Managerial mobbing and the perversion of human resources

Last week I had lunch with a group of public servants and some of what was said was very disturbing. The topic of conversation centred on their experiences of managerial mobbing.


The dynamic appears to be this:


Employees are labelled 'cases' for human resources staff to deal with.


This labelling can take place for reasons ranging from asking critical questions. For example, questioning processes. Through to seeking to protect themselves from bullying and, indeed, using the formal whistleblowing provisions of the Public Service Act (1999).


Another element of managerial mobbing is that the people who are targeted in this way are often creative, thoughtful and less process driven than those who manage them. That is not to say that have a flagrant disregard for due process by the way.


Either way they are placed on the 'HR' treadmill at the behest of management. What I am also hearing is that people are formally directed to visit medical practitioners - even psychiatrists. I hear little about managerial bullying being actually addressed.


Effectively, employees are labelled, isolated and ground down.


The use of psychiatrists raises serious questions. As pointed out by Workplace lawyer Susan Moriarty in 2004


Every one of her clients who was compelled to undergo a psychiatric assessment had previously made a complaint about working conditions. "That's why I have formed the view it is being used in a retaliatory manner," Dr Moriarty said. "It's in the Russian tradition of maligning dissidents."


Source: Psych tests dished out as punishment


I found an interesting document from 2005 showing the Australian Public Service Commissions' answers to questions on notice. The topic was whistleblowing. One of the more interesting answers was,


The whistleblowing scheme in the APS is based on the expectation that in most cases reports will be dealt with by the relevant agency. The Commission does not monitor those reports, but collects statistical information from agencies, which is reported in the annual State of the Service Report.


Now here we are in 2012 and clearly the same regime applies. I am increasingly of the view that what has evolved within some APS agencies is an intricate system that 'shoots the messenger' and that this practice, this abuse, is masked by a complex human resources regime that reflects the ugly managerial regime characteristic of some agencies.


This complex regime effectively protects not only those who bully and mob. It also serves to protect the ugly managerial culture that pervades some agencies. This regime comes at a cost to individuals, families and, ultimately, the taxpayer.


The ugly managerial culture has effectively perverted key aspects of the human resource function and it has now, itself, become a source of abuse.


The key way to deal with this problem is to expose and challenge this regime. In my view that means connecting people so that we can make the scrutiny of such practices open and social. And that is precisely what myself and my colleagues are working on.

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Comment by Darron Passlow on May 17, 2012 at 8:05pm

Serene and Steve

I can put you in touch with people at the local government area who can explain their approach and the raison détre. I am subject to the very good processes and procedures and the compulsary staff training and education.

I think it is a global push at LG level and it is working. A few heads have been lopped (at high levels) but boy does this make the point!

I am sure people in local government, who have put this together would be willing to talk about it. I will get you some names.

On NSW Health, as a starter have a look at their "Bullying Policy on their web site.

It looks great and addresses all the issues.

BUT no one in NSW Health particularly the HR people (who quickly get involved) follow any of the guidelines or policy. They immediately set up a brick wall between the offended and the offendee(s), close ranks (mobbing) and refuse to acknowledge any correspondence, refuse to follow their own guidelines/policy, put up a brick wall (even to the extent of telling other staff not to coomunicate - threat - with the complainant) even when the claimant has a legitimate claim.

The situation does not change even when the investigation is carried out and found to be a valid "bullying" claim.Solicitors have advise that this is standard practice and they are such a huge organisation they know they can out-wit the general, small, employee! So don't expect ATO to understand your situation and react morally or ethicallay. It will not happen with a huge AXE falling on everyone at a top level who has been involved or condoned tha actions against you.

Serene, I will be in touch.

Keep up the fight and I will support you as far as I can. I am now, after 8 months of fighting, in a fighting mood.

It is ashame it has to get to this but sensible, rational discussion does not seem to work..


Comment by steve davies on May 17, 2012 at 8:15am

Hi Darron

Thanks muchly my friend. It would be fantastic if you could forward me some info on how LG is handling bullying and mobbing so that we scan showcase it on OZloop etc. Please send what you can to

Bullying and mobbing have no place in the Australian Public Service. More than that it has no place in a lead agency like the Taxation Office and should not be a design feature of corporate management.

They have institutionalised practices such as this and, quite frankly, the leadership of the Taxation Office should be ashamed of themselves.

Ultimately, this abuse costs the taxpayer.

Some of what they haste done and entertained are not only contrary to community values they are contrary to the democratic values we all hold dear.



Comment by Darron Passlow on May 16, 2012 at 8:55pm


I need to add that these poor practices and particularly bullying are being addressed very aggressively in the local government area. This is where I currently spend a lot of my time and the practices, processes and staff education are stamping out these practices in LG.

There are good case studies to be had here and perghaps LG could drive changes in other spheres. They are passionate about stamping out all forms of bullying. It is not tolerated and if proven there are no second chances.

Once people realise this it is amazing hopw quickly thier attitudes change.



Comment by Darron Passlow on May 16, 2012 at 8:51pm

I am following this issue with strong personal interest.

I am now very familiar with the process used as it is not only used in the Australian Public Service. My experience comes through a family member who suffered bullying and mobbing" from within the NSW Health department. Her case was exactly handled like the one you highlighted recently.

Something needs to be done at all levels of government to ensure these practices are eliminated. Ït seems to me that they must compare notes on "poor practice".You have my full attention. I have alread signed your petition at AVAAZ and will continue to support you and your efforts in this matter. Regards

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