Wednesday, 7 February 2018


Yesterday I was witness to an in-depth debate about the increase in bullying behaviour.

The first thing confirmed is there is actually an increase, including places of work, education, arts, sports and in the home.

I make this point because it is often said there is no actual increase, it just appears to be the case because there are more avenues for reporting such behaviour.

Sadly, it appears the reasons bullying behaviours may have not been reported 50 or more years ago, are still in play today. Fears of discrimination, increased bullying and recrimination are still cited as reasons for not calling out bullies.

The debate conducted was reasoned, calm and respectful and several of the key issues put forward are articulated below:

1.       Our addiction to reality television

There are numerous programs highlighting conflict, abuse of others and it is not too much to suggest this is manipulated by casting and editing.

Millions of people plan their day around being available to witness the latest bullying behaviour be it while ruling the kitchen, between housewives from wherever or at a dinner party attended by  groups of “pretend” married couples.
We even have groups of Women living for weeks, months even all under the same roof competing for the affection of one Man where the ability to intimidate a competitor may mean the difference to winning or not. (and groups of Men seeking the affection of a sole Woman)

Many of these programs are watched as family events.

I watch none of them however I do see a promotion for one or more from time to time. Virtually every promotion shows clips of the worst, nastiest and most bullying behaviour.

Is our addiction to such programs re-programming what we consider to be acceptable behaviour?

Are we lowering the bar and becoming desensitised to what is and is not ok?

Is it ridiculous to think that our exposure to such behaviours will not carry over to the rest of our life activities and relationships?

2.       Our Politicians

I am old enough to remember when Parliamentary debate was just that, a debate about ideas and ideology.

I can recall when our Politicians promoted ideas and argued the legitimacy of their ideas and what they wanted to do.

Now they abuse, criticise, sectionalise, denigrate and threaten each other. This is all sides and corners of the political spectrum.

There are many hard working, effective and committed local members that do not receive the coverage and exposure they deserve. Their decency goes unrewarded in terms of publicity.

3.       Our Risk Adverse Work Places

I had never considered this as a factor until it was raised by one of the debate participants.

In all workplaces, there is an ever increasing emphasis on managing risk and compliance, over above just about all else. There are examples of terrible client/customer outcomes that are excused on the basis of a complying process being followed.

This culture shuts down innovation and the willingness to express new ideas and opinions.

This growing trend has allowed an increase in the Command and Control behaviours of supervisors who are themselves under Command and Control pressure from above to ensure compliance.

It is possible poor, or bullying behaviours are camouflaged under the banner of “risk management”, “mistake avoidance” and “compliance”.

Further, a key part of risk management is an increasing need to adhere strictly to pre-determined and ever-expanding policies and procedures. By definition, strict procedures stifle thought and creativity while providing a vehicle for Command and Control.

I have certainly been witness to increased process and perhaps restricting procedures. Further, I have played a part in their design and implementation.

Perhaps one difference between Management and Leadership is how process and procedure is implemented. A Manager may be inclined to Command adherence while a Leader will seek buy in following communication, explanation while providing an environment allowing for challenge and feedback.

Both approaches will work, but perhaps one has a more positive outcome.

4.       Social Media

Any discussion about bullying and behaviours will include Social Media and this was discussed at length, including the age children should have access to the various incarnations of Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat etc etc.

I will refrain from re-cycling the varied and at time complex discussion about this topic and will instead express an alternative opinion.

The way we as a society behave on Social Media is a refection of our personal standards and of community standards. The influences we are consciously and sub-consciously exposed to will dictate our behaviours and our standards.

Rather than blaming the platforms themselves for poor or bullying behaviour, we should first address what is driving the belief such behaviours are acceptable.

For example, the behaviours exhibited by those portrayed in reality television, by our politicians and even our workplaces may be being replicated on Social Media, be it under a cloak of physical separation.

Food for thought

No comments: