The chairman inevitably squirms as the topic of workplace bullying comes up once again in the bar, but is relieved at the suggestion that a financial regulator may be the ultimate in bullies.
”What do you make of one chap claiming he was bullied by another chap when at the time both would have been in their mid-sixties?” asked the chairman of the implausibly sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we enjoyed a few pints of Vile Little Runt at The Despicable Berk - or possibly the other way round.
“One would always hope one would be past that sort of thing by the time one entered one’s seventh decade,” I replied. “However, I suspect bullying is more a function of attitude than age - although, of course, since one is most likely to be bullied by someone within a couple of years of one at school, why should we be surprised if it happens, er, allegedly at the other end of one’s life?”
“Didn’t we once discuss dealing with bullying in the workplace?” asked the chairman. “Funny you should mention that,” I said. “It rang bells with me too and, for a reason I’ll come to, I thought it might be interesting to see what advice was covered. So I checked my notes and it turns out that 115 meetings ago we were chatting on the more specific topic of ’problem bosses’.”
“Fancy that,” said the chairman.
“Fancy indeed,” I nodded. “Anyway, at the time we were assured by Personal Presentation that even the most ferocious bullies can be turned around if shown how they affect others. The communication coaching specialist also highlighted three signs that you yourself might be the office bully.
“The first was if you’re quiet and non-communicative - leaving your thoughts open to general interpretation - as this could be seen as being judgmental, moody, rude or cold. Alternatively, you may bark orders without explaining the reasons. Communicating your motives and intentions to your staff will mean they respond better. (Scam continues below)
“If people don’t understand why something is being asked of them or are unable to question things, they may feel belittled. The final sign is if you take up most of the room in a conversation - yes, we did do most of the obvious gags at the time - for, if you are ’dominating the dialogue’, the other person may feel intimidated or resentful.”
“Should I be worried that you have just switched pronouns from ’one’ to ’you’?” asked the chairman.
“Not at all,” I lied. “Still, to square the circle, I can recap on how you - sorry, one - can deal with a bully. First - and I am still not making this up - you have to recognise that a bully’s behaviour could be the opposite of how they really feel. An aggressive manager may well hide a frightened interior. Second, don’t seek approval - and accept the bullying behaviour probably has nothing to do with you. Lastly … well, best I quote: ’Check in with your feelings and articulate them. It is your responsibility to be visible and challenge bad behaviour in a calm, controlled and considered fashion.’ “
“And you think,” said the chairman, “that had some of those morsels been applied a few years ago, there might not have been any need for a certain tribunal?”
“Of course not,” I shook my head. “But I had wondered whether they might have some relevance were any sector of Her Majesty’s financial services industry to feel they were being especially picked on by a regulator.
”An aggressive manager may well hide a frightened interior”
“Now that even Which? has made the startling discovery that banks and building societies are just not very good at giving advice and recommending investment products - I understand future exclusives from the magazine will reveal the colour of the sky, the Pope’s religion and something about bears - the FSA’s IFA-squishing ambitions look even more isolated. Always assuming policymakers felt it might be nice to have a few people left to give moderately reliable financial advice, I thought IFAs might want to fight back.”
“And do you really think any of those anti-bullying tips will help them?” asked the chairman.
“Not at all,” I shrugged. “I just needed an excuse to get that stuff about banks and building societies off my chest.”
“Oh,” said the chairman. “Hang on … you take notes of our conversations?”