Garry Brack, The Voice of AFEI
In his latest blog, Dr Carlo Capponecchia, a highly respected expert on workplace bullying makes mention of an alarming suggestion made by Mr Garry Brack, the chief of the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries, at the recent Sydney hearing into workplace bullying. Brack suggested that “some people who don’t “fit” in a workplace should just leave it” – referring to targets of workplace bullying in general. However, this was the same man who referred to the tragic suicide of Brodie Panlock caused by horrific bullying, as the unfortunate result of a lovers tiff gone wrong…
Although Carlo doesn’t mention Brack by name, many targets, including myself, who were there at the hearing could not forget the contemptuous remarks coming from someone who supposedly represents employers. Yes, his testimony was alarming and nauseating
I am now wondering whether Mr Brack should be held up as a poster boy for workplace psychopaths. He did seem to have a distinct lack of conscience – in fact, when many targets of workplace bullying had their chance to tell their stories many referred to Mr Brack’s testimony in less than glowing terms. The media weren’t allowed to report on this portion of the inquiry. Though many who told their stories wanted the media present!!!!! I was one of them.
The House of Representatives inquiry into workplace bullying is underway, with hearings being held already in Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania.
I was able to observe parts of the Sydney hearing last week. The transcripts of all hearings should soon be available online, and will prove interesting reading.
I was surprised by some of the suggestions made regarding the definition of workplace bullying, or more particularly, that there was no definition. Australian jurisdictions have had working definitions of bullying, which have been largely consistent with one another, for several years (eg. since 2003 in Victoria). They basically comprise the notion that to be called bullying, behaviours must be repeated, unreasonable and cause a risk to health and safety. In many ways, that we have such a degree of consistency in approach puts us ahead of many other countries.
It’s a bit of a broken record, but these criteria are quite conservative, and attempt to remove subjectivity as much as possible, which is a major argument against the bullying problem. Someone other than the target/complainant has to assess the reasonableness of otherwise of the alleged behaviours, a notion which is regularly performed within the legal system.
Also alarming was the suggestion from some that people who don’t “fit” in a workplace should just leave it. This is a less catchy version of “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. Targets were cast as the orchestrators of their own demise, with bullying being seen as just a personality clash. The role of the environment in workplace bullying was, well, what environment? Nauseating. I was alarmed because I thought we had come further than this on the bullying issue, an indeed in how we saw safety at work more generally. This kind of commentary would indicate not.
You’re excused if you’re feeling deflated. However, the fact that we are having a national inquiry, and the fact that we are about to get a national code of practice on workplace bullying seems to indicate that misconceptions on unacceptable workplace behaviours are about to be seriously challenged.