Recently, I wrote about a museum employee and a dancer, both of whom were being bullied in their respective workplaces. These are real people having genuine difficulties who don’t know where to turn. Here’s the first of two updates:
Complaining about bullying
The museum worker is a full-time employee who has made a formal complaint about a colleague, and is now subject to an ‘investigation’ by the powers that be in her workplace. Interviewing people who have been targets of bullying is delicate work – a supremely careful and sensitive approach is needed, as most people relive their dreadful experiences in the process. Adult bullying is often just as traumatic as domestic abuse.
I’m devastated to discover that in this case the investigation is heavy-handed and involves a face to face confrontation with the bully. In domestic abuse cases, we would be horrified if an abused person was asked to re-enact their encounters with the abuser in front of an audience. Our justice system doesn’t allow this, so why on earth does this employer think it’s a reasonable way to tackle a bullying situation?
Inevitably, the museum worker has started to become physically ill – spontaneously vomiting and suffering from extreme headaches. If you think this is unpleasant you’re right, and until this situation is properly resolved her health is likely to worsen. Without support, she may begin to experience psychological difficulties, followed by absences from work and then long-term illness. The whole workplace environment could become toxic.
What’s her line manager doing? It seems the manager who appointed the colleague is protecting them, presumably because they think it would be a poor reflection on the manager if a bullying complaint was upheld. Sadly, the ship is between captains and will be for some time, so the museum worker has no way of knowing when the bullying might stop, or indeed if it will.
The details of this case are printed with the full permission of the individual concerned. This individual is now supporting another museum worker from a different establishment who is also being bullied.