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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

A Perfect Storm: The Rise in Claims of Bullying in the Context of Change

The idea for this paper/research has grown from my consulting practice and a recurring narrative in Organisational Role Analysis of new organisational leaders struggling with serious, but ultimately unsubstantiated, claims of 'bullying' and/or 'harassment'. While my initial interest was in examining the claimants, the similarities in each case led me to wonder what these stories had in common and what could be learned from this. Claims of bullying and/or harassment are costly (Jenkins, Zapf, Winefield & Sarris 2012) in financial terms, but are more costly still in terms of the toll on the individuals involved and the way that these incidents erode trust: between managers and their staff; in the organisation itself and in the systems ostensibly set up to protect people's rights and sanity. This research project is currently a work-in-progress, but my intention is to present the results of my research which will be systems psychodynamic in its exploration and analysis. That is, it will seek to examine both the systemic and the unconscious factors that might give rise to these common phenomena [...]In the cases that I have consulted to, it seems that the majority of people do indeed seem to be led by reason and make the necessary changes and adaptations to meet the new circumstances. However, in every case, there are a number of people who exhibit an extreme and adverse response to the changes. It is these people who then become dubbed the vexatious non-performers and who subsequently make claims of bullying, harassment or go on stress-leave. At the same time, we have a legislative framework that is facilitative of this response.