Can bullying ever be unintentional?
Even the calmest of heads isn’t immune to the odd sharp word.
by Stephen Jones Article in Management Today.
The exact context of Priti Patel’s conduct towards those under her command is not known, but it doesn’t sound great.
In March Philip Rutnam resigned from his position as Home Office permanent secretary and launched an employment tribunal against Patel, accusing the home secretary of a “vicious” campaign of bullying after he highlighted her “belittling” behaviour towards department staff.
A Cabinet Office Inquiry formed to investigate Patel’s conduct has found that the Home Secretary broke ministerial code in how she treated Rutnam, his colleagues and mandarins at the Department for Work and Pensions and Patel’s private office at the Department for International Development.
Boris Johnson, who has also been accused of trying to ‘fudge’ the findings of the report, is facing calls to make its findings public and dismiss Patel for breaking the ministerial code of conduct but has refused to do so. While he disagrees with bullying, he believes Patel has done nothing wrong.
“I am sorry that my behaviour in the past has upset people,” wrote Patel in a statement. “It has never been my intention to cause upset to anyone.”
Managers have a duty to deliver results from their teams. No one get this perfect – even the calmest of heads isn’t immune to the odd sharp word. But there is a huge difference between “working hard to drive an agenda” – as Health Secretary Matt Hancock put it on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme – and abuse.
A January 2020 report by the CIPD found that 15 per cent of employees had experienced some form of bullying in the past three years. It can come in many subtle and overt forms, says Cary Cooper professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School and author of several studies into the effects of bullying at work.