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Bullying – Ms Pratt should have kept her mouth shut

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

In the UK, extensive media coverage has been given to the allegations of bullying in Gordon Brown’s office. These allegations were disclosed by Christine Pratt, the founder of the National Bullying Helpline.

I know what it’s like to be bullied. I was recently forced to leave my job in the public sector due to bullying and I still have the psychological scars of my experience.

People who ring the bullying helpline assume they are speaking to someone in confidence. By breaking that confidence, Ms Pratt has placed those people in a difficult position. If there really is a bullying culture in Mr Brown’s office, his office will track down the source of those calls and those employees will suffer reprisals for ‘bringing their employer into disrepute’ – because that’s how it works in a bullying culture.  In an environment where bullying is prevalent, bullying is the elephant in the room that everyone pretends not to see and woe betides the person who points out the elephant.

Christine Pratt, who claims to have been bullied in the past, should have known better than to pull a stunt like this. But then, her latest antics will come as no surprise to those who are already familiar with the questionable tactics she uses to drive business from the helpline to HR & Diversity Management, her commercial interest.

I think Christine Pratt shot herself in the foot with this one. Who would want to ring the bullying helpline now?

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Toxic Management: PIMM (Part 2 of 2)

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Click here for Part 1

Dealing with a PIMM is like being put in a cage in the zoo with a wild animal.  It is an environment that is not suitable for most humans. On a professional level, PIMMs waste so much of your time with their useless or harmful requests for paperwork, meetings and overcontrolling that there isn’t much time left in the working day to do some real work.

There is no room left for advancement of the subordinates, as the micro-manager-boss does not relinquish any authority.  He delegates tasks but not responsibility.  This causes resentment among employees.  Subordinates start showing a lack of interest in work, creativity diminishes, staff morale plummets, sickness absences increase and the end result is low productivity.

PIMMs can

  • cause you dangerously high levels of stress
  • drive you insane
  • make you obsess about the problems even when you are with friends and family to the point that your friends and family start avoiding you
  • inhibit your ability to do your job
  • can make your working life hell

The PIMM is a special type of corporate psychopath and does not understand remorse so don’t think that confronting the PIMM will solve the problem. Don’t try to be a hero or you might find yourself unemployed or in a more unpleasant situation at work. If the PIMM perceives you to be a threat, he/she will take steps to have you punished or dismissed in order to regain full control.

If you are unfortunate to report to a PIMM, the safest course of action is to start looking for another job but make sure you do it as an undercover mission. Continue to comply with the PIMM’s demands while secretly looking for another job. You don’t want the PIMM to even suspect that you are looking for another job because some PIMMs will do what it takes to keep good workers, even resorting to sabotage. The PIMM relies on you and your co-workers to do all the work which makes the PIMM look competent.  Do you think the PIMM will let good workers go that easily? Whatever you do, try to find a new job before the  PIMM excessively monitors you into insanity or worse, into an early grave.

Credit goes to softpanorama for most of the information here.  Softpanorama has a wealth of information on all types of toxic management.

Toxic management: PIMM (Part 1 of 2)

January 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Do you find that you are always very busy at work but don’t actually do much ‘real’ work? Do you spend a lot of your time attending unnecessary meetings or drawing up unnecessary progress reports or project plans which have been requested by your manager? Does your manager tell lies even when it is not necessary? Does your manager take too long to make even the most  minor decisions? Do your manager’s decisions/demands change from one day to the next? Do you feel that your manager’s controlling behaviour is rendering you and your co-workers ineffective? Do you and your co-workers think that your manager does really not know what he/she is doing? If you answered yes to those questions, your manager could be a PIMM.

A PIMM is a Paranoid Incompetent MicroManager.  They are like micromanagers, only much much worse. Being incompetent, the PIMM feels that their position is threatened but has no constructive ways of reacting to this threat. To counter the threat,  they use highly pathological methods too numerous to list here. I got most of them from Softpanorama, an authority on this topic.

Gatekeeper of all communication: Because of their paranoia, they block all alternative information flows that do not come directly from them, make all important decisions themselves and at the same time require frequent detailed reports and data from subordinates. There is also an obsessive preoccupation with procedural details (project plans seem to be the favourite pastime, usually accompanied by meetings to review each step of the plan)

Addiction to control and power: PIMMs are addicted to control and power. This desire for control makes them ask for status, data and reports from their subordinates more often than is needed.  They pervert those management tools so don’t be surprised if an Excel spreadsheet, from being a tool, suddenly becomes an instrument of torture. Everything needs to be documented, real work be damned.

PIMMs try to control every little detail of every little project they assign to you, instead of giving you the job and leaving you to do it.  They often tend to be very process-oriented, and will usually bog you down in tons of useless documentation and meetings.

Inability to make a decision: PIMMs are notoriously indecisive. One of the most distinctive features of the PIMM is their obsession with extracting from you,  an endless stream of useless reports and meetings that are supposedly needed to make a minor decision which any competent manager can make on the spot.

Aversion to putting things in writing: They are pathologically economical in emails and are reluctant to respond to your emails or put anything in writing. PIMMs prefer to discuss things in private where there are no witnesses.  This is because they are consummate liars and will be untruthful about almost everything (even inconsequential things most people wouldn’t waste time and energy lying about).

Even when the PIMM puts things in writing, they try to make it sound as vague as possible so that later, if their demands change (as it usually does), they can claim that you misunderstood what they wrote.

They are insincere, although often appearing to be sincere (especially to superiors and to those with little experience dealing with them).

Other characteristics of PIMMs: They pride themselves on their rationality and objectivity when in reality there is none.  This is more typical of female PIMMs who feel that they are different from other women (and they really are).

An inability to trust, doubts about others’ loyalty, distortion and fabrication, misinterpretation and bearing grudges unnecessarily are hallmarks of the disorder. Pathological and instinctive aggressive counter-attack, the obsessive need to control others is also a prominent feature. They like to collect evidence on subordinates.

All PIMMs are bullies but not all bullies are PIMMs.

Click here for Part 2

Bullying in the public sector

July 3, 2009 1 comment

I have just finished reading The Bullied Blogger’s blog and, though part of it is fictionalised to hide her identity, it is riveting stuff.  The Bullied Blogger, a UK university lecturer, was being victimised and fought to bring her bullies to justice.  Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop though I already knew how it would end – no matter what happened, she would lose.  You see, her situation is one that is played out very often.PD*996698

In the UK, the public sector is supposed to be where all the employment laws are rigidly followed but this is often not the case. Working in the public sector can be a positive and rewarding experience if you work in an organisation or institution that actively discourages unacceptable behaviour in the workplace and protects employees from any reprisals for reporting inappropriate behaviour.

In recent times, bullying in the public sector has taken on a new form:  it is now ruthless, relentless and increasingly becoming commonplace.  I am not referring to one-off episodes of unacceptable behaviour but to a pattern of behaviour which, over a period of time,  is designed to demean and humiliate the target and make them feel worthless. It is awful to witness and even worse for the target. I have seen hard-working, enthusiastic, assertive colleagues reduced to broken, quivering wrecks due to victimisation. When I was going through my own experience, I read as much literature as I could on bullying –  “Stand up to the bully”, “Complain to someone higher up”, “Take out a grievance” they all said.  ‘Fight back’ was the general advice given.  You see, fighting back is okay when you are a child being bullied in the school playground but when you are an adult in the workplace, it’s gets a bit complicated because office politics come into play.  When the target approaches HR for help, HR all too often tries to cover up the bullying and if  the target continues to complain about the bullying, they suddenly find that spurious allegations have been made against them which require  ‘disciplinary action’. Those spurious allegations will pre-date the date of the target’s complaint about bullying to give the illusion of any disciplinary action being fair in the eyes of the law.  It is a tried-and-tested formula used to shut up the target. 

My suggestion to anyone in that position is that if you value your mental health, family life and career then don’t bother fighting. Put all that energy into finding another job instead. Get out of there before your sickness or employment record becomes so tarnished that no other employer will touch you. Some may see this as a coward’s way out but I see it as an opportunity to change your job while your life and health are still intact. You can fight your case all the way to an employment tribunal if you wish but even if you win the battle, you still would have lost the war. The  experience will adversely affect your health, your family life and your career and no amount of compensation or justice can make up for that. And after the ordeal, while you are busy trying to put back together the tattered remnants of your once happy life, the bully has already moved on to their next target, with no remorse for the damage they have caused in your life.

After-effects of bullying

I now refer to that employment as the place where my career almost died.