The second day of the 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying & Harassment in Cardiff, Wales, was an exhausting, exhilarating day for many of the conference delegates. It started with a keynote address by yours truly on workplace bullying and the law at 9 a.m., and ended with the conference dinner that finished up at around 11 p.m.
I’m a bit too tired even to try to summarize the many great presentations I heard, but let me highlight two of them:
Bullied out of the Army
In a compelling session on whistleblowing and bullying, retired Irish Army captain Tom Clonan shared with us the disturbing story of how he was retaliated against after submitting a report to his superiors about extensive levels of bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault directed at female soldiers by their male colleagues. Tom had done the report as part of his doctoral research. As a result of this research project, he was subjected to an ongoing campaign of ostracizing by fellow officers and publicly accused by the military of fabricating his study.
It took an inquiry by the Irish Minister for Defence and Tom’s own libel suit against the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff for the Irish Defence Forces (eventually settled) to vindicate his name. Nevertheless, his military career — until these events on an upward trajectory — was in shambles. He now is the Security Analyst for The Irish Times and a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology School of Media.
What a loss for the Irish Army. This principled, understated man sought to do nothing more than to bring to his superiors’ attention a set of horrible conditions facing female soldiers that by any measure should be deemed unacceptable. For doing this, he basically was bullied out of his military career.
Imagine being the closing speaker at a conference dinner that already has run nearly four hours. That was the unenviable task for lawyer Eleanor Williams, Head of Legal and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in Wales. And yet, by the end of her brief, witty, poignant, and lyrical remarks, she had brilliantly won over a tired crowd.
Her theme was confidence, and she took us through a short historical tour of how famous Welsh denizens had succeeded because of a spirit of risk taking. It wasn’t altogether clear where she was taking us, until — boom — she hit us with the closing: Workplace bullies, who often lack confidence themselves, rob others of their confidence. The message to conference delegates was that our work can help to restore the confidence of bullying targets and lead them to reclaim their right to pursue great things with their lives.
I wish I could summarize Eleanor’s talk with the elegance with which she delivered it, but I won’t even try.
After their respective talks, I had a chance to chat with both Tom Clonan and Eleanor Williams. It’s gratifying to be able to report that not only are they compelling speakers with something important to share, but also they are darn good folks. The character and authenticity they exhibited during their remarks came across just as easily on a one-to-one basis.
I could go on and on, but we start up again at 9 a.m. sharp. However, I did want to share with readers these two moments from today’s proceedings, among the many that deserve mention.
Short report on Day 3 of the Conference
Short report on Day 1 of the Conference