Beano attitude betrays bullied

27th August 2004 at 01:00
Dennis Hayes' article: "Being bullied? Just grow up!" (FE Focus, August 13) showed a complete lack of understanding.

Bullying at school, in the home, at work or anywhere else is a very real and disturbing experience. It can seriously damage people's mental and physical health and has led to the suicide of both school children and workers.

That Mr Hayes did not have the foresight to include bullying in his survey of workplace attitudes in the mid-nineties betrays his own myopia about the effect of abusive workplace behaviour on individuals and productivity.

There has been increasing awareness of the effects of bullying and other types of abuse. When sexual harassment in the workplace was first identified as unacceptable, there were commentators quick to pour scorn on unions and others, accusing them of indulging workers, who should "toughen up". Now, none but the most primitive would deny that harassment policies provide protection against unacceptable behaviour and improve working lives and workplace culture.

Dr Hayes employs his own "amateur psychology" to suggest that the rise in consciousness about workplace bullying in FE emanates from problems in the sector. That does not explain why the subject is now well-researched across organisations and worldwide. Surveys carried out by the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, by the TUC, and by Staffordshire university on behalf of Unison have all found bullying to be a serious problem at work.

The Health and Safety Executive acknowledges bullying at work as a major cause of stress. In its draft standards for managing work stress, it says that organisations should have policies and procedures to prevent and deal with unacceptable behaviour, including bullying.

Whether Dr Hayes likes it or not, managers have a duty of care and must treat their colleagues with respect or face due process of the law. Dr Hayes has a strange concept of maturity if he believes that managers should be allowed to shout and relieve their own stress on others. His comments are frankly outrageous and offensive to those scarred by bullying. One wonders if he is still reading The Beano and if he is the one who needs to "get a grip" and accept that among the childish things we need to put away are workplace relations based on the school playground.

Christine Lewis National Officer Unison

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