“It’s time to start standing up to the bullies”

British journalist Jackie Ashley, writing for the Guardian newspaper (link here), warns about the dangers of “big-man, celebrity politics” and urges us to stand up to the bullies in our society.

Bullying silences dissent and dialogue

Ashley draws from British politician Alistair Dowling’s newly-published political memoir, Back from the Brink (2011), to examine the sycophantic behaviors of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet members. As I wrote last year, Brown is said to be quite the workplace bully. Ashley reports that he apparently intimidated his top lieutenants to the point where they simply went along with all his directives, instead of engaging in exchanges that “produce better decisions and help avoid worse mistakes.”

This problem reaches way beyond the politics of a single Prime Minister, and it extends into the business world as well. Ashley observes:

The people who rise to the top tend to be the scary bullies. They’re the ones with personalities so large, and self-belief so shocking, that people around them shrivel and go quiet. They promote yes-men and yes-women. Their mistakes are unchallenged.

The smarter approach, she suggests, would be “to concentrate on the merits of the arguments, and welcome the fact of the discussion.”

Sound familiar?

Ashley closes with a call to action, directed at fellow Brits:

A culture of big-man, celebrity politics, riding on the back of short-term, high-risk celebrity banking, came crashing down between 2008 and 2010, the years at the heart of Darling’s self-critical account. As a result we are in a darker, more worrying place: in politics and in business, it’s time to start standing up to the bullies.

Wise advice for those of us across the pond, as well.

6 responses

  1. I stood up to the bully’s in the company I worked for. That made it worse management recorded on paper false accusations against me, I left on vacation, the company filed papers with the labor department on the 15th. I came back on the 27th and found to be accused of a safety violation i knew nothing about, I was sent home while an investigation was done, the next day I signed a statement that the accusation did not occur. They filed the papers with the labor board on the 15th knowingly falsifying their information. Who pays for it because there aren;t concequences or laws in place. I’m angry. I worked hard and did honest work. I was terminated because the company lied falsified their accusations. That has made me sick to my stomach

    • June, I am sorry to hear about your story. Your situation is a sad example of how confronting these folks individually often can lead to bad results. Unfortunately, there are a lot of self-appointed experts on workplace bullying who are urging people to confront their bullies, but those in the know are aware of how counterproductive that advice can be. Instead, we need to stand up to the abuse and the abusers as a society, and I think that’s what the author is getting at in her opinion piece.

    • June I had a similar experience of false accusations with really ugly consequences. The key is educating the workforce and supporting each other. If someone is bullied and coworkers stand up for them or even give them support in secret it decreases the traumatic effects. This is why unions are so important. You now understand workplace bullying and will have an influence wherever you go. Those who are workplace bullied are generally the best most experienced and educated employees. I hope you find a fabulous job.

      • I, too, believe that unions potentially are a big part of the solution. Unfortunately, bad unions often bully. We shouldn’t be surprised: Abusive organizations come in all different varieties. Still, it’s very disappointing and distressing when a union is the abuser.

  2. I just read this blog. I experience work place bullying about a year ago and the small business owner I worked for projected the company as belonging to a union. Sadly, found out it was not true, never belonged to a union. I believe in unions and what they are intended to stand for. Without laws in place to protect against work place bullying, I believe there is no where to go to fight back and therefore, a union is the best solution. As with anything in life, there is always good and bad with anything. If you are interested in reading my blog, the last one about the union situation, http://bulliedatworknetwork.blogspot.com/

    I am going to add your blog to my blog site, very informative information to pass along to readers.



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