception that if there is a conflict, and one group of people has acted in a way that seems reasonable, the people that they are in conflict with must be behaving unreasonably and so should be punished. In this way its very easy to spread conflict among a group. This is, of course, one reasonably good reason that other people don't want to "get involved" or "take sides" - which is identical behaviour to "walking past victimisation".
We could design around this sort of problem, I think, if we had organisational structures that were more flexible, for example if there was more opportunity for staff members to move in different groups and choose who their managers were.


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