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A subtle bully in the APS

By Masquara 8 September 2007 86

I don’t want to embark on a whine fest, but if anyone has dealt with, or observed, a subtle bully in the APS I’d appreciate some advice on what to do. I’m experiencing the classic subtle bully – everyone else on the team kept happy as lark, and I’m on a ‘slow track’ and my bully (who at 50-odd is still just like the ‘playground bitch’) who took an intense dislike to me on her arrival in the department, is thoroughly enjoying being able to comment on just how junior my position still is in the organisation after three years (while everyone else is being promoted).

A bully knows of course all too well that if you label a team member as barely competent, you can engineer a perception of incompetence, followed by de-skilling, followed presumably by actual incompetence through depression. (not there yet, but I’m starting to feel at risk). Have any rioters observed someone in my position and can senior management do anything? All advice I’ve had so far is ‘get the **** away from any corporate bully’ – but the work itself (once I manage to get just one rung higher than my current role) should be rewarding and I don’t really want to shift.

Just one anecdote to illustrate this gal’s MO: announced to a recent team meeting with immense hilarity and schadenfreude that she had heard one of the dept’s graduates had made a massive faux pas by telling the Secretary she felt her skills were underutilised, and my manager stated with a lot of cruel mirth that the grad was now on a slow track to annihilation and now had no future in the department. It was a little like witnessing a public stoning. No doubt the graduate’s actual name was mentioned in a tighter group – a chorus of ‘what was her name?’ was only stopped at the main meeting when a team member piped up and said she didn’t want to know.

Luckily for the graduate, the Secretary had it understood soon after, that she welcomed the frank discussion with the graduates. Being in this bully’s own team, I have no such protection from a member of the Executive!

As I said, though, I actually want to salvage my career, not embark on my own series of victim anecdotes! Any tips or advice welcome. My bully, by the way, believes she is ‘like THAT’ with the Secretary. Is it inevitably career suicide to identify as a victim of a bully, and just how wide is the gap between HR rhetoric and the way victims are treated by HR?

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A subtle bully in the APS
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ant 11:57 pm 22 Nov 08

Good to hear you got a positive outcome, Masquara. These clever, sneaky bullies are rife in mg’t positions in some organisations. The women who are syrupy sweet are the ones to watch, they can turn out to be absolute nightmares. I’m glad at least one was caught, but there’s never any lasting effects on them, you see them climbing the career ladder. Actually, one I know has jumped from organisation to organisation, but I suspect it’s more to do with ineptitude.

Masquara 11:35 pm 22 Nov 08

Update on my subtle bully post more than a year on: unusually, I survived her! She has moved on, as senior colleagues had begun to notice a mismatch between her self-aggrandization and her own performance. It turns out she is a serial bully – evidence she gave earlier this year in the relevant tribunal regarding an earlier, severe case where she bullied an EL1 over three years was openly not believed and discounted by the presiding officer – who stated such on the record – and Comcare were sent back to reconsider. Which they did, and her next-last victim is on the mend. Her earlier victim has outlined identical behaviours, and there was another three-year victim previous to her. Unfortunately, I believe that she may learn with each episode and become more damaging and cunning – and the next unfortunate won’t stand a chance as she hones her techniques. Anyone in the APS who is currently delighted by an uber-charming, ultra-humorous and amusing brand-new boss – be on your guard!

nyssa76 12:16 am 17 Sep 07

Ingeegoodbee, a few people I know could have used you then. They were done…but that’s another story.

jemmy 12:08 am 17 Sep 07

I think they’ve fixed that, ant.

ant 11:40 pm 16 Sep 07

Dead right. The threats are threats, and people postins here are meant to be anonymous (although apparenlty we are not, which is a major flaw). You have to really wonder about the motivation for someone mouthing threats. It really makes you wonder.

Masquara 4:46 pm 16 Sep 07

Thank you all – I think if there’s been any misconduct above I suspect it is Laughing’s threat – and of course such trolling and attempts to undermine anonymity are unwelcome on this community forum.


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