October 21, 2008

Publication: Irish Examiner Date:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 Page: 1

Author: by Jennifer Hough


BULLYING, in the workplace is cited as a causal factor in 25% of all suicides and should, therefore, be immediately criminalised under Irish law, according to the authors of a manual on the subject. Jacinta Kitt, a former primary schoolteacher and co-author of the anti-bullying manual, which will be published next year, said current legislation to deal with an increasingly serious issue is not working. "Bullying is insufficiently defined by Irish law and should be criminalised," she said. "In a wider European context, 25% of those who commit suicide report having been bullied in the previous year.

This would seem to back up suggestions at a recent conference on the issue at Trinity College which claimed up to 100 suicides a year in Ireland can be attributed to workplace bullying." Ms Kitt who co-authored An Organisational Response to Bullying Manual with workplace counsellor and consultant Sue Corbett went on to suggest bullying should simply be seen as a violation of human rights and be dealt with accordingly. "Until there are sanctions commensurate with the offence, nothing is going to change.

This is obvious from the large numbers who continue to bully," she said. Mark Fielding, Irish Small and Medium Enterprise chief executive, also called for clear and definitive legislation to deal with the issue to protect both employees and employers. "Bosses are increasingly being accused of bullying when trying to discipline employees," said Mr Fielding. "Current laws mean employers are guilty until proven innocent and the legislation is open to interpretation." In 2005, a government expert advisory group on bullying in the workplace found that existing measures to tackle the problem are insufficient. The group made recommendations for a separate state agency to be set up to deal with the issue.

Dr Mona O'Moore, founder of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity, who sat on the board, said it was "very sad" that its recommendations had not been implemented. She blamed the employers' federation, IBEC, for blocking the pioneering move to protect its own interests. Peter Flood, who represented IBEC on the advisory panel, maintains it was opposed to the move as another statutory agency would only serve to prolong procedures. Dr O'Moore believes the group's recommendations could still go ahead. "The work is all done, it just needs to be implemented," she said.


Signs at work

You attempt the obviously impossible task of doing a new job without training or time to learn new skills but that work is never good enough for the boss. 

 Surprise meetings are called by your boss with no results other than further humiliation.

• Everything your tormenter does to you is arbitrary and capricious, working a personal agenda that undermines the employer's legitimate business interests.

Others at work have been told to stop working, talking or socialising with you. 

You constantly feel agitated and anxious, experiencing a sense of doom, waiting for bad things to happen.

• No matter what you do, you are never left alone to do your job without interference.

• People feel justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream back,

• HR tells you that your harassment isn't illegal, that you have to "work it out between yourselves".

• You finally, firmly confront your tormentor to stop the abusive conduct, you are accused of harassment.

• Everyone co-workers, senior bosses, HR agrees your tormentor is a jerk, but there is nothing they will do about it (and deny saying what they said later when asked to support you).

• Your request to transfer to an open position under another boss is mysteriously denied.

Signs outside work

• You feel like throwing up the night before the start of your work week.

• Your frustrated family demands that you to stop obsessing about work.

• Your doctor asks what could be causing your skyrocketing blood pressure and recent health problems, and tells you to change jobs.

* You feel too ashamed of being controlled by another person at work to tell your spouse or partner.

• All your paid time off is used for "mental health breaks" from the misery.

* Days off are spent exhausted and lifeless, your desire to do anything is gone. 

Your favourite activities and fun with family are no longer appealing.

• You begin to believe that you provoked the workplace cruelty.