File the Harassment Policy Under Jokes, Sweetheart

I’m mad. Once in a while (OK, more than once in a while) something really riles me. This week, a report stated that Northern Ireland universities are among the worst in the UK for bullying among staff. I’d go further and suggest that the problem lies not just with universities but across all sectors here in NI.

So, we all have rights in the workplace? Do we? Does this depend on gender, or age, or whether we’ve had experience in dealing with it? Or, whether the bully is the owner or not? I remember little of this to be honest.

Sure, I worked for employers who had ‘policies’. I worked for employers who even had me writing policies (though I was unqualified to do so, and I did not work in the HR Department) because I cared enough to suggest that they should have one. I worked for employers who sometimes even read these policies themselves. Fewer still were progressive enough to even inform staff that such a policy existed or (sharp intake of breath) instruct them in how it operated.

Did any actually implement their harassment/dignity at work policy? One that I can recall. This in twelve years of working for a variety of employers. The worst case of harassment I had to report was ignored. Nothing was done. I eventually left.

Recently I delivered training to an organisation where I was asked what to do if management don’t actually support the training department’s initiatives. I sighed deeply and said she’d (innocently) got it all wrong. It is the management team who should be taking the initiative. And, anything other than direction and support and resources coming from them would be a waste of everyone’s time, even though the original concept will often come from HR or Training. So, why do directors and managers not take the initiative? I’d love to know. Here are some suggestions for those whose harassment policy is still in the jokes file.

Shocker Number One: You’re Not Concerned With the Welfare of your Staff

Therefore when harassment training and the like are suggested by the often idealistic, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, subordinate colleague, he is thwarted at the first step. “It’s not a good time just now.”

And, when someone reports harassment, you will make light of it, not taking them seriously in the hope that they will drop the claims and carry on working quietly. You really do not want to know.

If you are not concerned about the welfare of your staff for its own purpose, or even so that they can, in turn, demonstrate loyalty and work hard, then management is not for you. Give it up and go home.

Shocker Number Two: You’re Not Comfortable With People Who are Smarter, More Professional and Switched On Than You

The reason internal Training and HR departments struggle like salmon against the flow is that those in charge are afraid to have people around them who are professionals and might (should) know more than they do. This often results in aggressive harassment and/or dismissive behaviour. NI businesses are notoriously run by those who cannot be challenged. I’ve twelve years of proof and the current testimonies of many friends, colleagues and acquaintances to back me up here. People are sick of being bullied by incompetent idiots.

Why send our young graduates to college for four plus years to have them come out skilled workers and then treat them like children, conditioning them to remain in their Child Ego State and almost have to ask permission to go to the toilet?! I have actually seen this happening in several organisations. The same employees are probably being bullied in other ways too. The bully will be someone who fears being shown up by those who are professional in their field.

My advice: it’s time to take yourself and your toys out of the pram and get some communication training. Then, take seriously the advice, skills and knowledge or your HR Manager, your Training Manager and your Workplace Ethics Manager.

Shocker Number Three: You’re Not Going to Set an Example of Good Behaviour Yourself, Where’s the Fun in That?

I’m thinking sexual harassment. And, in case you think I’m thinking of males dishing out sexual harassment to females, I’m actually conjuring up an unfortunately real picture of an older female (with teenage children) using her ample – but nonetheless unpleasant – cleavage to great effect in the boardroom. Trouble was, she was not respected by males or females and often used unnecessary physical contact when in contact with other male managers. Cringeworthy in a woman of any age. The older men didn’t seem to mind, while the younger men were naturally horrified and awkward.

Following confiding in a male colleague about sexual harassment in the workplace, I was told, “I only wish someone would sexually harass me!”. Humorous? No, downright na√Øve regarding the effects of such harassment on males OR females. Men think they shouldn’t complain, since the myth goes, most males would relish it. And, females won’t complain, because either they might be seen as weak or it won’t be taken seriously. “Sure it’s only a bit of flirting!”

Who Do You Complain to When the Harasser is the Owner or Director of the Organisation?

In order:

Speak directly to the harasser/aggressor telling them these things:

  1. What is happening.
    [You are shouting at me/dismissing me/standing too close/touching me/making inappropriate or demeaning remarks.]
  2. What the effect is on you/how you feel.
    [It makes me feel harassed/uncomfortable/sick/afraid.]
  3. What you want to happen.
    [I want you to stop.]
  4. What the consequences will be if it happens again.
    [I will report this to another manager/director/owner. I will report this to the police.]

Seriously, it’s depressing to know that NI universities rate high on the scale for bullying in the workplace, but it’s no big surprise. It matters little what sector we are talking about, and I have worked in or with them all. Bullying by adults of other adults is as rife in the boardroom as it is on the playground. There are many ways to begin to stop the cycle, but all must ultimately come from the head or the organisation, whether policies, training, education, enforcement or discipline if such a culture of acceptance is to be shattered. In any case, we’d do well just to begin listening to what our employees and professional colleagues are telling us. And, that requires putting a cork in it – to use a local expression – long enough to hear.

Photo by Rochelle Nicole on Unsplash

Vote Jedi!

About half a year ago I wrote a blog about why Northern Ireland needs another political party, indeed, another type of political party. We need the First Jedi Political Party. This week, as all our differeing tribes have raised their posters up, and taken others down, I feel compelled to write the blog we need but not the one we deserve.

We need more humour in NI politics. Humour is lightness, humour is a surprising conclusion and the end of a seemingly predictable story. Hence humour leads to lateral thinking and creativity, and to different avenues of thought. If the politics of NI so far is tragic, then maybe a solution can come from the comic. And if you laugh with someone at yourself, can you continue to hate them, can you refuse to empathise with them?

We need more distance in NI politics. Objectivity is too hard to achieve when we are so close to events. Our minds might want to travel in another direction but our hearts remain stubbornly anchored in the past. We need to be taken to a totally other place, for example, to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far way. Only there can we truly gain some perspective of here. We need metapolitics via mythopoeia; or, discussion about political concepts using fictional peoples.

We need more discrimination – more distinguishing and distinction-making – in NI politics. The North of Ireland versus Northern Ireland, aitch or haitch, Derry/Londonderry, all these divisions have one factor in common. They all assume a binary, dulaistic vision of politics in which there is only us or them. They neglect a mindful approach to politics in which one is able to create new categories and become aware of multiple perspectives. Mindfulness is a Jedi technique.

We need to create new tribes, new divisions, new conflicts, new ‘troubles’ to replace the old. But we need to do it in such a way that everyone knows it is frivilous, non-consequencial. We need a new face-lift for NI, oen that not only clears away the old oen but takes it a million light years beyond an anything here.

The First Jedi Political Party

This week I revieved my electoral registration form, as you can see from the picture. I’ll fill it in and send it away because I’m interested in politics and acknowledge its power, while increadibly frustrated as to how it is conducted. So in the spirit of constructive criticism, I’ve decided to start my own alternative party called The First Jedi Party.

10 Reasons Why Northern Ireland Needs A New Political Party

  1. I want to promote my book, which is called, by no coincidence, The First Jedi. It ‘s a novel set in Northern Ireland, and is part autobiography, part training manual, part sci-fi fable, all mind-trick!
  2. I want to satirize the political beliefs of many people in Northern Ireland, who assert the existence of entities that are just as fictional as anything in Star Wars. For instance, belief in the ‘real Irish people ‘ and the ‘glorious British empire ‘ are as mythical in nature as the the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire.
  3. I want to give people at home and abroad a brief reason to smile when discussing Northern Irish politics rather than resort to the usual groans. The entertainment of ‘frivilous politics ‘ offers temporary relief from the tired old debates and debacles that arise with cyclic predictability, filling us with apathy or antagonism, leading nowhere.
  4. I want to allow those who categorise their beliefs as Jedi to have a form of political expression and representation. In the early twenty-first century, during national population censuses, significant numbers of people in the UK and Ireland designated themselves as ‘Jedi ‘ or ‘Jedi Knights ‘ for fun and in protest, like me.
  5. I want to introduce an element of playfulness and a lusary attitude into an arena that takes itself, its work and its mission with messianic seriousness. Politicians as a class should not constitute the most famous celebs in Northern Ireland, neither is it healthy that we should look to them or their state to solve our core problems.
  6. I want to prove that it is possible to create a political position to suit personal beliefs, however whimsical, rather than accept old impositions that other people created for their own benefit. People long dead formed our current political discourse according to their own designs, which we the living, must outgrow and rethink for our radically different world.
  7. I want to experiment with the ability of science fiction to help us think about many themes relevant to Northern Irish politics. Science fiction can act as as a device in which diverse peoples can discuss relevant issues of identity, morality, political structures and possiblity futures, all at a safe distance.
  8. I want to release in young people particularly the Force of questions and imagination when it comes to constructing their political ideals. I want to teach them to ask, Why do I still hold the political beliefs in which I was raised? If I wasn ‘t born in this country, this age, what political issues would move me? What sort of new politics would I hope to see in the future?
  9. I want to promote certain values and techniques that I classify as ‘Jedi ‘ and that I believe could play a part in societal progress here. For example, ethical ‘balance ‘ counteracts extremist rhetoric, psychological ‘mindfulness ‘ enables the acceptance of multiple perspectives, and emotional ‘detachment ‘ frees from habitual reactions.
  10. I want to protect the younglings of Northern Ireland from local Sith cults, who I know are infecting the land at the moment. My intelligence sources tell me that a local Sith lord is currently drawing up a manifesto called The Second Sith and is searching for an Apprentice to consolidate his already growing power-base here. He must not succeed!

Who out there would vote for me?

Businesses of the World Go On Strike!

While listening to a radio debate on Wednesday between Kevin Green and Richard Murphy about lowering the top rate of tax in order to boost the UK economy, I became violently angry. All Green could do was threaten in a fairly limp and vague way that wealth-creators might leave the country unless tax burdens were lifted. As the title of this blog suggests, I have a better idea… Continue reading “Businesses of the World Go On Strike!”

LinkedIn Skills Endorsements

Situated between Experience and Education on your LinkedIn profile, there is a section entitled Skills and Experience, to which you can add words and phrases. Here are the crucial rules.

Add only the skills you possess

Be honest. Simples. If you want to add to your list, do so. But, be reasonable. Someone who claims to be able to do everything often conveys a lack of focus, direction and writing skills, none of which are attractive to a potential employer, partner, or client.

Be precise. Be succinct. Be niche. Be mindful of relevant, targeted SEO.

Add only the skills to another’s profile that they possess

It is very tempting to big up your mates. But when a potential recruiter rings to ask for further details (a reference), you need to be able to back up your endorsement. Can you, in truth? If not, don’t add it. Otherwise, you run the risk of being caught out as dishonest, and you make your LinkedIn contact look the same. (You can easily remove or hide skills others have added to your profile.)

The same rule applies if you are contacted by someone on LinkedIn, asking you to add a skill to their list.

Add skills to another’s profile if you have personal experience of their work

If you don’t have personal experience of someone’s work, it will be very difficult to give examples of how they demonstrated a certain skill. Again, avoid digging yourself into a hole. If you are contacted and then realise you can’t recommend them after all, it’s embarrassing for both you and your LinkedIn contact, and may damage your business reputation.

For those who are much too big of a personality to care about “reputation”, read “sales”.

If you need additional detail, read LinkedIn Skills Endorsements, or add a question to the comments.

Have you used LinkedIn Skills Endorsements? How did you find the experience? Have you encountered people adding skills they clearly do not possess? Have others added skills to your profile which you don’t have?

What are Businesses Getting Wrong in the Recession?

Everyone ‘s falling about with worry. The recession has us all cautious about spending more money than we absolutely have to, taking on new staff, renting more premises or bringing in too much product in advance.

How can we hang in there? How can we thrive? How can we ensure that our largest and possibly most expensive resource is working to maximum capacity? Continue reading “What are Businesses Getting Wrong in the Recession?”

Woman, Work, and Wanting More


Do you think like a man or like a women when it comes to work? One way to find out is to examine your attitude towards pay.

According to Marilyn Davidson – professor of work psychology at Manchester Business School – men get more pay in the workplace than women because they expect it, they ask for it, and they (think they) deserve it.

If women want equal pay, they have to think in the same way as men. Continue reading “Woman, Work, and Wanting More”

Corporate Social Responsibility v Business


CSR? Another bandwagon that all us business owners have to jump on, large or small? I was listening to Radio 4’s You and Yours programme, on this very topic last week – listen here – and thinking about it a bit this weekend.

How does meeting pressurised targets balance with ensuring staff work in a healthy environment, they asked? Good question. The programme also mentioned the cash and cabbage “incentive” employed by one company. If you met your targets, you were awarded with cash, otherwise you were presented with a cabbage, in public. (Great for morale and loyalty, don’t you think? Treating colleagues as you would your valued customers!? Eh, no.) Continue reading “Corporate Social Responsibility v Business”