Outing a bully
The dance artist I wrote about previously is a freelance employee who creates original work. She has made a number of complaints about the bullying behaviour of a senior dance administrator who was funded to support her work as an artist, but who instead behaved in an appalling manner, not just to the dance artist, but also to a number of her own casual and part-time employees and to several professional colleagues.
Other dance artists have suffered in the same way and many have cut all contact with the administrator and her organisation, even though it was a source of valuable employment for them. Further, many of them are too afraid to speak up in case they will be penalised and lose future employment opportunities.
This dance artist has gathered evidence over a long period of time, and has documented it very carefully. Having made clear that she was just about to expose the bully, who has friends at a high level including in government and within funding bodies, an unexpected announcement was made that the bully is ‘moving on.’
Everything’s all right, then!
A reprieve for this employee and all the others so badly affected? Perhaps. However the damage has been done, many people have suffered humiliation and distress, and had their lives blighted by this person’s behaviour. Worse still, governing bodies and other agents in a position to act were informed on several occasions and did nothing to redress the situation: this bully was well connected. This is ostrich syndrome and it commonly occurs in circumstances where those in authority prefer to ignore what is going on, in case they’re tainted by association.
Dealing with bullying in the workplace is not easy but it’s important that we tackle it at the earliest possible point. Bullying is not ‘strong management’, ‘office politics’ or a ‘personality clash.’ Bullying is persistent, abusive behaviour directed at one or more individuals and designed to humiliate and degrade them – the UK government provides outline information on its website. The level of stress caused by bullying is not to be underrated. Some people take their own lives as a result of their experiences. This is called bullycide, and will be the subject of a future post.
So, be aware of bullying in the arts as an issue. Speak about it, ask questions about it and if you’re in a position of responsibility and power, make sure you’re well informed and that your team is equipped with, or has access to, the skills and expertise to deal effectively with complaints or incidents of bullying in the workplace. If this is not currently a feature of workplace training, take the initiative and put it on the agenda.
The details of this case are printed with the full permission of the individual concerned.