I came across this editorial by James Campbell of the Herald Sun in relation to the Brodie Panlock case.
Anti-bullying squad will not stop the bullies
IN THIS life, if you play your cards right and things turn out well, you may have an airport named after you.
If you donate a prize or play a sport, you may have a trophy named in your honour. The one thing you absolutely do not want, under any circumstances, is to have a law named after you.
If they are doing that, it means either you have done something horrible or something horrible has happened to you and the politicians want to make amends.
The latest tragic case to merit something being named for her was poor Brodie Panlock, whose brutal treatment at the hands of her workmates drove her to suicide.
On Friday we learned the Brumby Government is planning "a special squad to stamp out workplace bullies" after the 19-year-old cafe worker's death.
WorkSafe has apparently been "overwhelmed with stress-related and bullying calls" since the finding that Ms Panlock was bullied to her death.
Everyone who has read the details of what she endured - or as it turned out failed to endure - at the Vamp Cafe in Hawthorn has been sickened.
The question I have pondering since reading of about her death is how common is this sort of thing?
Kitchens are notorious for the rough treatment employees have to endure. While we sit out in the restaurant enjoying our food and drink, who knows what Lord of the Flies-style horrors are taking place within metres of us. In the case of Gordon Ramsay, shouting at and belittling people wearing aprons has made him known across the globe.
We know, too, that the food industry is not alone and that in other walks of life nasty treatment of subordinates can be commonplace - not least of all in the world of politics and, dare one say it, newspapers.
But if what happened to Ms Panlock is exceptional - and I will take a punt and say that it was - then is the Government justified in spending the money?
And more importantly, how effective are government inspectors likely to be in stamping out bullying? Most workplace bullying is not the right-off-the-scale stuff that went down at the Cafe Vamp, but subtle things that may not even appear like bullying to other people. And it is surely in the nature of bullying that the bullied are often reluctant to complain.
The news reports said 40,000 workplaces face "snap inspections" over workplace bullying. It is hard to imagine anything more daft. Are they going to storm in and ask every employee if they are feeling bullied? And would the workers tell them if they were? When John Brumby huffs and puffs and brands workplace bullies "lowly cowards who will not be tolerated", does he imagine he is impressing anyone?
Mr Brumby may as well rail against the weather and promise a special squad to crack down on hailstorms or a crack investigation unit to look into the humidity situation for all the good it will do.
In the past I have endured workplace behaviour which would meet any definition of workplace bullying Mr Brumby wants to come up with. I was once punched in the face by superior who had taken exception to me. When the boss heard about it he did nothing.
Looking back, I can see I could have complained. But at the time I did nothing, because I didn't perceive what was happening as bullying. It was just how things were.
At other times and in other jobs I can see now that some things I have done to work colleagues could be perceived as bullying, but I didn't see it that way at the time.
I was just trying to get them to do their jobs properly.
What happened to Ms Panlock was horrible and her death should never have happened.
But if someone like this young woman can keep quiet about treatment like that, then it is hard to see what the Government could have done that would have really made any difference."
I can't help but strongly feel that James's "suck it up" attitude is itself, well - quite sucky.
I can see his point in using the example of the Gordon Ramsays of this world as encouraging the glamorisation of bullying behaviour. I mean hey, we all love to see people behaving badly, and the voyeur inside us all at some point or another has probably been relieved that because it's not us personally copping a bollocking it's acceptable to be completely devoid of empathy and classify such behaviour 'entertainment'. however does this mean that if I work in a kitchen I should just expect to be yelled at and tolerate it? does it mean that if I can't hack the moody, artistic temperament of my boss that I'm not good at my job? is it my problem if my employer convinces me my reactions are 'hypersensitive'? is the impact of bullying all 'relative' depending on the industry one works in?
he seems to have completely missed the point that just because the person doing the bullying doesn't perceive it that way that this somehow negates their responsibility in owning their behaviour and facing the consequences. and the key word here is consequences. no one is saying that implementing strategies to combat bullying in the workplace will be easy, cheap, happen quickly, or that there won't be many a huge learning curve along the way. however if it means that even one life is saved and employers start to get the message about what is and isn't acceptable doesn't that make it all worth it?
the attitude of "well it musn't have been that bad if she didn't say anything" is akin to claiming that women who stay in abusive relationships or sexual assault victims who wear provocative clothing 'deserve it'. this raises the issue of the murky waters of the concept of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' victims, which again, in this case like most of James's article is really beside the point.
I'm looking forward to seeing what steps the Brumby government will next take to move towards stamping out workplace bullying. give the man a chance, James. enough with the 'back in my day' rubbish. best take your defeatist attitude and curl up with reruns of Kitchen Nightmares.