Parliament setting a bad example for bullies

Federal Parliament demonstrates "classic bullying behaviour". Photo: iStock.

By Adam Coleman

Federal Parliament is exacerbating the problem of workplace bullying by setting an appalling example to public sector managers and CEOs, according to academics.
Professor and Consultant in Organisational Behaviour and Development at Monash University, Charmine Hartel, told GovernmentNews that Parliament Question Time, of which segments are broadcast daily on free-to-air,  illustrated how bullying had become an accepted part of working culture in the public sector.

“Look at the behaviour on the floor. Look at the way they treat each other. Basically that is bullying behaviour institutionalised," Hartel said.

“Everyone that sees that believes that is acceptable. It is classic bullying behaviour. Why would anybody in the public service think that sort of behavior is unacceptable, when it is what the leaders at the very top demonstrate on a daily basis?”

Wollongong University’s Academic Senate Chair, Diana Kelly said that she had heard anecdotal evidence that bullying within local government was rife.
“I was speaking with someone recently who was saying that in some local governments the bullying is totally endemic and that managers use it to frighten staff," she said.

Research by the Victorian Government of 14,000 public sector workers found that more than one in five had been bullied or harassed by colleagues or managers over the course of one year.

The Victorian State Services Authority survey also found a further 40 per cent had witnessed others being abused.

“A fish rots from the head,” said Kelly. “It was that notion that if there was discrimination it was because it occurred from the top down. All the evidence with harassment is that it is led from the top.
"Not necessarily overtly led but if the CEO has a strong view against harassment then it won’t occur.”

Kelly said there needed to be stronger guidelines to prevent workplace bullying, including more education for public sector managers. But managers also needed to know that there would be serious consequences. 

“You have to ask ‘What value does the policy have? What happens if you don’t follow them?’ If it’s just ‘you will be called a naughty boy’, then people will ignore it,” she said.

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