Overcoming bullying myths

Published on the Malta Today¸ issue Wednesday¸ 6 October 2010


One wonders how the incidence of bullying takes place at so many levels of society in this tiny island of ours. To start with it is commonly associated with the trauma felt by pupils during the prep school but this is also existent in later stages of the educational ladder.
Recently we are also reading about bullying and staff harassment in offices¸ factories and business environments particularly where job opportunities are difficult to find and reports on grievances have surfaced in the press by disgruntled employees.

In the financial services arena¸ a retail investor alleges that he has felt bullied by a larger financial institution that deprived him of a consistent means to monitor his botched investments. In a letter to the Times he complains that small investors have been told to either “put up or shut up” by Bank of Valletta/Valletta Fund Management. In his opinion¸ this investor alleges the bank has not given satisfactory explanations regarding the revelation that over €16 million worth of shares had been withdrawn from the fund just before it was suspended to the public.

The Bank claims it has faithfully informed all investors of the sequence of events which led to the collapsed investments. Back to discrimination at place of work. Locally¸ it is customary for elite law¸ audit and civil engineering professional firms pride themselves of employing top quality interns displaying a high standard of conduct. In truth quite a few are head hunted thanks to their loyalty via old-boys clubs and cronyism prevails.

Top vacancies still percolate to Ivy League connections whether your schooling was in a private college and other social attributes linked to your name. Merit alone will not guarantee you a long career with such firms. All this despite 30 years of free State education up to tertiary level for the working classes and equal opportunities for both sexes. This may sound like another article of dissent discussing the discrimination allegedly existing among the have and the have-nots but I assure the reader this is not the case. It is not a tirade in favour of the great ‘unwashed ‘.

It is really and truly a reflection of the harmful stress and bullying tactics that society inflicts on each one of us invariably depending on our social status and sometimes political creed. Even in such a miniscule business community one finds barriers to entry creating artificial discrimination and a feeling of being bullied by the hierarchy. Rarely is bullying explicit but mostly it is a subtle unwritten code which permeates the organisation and rewards those who toe the line while others may just as well exit quietly (yes; do not bother to apply).Can we stop and think how much agro is felt when one is unjustly deprived of a promotion or a chance to excel and evaluate the bullying pressure exerted by bosses (mostly dominant tyrants) who wish to maintain the status quo.

Their tool of choice for exertion of power being psychological coercion as opposed to other more socially legitimate means of persuasion eg. rational argument¸ personal appeal & consultation etc. Generally speaking one can comment that in private industry it is the directors responsibility to deal with such abusive behaviour whether this is classified at the personal and/or company policy level. Naturally in the public service there exist formal disciplinary committees where grievances are judged and each committee is ultimately accountable to Parliament.

One may well ask ; is the loss of business