UK bullying

There’s currently a fuss about bullying in the UK parliament. Actually it’s pretty obvious that bullying is in the culture, you only have to look at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions and the ya boo interjections of backbenchers, encouraged by the way that the PM behaves.

The UK ‘public school’ (private schools really) culture in which many leading politicians are schooled is one obvious culprit – that demeaning of others, the put-downs, the macho posturing, the lack of empathy, that sense of entitlement and power all lead to bullying behaviour.

That this could lead to sexual harassment of many of the women in parliament, as also recently revealed, is not altogether surprising.

In my experience this sort of culture also extends into the higher levels of management of many UK companies. There are good managers and bad, and many of the bad are bullies, often those seen as the most successful. Failed companies were often later found to be run by bullies.

So what is to be done? Will parliament be able to sort itself out? Don’t hold your breath. The confrontational physical layout of the debating chamber does not help.

Actually, bullying depends on the fear of the bullied, because resistance will involve some sort of loss or retribution. So an institution needs an effective anti-bullying system.

Personally, individuals have a choice, although consequences may often be unpalatable. My first experience of being bullied was at age 11, by a boy a year older who was cultivating a ‘gang’. Being taller he stood over me demanding something. In response I just hit him and ran for my life, in fear of retribution. Unwise maybe, but he never bothered me again.

At the end of the day, bullying is just not acceptable.

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