Constant trivial non-specific nit-picking criticism, refusal to value, undermining, exclusion, isolation, removal of authority,
increasing of responsibility, starving of resources, overloading with work? Read this
Monday 25 November 2002, Portcullis House, Westminster, London
In 1993/4 I was bullied out of my job as a Customer Services Manager. It was the usual story of constant, trivial, non-specific nit-picking criticism, refusal to value, undermining, exclusion, isolation, removal of authority, increasing of responsibility, starving of resources, overloading with work, etc. Eighteen months of hell culminated in a stress breakdown due to the bullying which was the end of my job, career, income, livelihood, health, marriage, family and home.
Just prior to the stress breakdown and after contact with Andrea Adams (the first time I had heard the term "workplace bullying" and the first time I was able to recognise my boss’s behaviour as bullying) I blew the whistle on the bully’s behaviour. Personnel responded by protecting and promoting the bully and getting rid of me. I now know this happens in around 98% of cases. The cost of my case I estimate to be around £250,000 which was paid for by the taxpayer. Not one penny was charged to the bully’s budget.
I set up the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line in 1996, then wrote and published my book Bully in sight in December 1996. It has since sold over 70001 copies in 30 countries. Unable to counsel people on the phone for 12 hours a day indefinitely I set up Bully OnLine in 1997. This is now the world’s largest Internet resource on bullying and related issues.
The manager who bullied me has destroyed other employees. He was eventually fired in 1999 five years after I alerted personnel. His empire then came crashing down and the remnants of his department - which prior to his arrival was set to become the world’s leading supplier of software in its field - will probably be sold to a foreign competitor at a rock bottom price2.
The cost of this bully’s incompetence, and the negligence of the employer, now runs into tens of millions of pounds, paid for by taxpayers and shareholders. Neither he, nor the employer, have been, nor will they ever be, held accountable. Despite being fired he was able to walk straight into another senior management position in another privatised company.
Through my Advice Line and web site I have dealt with over 60003 similar cases. Legal action is rarely possible and in most cases impractical. On average, only about 0.5% of cases win compensation commensurate with the detriment suffered.
Existing harassment law is based on a discriminatory model, therefore legal action can only be pursued on the grounds of race, gender and disability. This discriminates against any individual who is being harassed for reasons other than race, gender or disability. Most harassers, and especially bullies, keep the focus of their prejudice on reasons other than those covered by legislation. Each time new discrimination legislation is introduced, bullies change their prejudicial focus to remain outside the law.
The government’s naive view4 that "employees and employers must work together to resolve bullying" fails to recognise that in most cases of bullying, mutual trust and confidence have already broken down and the employer has already failed in their duty of care. In 98% of bullying cases, the employer is part of the problem and will do anything to prevent being made public, eg at tribunal. Public sector organisations in particular - especially County Councils and the NHS (which account for my largest groups of callers) - have a bottomless purse of taxpayers money when it comes to defending bullying claims in court whilst the target of bullying is losing or has lost their job, their income, their livelihood, their health, sometimes their marriage, and they cannot get a reference for another job - the bully often wilfully ensures this.
The bullying you see is almost always the tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing which includes financial misappropriation, negligence, dereliction of duty, breaches of codes of conduct, rules, regulations and health & safety procedures, malpractice, deception, nepotism, favouritism (including awarding of contracts), indiscretion, impropriety, abuse, and more.
My employer had no anti-bullying policy, but even today, many policies are nothing more than words on paper. Such policies enable the employer to give the appearance of tackling bullying whilst simultaneously facilitating the dismissal of anyone reporting bullying. Only a law has teeth, and only a bully would object to the Dignity at Work Bill.
I calculate the cumulative direct, indirect and consequential costs of bullying to UK plc to be in excess of £30 billion annually, equal to a hidden tax of at least £1000 for every working adult each year. It is difficult to conceive of any measure that the government could take that would bring about a rapid and dramatic improvement in the performance of the economy.
I urge all those involved in parliamentary process to support the Dignity at Work Bill.
Tim Field DBA (Hon)
Author - Speaker
Founder, UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line
Author, Bully in sight: how to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying
Co-author, Bullycide: death at playtime, an exposé of child suicide caused by bullying
Publisher, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury, 2001 edition
Webmaster, Bully OnLine at Bully Online
Biography and profile, bio.htm
Case history, cases/case2.htm
100+ similar case histories, cases/
Cost of bullying, workbully/costs.htm
Bully OnLine, PO Box 67, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 9YS
Executive Director, The Field Foundation
Notes - May 2005
1. Sales of Bully in sight number approx 11,000
copies [Readers' feedback]
2. This has now happened.
3. The total of cases is well over 10,000.
4. For more on the UK government's disinterest in bullying, and why, see Bullying in the public sector
Lots of information and ideas for tackling bullying including the legal aspects
Action Home Page | Action to tackle bullying
Guidance for employers on policy development
Bullying and the trade unions | Bullying and the law
Case law on bullying, harassment, stress and personal injury
Court judgements in cases relevant to bullying
Long v. Mercury Mobile Communications Services
Hatton Barber et al: 16 practical propositions for a personal injury case
Right to be accompanied | The need for risk assessment
High Court injunction to prevent unfair dismissal | Obstruction to justice
Bullyonline action forum for validation and re-empowerment
UK Dignity at Work Bill | Swedish law on Victimization at Work
Bullying and human rights | Waters v. London Metropolitan Police
Barber v. Somerset County Council
Zimmerman: retaliation in the US courts
Bullying history: books, articles and publications since 1992
How to lobby your MP: example letter and summary of inadequacy of UK law
Amicus Campaign Against Bullying At Work (CABAW)
Tim Field's written submission to the Dignity at Work Bill debate
Getting another job after bullying | How to recover from bullying
Setting up a bullying survivor support group | Sample support group constitution
Using the search engines to find other sites on bullying etc
Dealing with viruses, worms, spam etc
Designing and building your own web site
Advice and guidance for new Internet users
Tim Field's book Bully in sight validates the experience of bullying and
defines the injury to health caused by bullying and harassment
The Field Foundation | Bully OnLine
Workplace bullying | School bullying | Family bullying
Bullying news | Press and media centre
Bullying case histories | Bullying resources
Stress and PTSD
Action to tackle bullying | Related issues
Books on bullying and psychiatric injury