How to beat the bullies

7th March 1997 at 00:00
Grown-ups can suffer bullying too. Mark Whitehead reports on a book that gets to the root of the problem

Many schools now have an anti-bullying policy and children are no longer simply told to stand up for themselves and give as good as they get. But for adults, judging by the reports of anti-bullying organisations, a similar sea-change is slow in coming.

A newly-published book on bullying, Bully in Sight, by Tim Field, will be eagerly read by all those who have waited for an update on the pioneering 1992 work Bullying at Work: How to Confront and Overcome it, by the late Andrea Adams.

Mr Field, who claims himself to have been a victim of workplace bullying, has become something of an expert in the subject.

Bully in Sight, published by Mr Field's consultancy, Success Unlimited, expands on the psychological approach that says bullies are typically people put into positions of power but conscious of their own inadequacies. The bully, explains Mr Field, feels threatened by subordinates and lacks the social skills to deal with the situation. "The bully," he says, "seeks to increase his confidence not by raising his own but by bringing the other person's down to below his, so that, in relative terms, he can feel good about himself."

Pressure at work brought on by an increasingly competitive business and political climate - and in schools, the advent of open enrolment and local management - has created fertile ground for the bully. With cuts in train-ing budgets, it cannot be surprising that bodies campaigning against bullying at work report a steady increase in the number of calls for help.

Mr Field explains at length the difference between strong management and bullying. How do you tell the difference between a manager with drive, ambition and a powerful sense of self, and a bully? In reality bullying, like most human behaviour, is open to interpretation. How you see it depends who you are.

Following a study of children aged seven to ten in three London schools, one eminent psychologist recently said bullies could grow up to become leaders of major companies because they have the qualities necessary for "tough management".

A victim quoted by Mr Field says: "After several months of uninterrupted bullying, I was a quivering wreck, unable to eat, unable to sleep, terrified of going to work - and all because of one individual, unfit to be allowed out on his own, let alone be in a position of management." But a senior manager at the same company says: "We don'thave bullying here. It's not a problem."

Bully in Sight discusses such issues at length and provides practical advice for those who consider themselves victims. But in trying to do both, over more than 350 pages, it may prove much to digest for someone in a state of high stress.

And Mr Field is clearly still angry over his own experiences. Those who sympathise with the victims of workplace bullying will find their own views comprehensively confirmed. But it is the likes of the senior manager, who simply denies that adult bullying exists, who need convincing.

Bully in Sight by Tim Field. Send a postal order for Pounds 13.15 or cheque made payable to Success Unlimited to PO Box 77, Wantage, Oxon OX12 8YD

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