Workplace Bullying: recognising & surviving it

Workplace Bullying: recognising & surviving it

Story about Caroline Dean (prison worker at Risdon Prison in Hobart, Tasmania):
– culture of bullying
– sustained intimidation
– she received more than just harsh words/disrespect from colleagues
– she developed mental health issues
– she became hyper-vigilant to threat
– discusses prison culture & one prison system in Tasmania
– the rehabilitation work she did was not respected by other staff (& was met with hostility) who were more focused upon ongoing punishment of prisoners (who were often referred to as “scum”) NOT rehabilitation
– she notes how “freeing” journaling is for prisoners to find out things about themselves in a non-confrontational/threatening way
– the workplace was “command & control” & operated on instilling fear
Other ways bullying was manifested to her:
– snide comments made to her
– being talked about indirectly while present (veiled threat-like behaviour / intimidation – for e.g. That they planned to do a strip-search) & said in a public forumn
– surveillance of her after hours via security cameras (a system in place for prison security, but which had been abused due to a lack of checks & balances)
– accusations /official complaints made about her – trafficking in contraband & stealing prison plans
– watched closely
– being not allowed to bring in equipment without it being checked at security
– she was let known that she was not trusted by the majority of management
– she was isolated/singled out – nothing she did was ever right & was always criticised
– she was told she could not come in
– she was referred to in the parliament of Tasmania

She sought psychological therapy subsequently:
– she learnt that she had disrupted a system which had become “normalised”
– this helped her realise that the behaviour directed towards her was “not personal”, but rather institutional bullying
– she talked about her behaviours – such as being assertive & asking questions – she realised this was not warranted & not her fault
– she learned her fears were irrational, & note hypervigilance, fearfulness & paranoia
– she learnt about her communication style & how it may inadvertently impact on others
– she was angry about the unfairness of her treatment
– helped her to gain perspective
– she got active & became a lobbyist/activist for anti-bullying, as well as learnt as much as she could about bullying
– she notes sleep & diet problems (eating a lot of take-out) eroded her Wellbeing & resilience
– her focus is on respect & workplace behaviour policies outlining expectations for respectful behaviour/communication
– bullying is different to conflict (put-down, degrading, humiliating, high-level of sick leave)
– she notes people”game” the system regarding bullying & lodge malicious complaints
– managers have a huge role in setting the tone & role-modelling in a workplace
– often managers are unaware of their inter-personal effects, because they have often been promoted on the basis of technical skills

She now offers corporate training regarding bullying within organisations

She also did a TED Talk about her personal experience of bullying

Source: ABC Conversations | podcast date: 15 June 2017


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