Opening up about workplace bullying
Posted at 2:13pm Wednesday 07 Jun, 2017 | By Max Christoffersen
Workplace bullying, it's the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.
Well, Tauranga man Max Christoffersen is.
Max writes, I'd like to tell you a story.
It's a story about psychopathic work-place behaviour.
It details how people can be destroyed by systematic workplace intimidation.
It is about how employers will protect their own interests ahead of the well-being of their staff.
It is about the way people are employed because they intimidate and how they continue to remain employed and in power because the practise of harassment is perceived to be the new vogue of management style and popular culture.
I'd like to tell you this story. But I can't. I am among the walking muted.
The people at the heart of this story are silenced. They have been paid off to keep quiet.
It is all part of the emerging New Zealand silent class. These people have won cases against employers, but as part of their settlement, they are gagged.
There is an emerging culture of paid off silence across the country. Journalists can't detail the stories as few will risk whatever outcome they have worked to achieve, by going public with their own story.
For most, the settlement will be the only positive to emerge from the damage inflicted at their place of work.
They are required to shut up because the truth is damaging. They are shut down because employers do not want the public knowing the truth. Councils, universities, hospitals and others want to protect their image and will manipulate settlements in a bid to mask the true level of workplace turnover.
Ratepayers and taxpayers are not to be told what is really going on.
Today these silent New Zealanders walk our streets with knowledge and experience that can not, and will not be shared. Yet, the very experience they have if shared publicly, may offer solutions to the workplace violence which has been described as nearing epidemic proportions.
Psychopathic workplace intimidation, (I refuse to use the word ‘bullying' as I feel it belittles the violent reality of what happens at work), is real. The damage is long lasting and for some staff it is the workplace equivalent of post traumatic stress disorder.
You don't need a mortar shell to go off to bring you close to break down. A dedicated workplace psychopath can do it all, just more slowly and deliberately.
Many reading this column will know of the creep of fear that occurs at weekends when they have to face the Monday morning dread, still days away.
PWI is widespread across New Zealand working life. It is planned, malicious, vicious and designed to belittle and disempower. It is always a power game and one that is often disguised in language and conduct designed to mirror the appearance of successful management culture.
To those who observe from afar, PWI is a near relative of obsessive compulsive disorder. But it's a professional affliction that is approved by HR departments who value the ability some managers have to destroy the professional confidence, ability and self-esteem of those around them.
Those who are skilled with the weapons of PWI appear to be the ones who are promoted up the corporate ladder and often times intimidate the most capable staff members to eliminate perceived workplace competition.
In higher education, the health sector, central government/councils and private practice those with the track record of intimidation, exploitation and unjustified track records of premature staff departures are those who go far. Such conduct is rewarded, encouraged and endorsed.
We welcome the popularity of intimidatory violent conduct into our homes and lives when Gordon Ramsey the chef who abuses staff for ratings is on TV. Other reality TV programmes from Survivor to My Kitchen Rules to The Bachelor include public put downs, conniving closed-door conduct, exclusion tactics, backstabbing and humiliation as a routine part of entertainment.
Popular culture has made its way to the workplace where identical tactics of humiliation and intimidation are seen as the new wave of management.
Alongside the emergence of workplace bullying has been the growth of a side industry; a lucrative business of independent consultants helping people making claims of work place intimidation and violence. These consultants are the New Zealand equivalent of ambulance chasing lawyers.
And that is not to say they don't have a job to do. They do, but when money changes hands from employer to independent employment consultant, the relationship is business and it immediately stops being independent. Those who pay – say.
And those consulting companies that want future work advising employers on their work-place intimidation practises are unlikely to get future work if they are constantly found to be siding with employees taking employers to task.
The Labour Department needs to treat the issue seriously and become the arbiter of workplace issues where intimation and violence is used against staff. It is a workplace hazard and it needs the same independent governance and oversight as any other issue. The conflict of interest between paid employment consultant and employers must be removed.
And so Tauranga, this all leads to your door; stop the silence.
As a ratepayer I am a shareholder in the city's business and I want to know what is happening with workplace intimidation and harassment and paid off exiting employees. Let them speak.
Please, sit down…and let me tell you a story.