Blog #2 Bullying within a social work environment.
Have you ever thought you might be being bullied at work?
Have you ever thought a colleague might be being bullied?
“Workplace Bullying” seems to come up on a regular basis in all sorts of arenas. I’ve talked about the issue with a range of people from managers, lawyers, human resource personnel and social workers across a range of services.
What one person may describe as bullying, another may simply see as strong management – and herein lies the problem for staff who bring a claim of bullying to the attention of their employer.
I have seen bullying behaviour in the workplace – but that tends to be between staff at the same level. What I believe happens more often within the manager – social worker interaction is poor management skills on the part of the manager – and often a greater problem – poor understanding of what social work is on the part of the manager.
Any manager should have the skills to communicate with a wide range of staff – just as a social worker should have the skills to communicate with a wide range of clients. If a manager has concerns about a staff member’s behaviour or actions, the first action should always be to talk with the staff member – and hear what they have to say. It is the manager’s responsibility to continue a conversation until the manager understands the action from the point of view of the social worker (just as social workers build relationships and spend time listening to understand a situation from a client’s perspective). If at that point, the manager disagrees with the action, or the action contravenes organisational policy or procedure, then appropriate action can be taken. Even newly graduated social workers have completed 4 years of university level education. They are capable, intelligent and have good knowledge of themselves.
If you do think a colleague is being bullied or treated unfairly or inappropriately, are you prepared to stand up for social work ethics and speak up? If a client was being treated this way by an external organisation, would you be willing to address this treatment? Are you willing to do the same for your colleagues? If you do not feel that you can speak up for your colleague, at least speak to your colleague. Tell them “I hate the way you are being treated.”; “I don’t like what […..] said to you today.” One of the first steps that happens in workplace bullying is to isolate the victim. The victim has no one to talk with or to provide another perspective – they begin to think that the opinions of the bully are fact. Simply stating what you are feeling or what you are observing can make a difference for the person who is being poorly treated.
This might change poor performance too. If we know our colleagues will support us when we are being bullied and call us out when we are performing poorly, our workplace become more open and overt.
Do you think that over work, too many cases, not being aware of the workload or type of work being undertaken is bullying, or is it poor management? What happens when your caseload is too high, you tell your manager you have too much to do and you get no relief or an increased workload? What happens if you have too much work and this creates stress which you react to? Is any of this bullying, or is it poor management, or is it just the nature of social work and one of the skills that we all need to add to our repertoire is to be able to “suck it up”?
I am very interested in your responses. You do not need to provide your real name in the responses, so you can remain anonymous. I do not want this to become a forum for poor management, non-constructive criticism or bullying. What have you observed? What have you done about it? What have you been subjected to?