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  • Lawrence Bailey

Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes

I must say I’m not persuaded by claims that Home Secretary Priti Patel “isn’t built to be a bully”.

My experience is that the people who choose to make the workplace a misery come in all shapes and sizes.

Much of the problem is also to do with organisational culture.

The nature of ministerial appointments is that you get a bunch of inflated egos burdened by delusions of ability. The average tenure in the job is about eighteen months per portfolio while sure-footed civil servants have decades to get it right.

It’s an unfair proficiency test and politicos tend to over-compensate accordingly.

Ms Patel is not exactly the first minister in history to have a falling out with officialdom. That said, her Dickensian attempt at sacking a departmental comms chief on Christmas Eve definitely broke new ground.

It’s alleged that Home Office boss, Sir Philip Rutnam, blocked the move. He later resigned himself claiming to be “the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign”.

Indeed, there’s been a lot of briefing going on, although it’s no great skill to figure out likely sources – especially the allegations that relate to Patel’s time in other ministerial roles.

The problem with prevailing government ethos at a political level is that it conflates ‘alpha’ behaviour with leadership. Some learn that this is a mistake; some don’t.

Forget all the passive-aggressive rubbish that’s written elsewhere about ‘snowflakes’ and ‘industry norms’. Bullying is just plain counterproductive and anyone who thinks otherwise is not just in the wrong job but in the wrong century.

As Ms Patel will tell you, bullying itself is not unlawful, but harassment is – and it comes in various forms.

I used to have a manager who would kick our office door open every morning to announce his arrival. He thought it was hilarious; but lacked the creativity to adapt after we opted to go open plan.

There are other remedies, of course. Someone I know, who suffered regular harassment, ‘accidently’ locked her boss in the toilets overnight and then emailed in her resignation the next morning.

I wouldn’t personally recommend that course of action.

A wise move though would be to join a trade union or staff association – if only because we’re probably going to see a weakening of UK employment rights in the very near future.

It might be an idea to get ready.

Minimum pricing: sensible intervention or expensive gesture?

This week saw the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol in Wales. New rules require retailers and outlets serving alcohol to charge at least 50p a unit.

In case you were wondering, a unit is 10 ml of pure alcohol which is equivalent to about half a pint of standard-strength beer or cider or a single 25 ml shot of spirits. A small 125 ml glass of wine contains about 1.5 units.

Imposing this ‘measure-for-measure’ approach (so to speak) may seem a bit draconian. But you only have to spend a few hours in an Accident and Emergency department to see first-hand the horrendous impact of cheaply available strong alcohol.

It’s claimed that the action won’t deter middle-class drinkers although I don’t think the legislators particularly had that aim in mind.

Arguments also persist over whether there’s a link between drink and deprivation, but it’s a matter or record that more than 50% of crime involving assault or wounding is drink-related.

You can call it a sensible intervention or an expensive gesture, but to do nothing would be irresponsible.



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