Priti Patel Bullying Enquiry Findings

There is a lot of chatter in the news and on social media today about Priti Patel and bullying.   In the midst of bullying allegations colleagues have leapt in to defend the Home Secretary.  A number have noted how hard working and determined she is.   Although that may be both true and desirable in a cabinet minister, that certainly should not be the point.  If there is bullying, being competent is not a defence or mitigation for such behaviour.

It is not collateral damage of success.

I don’t know enough about the case against Priti Patel to express an opinion on whether she should relinquish her position.  I do however know that the inquiry has been remarkably slow, the process very opaque and the results seem to have been sat on for a long time. 

It is worth taking time to look at the area of bullying in organisations: 

Bullying has a huge financial cost

According to ACAS bullying costs the UK economy £18b per year.  A staggering amount!  Around £545 per working person in the UK – or enough to increase the NHS budget by 15%. 

Bullying carries a huge personal cost

For every bully there is at least one, if not a long series, of victims. Victims who spend their working hours in fear.  Victims who take their fear and anxiety back to their families and whose lives are often devastated.  Many of those victims will ultimately suffer mental health issues.  Some will ultimately be driven as far as suicide. 

Bullies can and often do appear charming 

Bullies are not always so in public.  They will often be hugely charming to many of their colleagues but direct their toxicity to specific individuals or situations.  This can make it easier for colleagues to overlook or not believe victims. 

Bullies can often be star performers

Too often bullying is overlooked when it feels expedient.   XXXX is our best sales-person, a great surgeon, an outstanding CEO.   It makes no difference. Bullying is not acceptable anywhere in an organisation.  There are no excuses. 

Bullying is like a Disease

If you don’t stop bullying at every level, you let it permeate your organisation.    Once you have done that you need a seismic change to root it out.  I would argue that bullying from the top is worse. It sets an example and a tone for the whole organisation. 

Not every bully needs to leave

I may be out on a limb a little here. Bullying comes in many forms.  Despite my zero tolerance views, not every bully has no future in your organisation.  Some people struggle with empathy and are not self-aware enough to fully realise their impact on others.  Those who listen, learn, show a willingness to develop can have a valuable future in your organisation.  Some of the people I know who care most about others are people who have realised in the past the impact their negative behaviours have on others. However, those who think they can dodge the rules, dodge your values, don’t want to change or cannot be bothered should have no place in your organisation. 

Stopping Bullying

Some areas you should be looking at to stop bullying are: 

  • Include in your values having a culture of respect for all, always. 
  • Have a zero-tolerance policy – at every level. 
  • Measure regularly whether your people feel you are in the right place with respect. 
  • Look out for all types and indicators of bullying – not just the most obvious. 
  • Make sure everyone calls bullying it out when it happens. 
  • Be aware that bullying comes in many forms – not just screaming at someone.  
  • Ensure your staff have easy, safe means of raising bullying when it does happen. 

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