Express Exchange Engage
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."
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.