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Standing Committee on Education and Employment
11/07/2012
Workplace bullying

FIELD, Ms Evelyn Margaret, Director, Evelyn M Field Pty Ltd

CHAIR: I welcome our witness, the author of Bully Blocking. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Ms Field : Thank you for inviting me to appear. The issue of bullying is very important to me and many of the people I work with. I am a psychologist. I am a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society for my work in school and workplace bullying I have written four books on bullying—two for the schools and two for the workplaces. I am a practising psychologist. I train in organisations and I train psychologists in how to deal with victims of school or workplace bullying.

CHAIR: Before you get started, we will go through the formalities, and then I will invite you to give an opening statement. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. I now invite you to make an opening statement and then we will proceed to questions.

Ms Field : I have just come back from an international conference on workplace bullying in Copenhagen, and I hope there will be more people attending from Australia at the next one. I presented on diagnosis, treatment and organisations. I do not want to talk about the tip of the iceberg. I think we heard enough about that this morning. I want to talk a bit more about what is underneath. I prepared another paper for this morning; it was 10 pages long. Last night, I thought: 'That's ridiculous. Even I can't do that in five minutes.' So I will email it to you later, with comments about what has been spoken about this morning. I have collected a few brief points to present and then maybe you can open it up for questions.

Firstly, I agree that bullying needs clarification. By the way, I just want to say that you will hear some of the voices of victims today but many are too scared to come here to talk about it and so you are just seeing a few of them. Last week a victim texted me that a senior workplace inspector had said that her complaint was not really bullying; it was just bad manners. So bullying is being stapled to a wall. We have another one where, according to the Age newspaper a few weeks ago, Judge Carmody in Fiona Brown v Maurice Blackburn said that the protagonists were both under considerable personal and professional pressure. They had exchanged regrettable emails et cetera but that would not be bullying. He called the sharing of emails 'a classic storm in a teacup'. So I think we need real clarification about what bullying involves.

Secondly, Work Safe Australia has some very good guidelines and very clear risk factors about what creates bullying or what enables it to persist, but what I find is that employers, lawyers and psychiatrists disregard the Work Safe risk factors and blame the targets and then they blame the bullies, whereas in fact, according to international research, bullying is caused by sloppy, ineffective management. We need to make management responsible.

A third point is that the target's perception causes their injury. I think I need to go into that a little bit. What we know from the international research is that there is cortisol damage and brain damage and that this leads to permanent personality change. From that, we have the physical injuries, whether they are gastro or muscular difficulties, weight gains or skin disorders. There is a pattern. The psychological problems are severe depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, social phobia, obsessive compulsive thinking and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What I have identified at two of the last two IAWBH conferences is a constellation of symptoms that I call 'workplace bullying trauma'. The injuries that a victim of workplace bullying has are different from any other form of trauma, such as child sexual abuse, a holocaust or domestic violence. In most cases it could only have come from workplace bullying, not from anything else. Then we have adjustment disorders, cognitive problems, social life problems—a person's social life diminishes. Their family is affected. They have financial difficulties. What really happens is that people believe something is going wrong. This is affected by their belief system because they think 'If I am a good employee, my employer who has got policies and procedures blah, blah, blah will protect me,' whereas in fact their complaint for help is denied. So I do not think it is just the bullying that injures; it is the denial.

I have just returned from Sicily. I think if you complained to the Mafia they would say, 'Tough; that's the way it is.' But when a person works for an organisation that says it has policies but they are not followed and in fact they become the major problem, that is when you can see the decline. It is from the lack of validation all along the line and the injury to the belief systems where people think 'They will look after me' when they do not that you can see a person disintegrate.

There is great debate about diagnosis, but what this does is minimise compensation and treatment. In other words, does someone have a post-traumatic stress disorder as well as stress and depression, or do we just give them the soppy label of 'adjustment disorder'? In my submission to you, I have shown that all the international research points to post-traumatic stress disorder. There is nothing on adjustment disorders, yet the psychiatrists around town say: 'Oh, it's nothing. They just couldn't cope with the workplace—tut-tut.'

I am finding that, although it is wonderful on a worldwide scale that Victorian WorkCover pay for some victims' salaries—not all of them; the rest come through disability pensions et cetera—and they also pay for counselling for some victims, they themselves in fact bullies everyone. They bully their own employees—and Maurice Blackburn is handling that case at the moment. They bully my clients. They bully my secretary who is trying to get paid. They bully psychiatrists by saying: 'This report is not good enough. We want another one tomorrow and another one the following day.' So I have seen three reports from one poor psychiatrist. They seek evidence based treatment but do not expect it in terms of the international research on what is appropriate for treating a victim of workplace bullying—for example, doing voluntary work, having a team approach to treatment and having access to group therapy, physiotherapy and exercise. These are all the things that people are doing internationally, but WorkCover say no. I cannot even visit a client who is suicidal in hospital unless I get prior permission from WorkCover to go there; otherwise, I will not get paid. I only get paid for the visit, not for my travel time. So there is very little encouragement.

As you know, the work on school bullying by Dan Olweus in Norway preceded the work on workplace bullying by Stale Einarsen, who is also in Bergen, Norway. We have learnt in school bullying that, yes, as someone was saying this morning, the collaborative approach is fine, and it is what I train organisations. Unfortunately, it does not always happen. Restorative practice is fabulous and there is more international research on it, but we also need to teach our targets how to be more resilient, whether it is our kids at school or whether it is our apprentices, our young doctors or our young lawyers—by the way, they get badly bullied—or any other employee. Work is not a kindergarten and you can learn how to deflect and block difficult people.

Workplaces need to develop a collaborative approach and eliminate anything adversarial. Once you go down the adversarial track, it escalates, and the only people who gain are really those in the legal system. But once you start along the legal track—do the investigations, the mediations and the conciliation—in most cases, it becomes totally adversarial and there are a lot more losers than winners. When everybody who is in trouble has left that workplace, nothing has changed. They have still got the bullying situation, the bystanders have been affected and productivity has gone down et cetera.

What workplaces need to do is validate someone's perception—'Oh, you think this has happened.' Acknowledge that it is an issue, accept that it is indicative of something wrong in the management practices and work out how they can restructure those management practices. We need to give organisations guidelines, check lists and audit suggestions—all the ways in which you can check up on what is going on in your organisation at every level and what you can do about it. One of the most important things to do is to talk to your staff and to talk with your staff. It is about having that conversation: 'What's going on? I've been hearing rumours. How is it going there?'

We need effective training. I spoke last week at a large children's hospital. It was at 10 o'clock in the morning and 160 people turned up. And, may I add, this was in the middle of school holidays. They had had their hour of tick-and-flick training not so long ago. I was speaking to a young man yesterday who wants to do some more tick-and-flick training—the DVDs. It was clear that he had got all his information off Google. So you are really not achieving very much, I think, from this sort of thing. You need proper training and accountability. Anyone who is paid as a manager has to have appropriate training to know how to manage people. It is all very well being good at the product as a lawyer, as a teacher or as a nurse; but you also have to be accountable for how you manage the people you work with. Just like a good parent who stops the kids from fighting over who is going to play this or that next—and it is the same thing in the classroom—a manager has to stop their staff from misbehaving and treating each other inappropriately. There are businesses who are doing that today who say, according to the Harvard Business Review, that if our staff are feeling happy and safe—guess what?—they will work harder and our business will do better. Most employers, I am amazed to see, just do not care about the bottom line.

I think we need to give power to the general practitioner to control and manage the treatment team, instead of it being managed by an insurance company—with 23-year-olds working for it who change all the time—and by the legal system. In other words, if someone is affected by bullying then they are injured and there are symptoms, and I think it should be the GP who runs the management team—be it psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psych nurses et cetera. That is their role rather than the insurance companies'.

I think there needs to be research into the best treatment for long-term victims of bullying, because there is nothing around since Leymann 1996. In other words, I am seeing some people for up to 11 or 12 years, and there are no professional guidelines anywhere in the world for me to say, 'Ah, this is what I should be doing.' Why do they have such a problem? Because they have had to go through so many legal claims, with common law—blah, blah, blah—and at the end of it they are not able to work and they have severely imploded. They are very different people. It is a tragic situation.

I think we need to look at role models, from our CEO and CFO down, and to again encourage them to see bullying as a sign of dysfunction within the management system. It is like the canary down the coalmine. It is not just a matter of, 'Let's employ a high-profile legal term to get rid of the target and then the bully later on,' but rather, 'Let's look at what's going on.' Unfortunately and very sadly, Fukushima is a very good example of bullying. I think we would really benefit from a national helpline, with state-based advice for our targets—legal advice, medical advice and training. There needs to be somewhere to go. My website is good. It is being updated, but really there needs to be something more acceptable than that. Mine is my own thing.

I think that we need to have a different return-to-work program. At the moment it is a licence to print money for some of the rehab providers. I am sorry to say that, but those are the facts. It should be based on the employer working with the treatment team, not avoiding them. So if I wanted to ring the employer and say, 'Look, my client is feeling upset, they feel devalued et cetera,' they are not interested in talking to me in most situations. It would seem that we all have the person's best interests at heart, and that is to get them back to work as soon as possible, but employers are avoiding the people who are working with the injured victims.

I think there needs to be more training. GPs have no training in treating victims of workplace bullying or school bullying at the moment—I have started, through the mental health plan network, doing a few free evenings—and nor do psychiatrists. I train psychologists, so I will be in Brisbane on Tuesday giving a full day of training to psychologists to treat victims of workplace bullying. I was in Ballarat not so long ago. This is not happening, by the way, anywhere else in Australia and probably not in the world.

I think all government departments, state and federal, should work together. I will write to you in confidence about an example of that I had last week, concerned with Brodie's law. I think we need to alter the common-law claim. At the moment it just makes people worse and nobody wins at the end of the day. People have their hopes held out that it will give some validation, and I do not think it really does.

I am going to support what was mentioned earlier today: I think we need a permanent government task force representing all the professions, lawyers, unions and insurers to work together to find and monitor solutions and to look at the international best practice—not to be insular and just look at what we are doing here in Australia—and constantly monitor what they are doing overseas and what is successful.

I will just finish on a final note. Last week the CEO of France Telecom was placed under formal investigation for alleged workplace bullying linked to a spate of suicides at the company. Marie-France Hirigoyen, who initiated the first workplace bullying law in France, just sent me the details the other day. Thank you for listening to me.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for the very comprehensive overview. I have a couple of questions. One is on the issues you see with the common law. Could you elaborate on that, particularly on the areas where you think there is a problem that is setting people up for failure.

Ms Field : As far as I understand—not being a lawyer and being a bit vague at times—if you are able to get WorkCover and then you are on WorkCover for a few years, when your condition is stable you can apply for something else, the name of which I have forgotten. Then your lawyer might say, 'Right, now you can apply for a common-law claim.' That means you have a certain amount of disability, and we have heard this morning that it varies around the country. What happens to certain people is that they get their common-law claim and they have to pay back WorkCover or Centrelink. They have to pay their lawyers, and at the end of the day what do they have? Nothing. But, on that process of waiting, I still have clients who, after 11 years, have not had their common-law claim heard. They are stuck like a plane on the tarmac; they cannot move anywhere. They cannot get better, they cannot do voluntary work, they cannot retrain, they cannot do anything—and they get worse and worse, both physically and psychologically. It is the end of their life as they know it.

CHAIR: Okay. I just wanted to clarify that that was what we were talking about. Secondly, you talked about it not becoming an adversarial process. At the same time, we heard suggestions this morning, especially in a workplace that may not have the management structures to deal with bullying, that there be some sort of independent organisation to hear claims and to mediate or conciliate, or, as some suggested, just to provide informal advice. While I recognise the focus of the evidence we have heard is on the problems of the process continuing to be informal, what I am hearing is that there is a bit of tension between nipping it in the bud as quickly as possible, not formalising it and not letting it becoming adversarial, and a process involving a body that has some sort of independence and can provide advice if people do not feel they are being heard at the workplace. How do you reconcile those two important principles and have a system that focuses on prevention and early intervention but at same time has some element of independence or external recourse if you do not feel like it is being fixed for you? There is a tension there, it seems to me.

Ms Field : You are right. You are absolutely right. At the end of the day, you can tell your kids, 'Don't touch the heater; it's hot,' over and over again, but eventually you have to put a consequence to it. Sometimes parents will actually smack their kids, which should not be done. I do not know how you resolve that. I think people like Moira Rayner are excellent people to listen to, and I think this is what a task force could do. Personally I would like to see an attitude change—that is, that we work together to resolve differences, just like we would in the village when we all lived in villages 100 years ago, rather than damning someone for speaking up, because that is what is happening at the moment: you are putting your head in the mouth of a shark when you speak up. So I think we need to encourage managers to listen to their staff, listen to what they are saying, and then say, 'Right; let's find a way.'

Restorative practices are wonderful. Penny, I hope, will present on her method of mediation. The standard mediations, as you know, are not working. They make it worse, because there is an imbalance of power. But ideally we want to work together to create a better workplace, a more profitable workplace, where people want to go to work. There have to be some boundaries, whether you are fining organisations, giving advice to managers or putting legal structures in place. I think that is something for the committee to think about: what would work for Australia? And I am not sure that the best role model is overseas, whether we are looking at France, Germany, Norway, Sweden or Finland. England are no use; they do not have any legislation—that is pathetic. In America they really want to attack the bullies, so various states have legislation.

On that note, I know Dr Laura Crawshaw has sent information to you. She gave an excellent keynote speech at the conference in Copenhagen and she was here training last year. She actually works with bullies and she could only think of one bully that she had worked with who was not able to change. Most bullies want to be seen as competent, are trying their very best, and with coaching-mentoring they can change and stay within the organisation. Further to that, there is information that more people are both bullies and victims—so one moment I am the victim and one moment I am the bully. We cannot make a division between bullies and victims, as we have been doing.

CHAIR: It is very interesting that you say that because we in fact heard quite contradictory evidence yesterday, about the personality traits of bullies. Indeed, I asked what the cultural or environmental elements of a workplace are that can create the behaviours that turn into bullying. Interestingly enough, there were some very specific psychological traits that we were told were inherent and could not be changed.

Ms Field : If you are going by Robert O'Hare or John Clarke you are looking at the psychopaths, the sociopaths and the people with anti-social personality disorders. You have a maximum of four per cent in the population, and one or two per cent of that four per cent are going to be in jail. That leaves two per cent, and not all of them are at work. That leaves the 96 per cent of people who are at work. The bullies must come from that group. They do not necessarily mean to bully and they can change. What Professor Wood says is that it is about the system. If you do not manage the system then the bullies are more likely to get away with it and the targets who are provocative will get away with it. Like any good teacher in a class or any good parent, you have to manage what you have, regardless. Even a psychopath knows how to play within the guidelines if you make the guidelines firm and the goalposts are not moving. But that is up to the manager.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. That is very useful in the context of the whole inquiry. It sounds like you have done quite a significant amount of work on the whole spectrum from the preventative side. What have you seen in places that have done a very good job? What do you see as the key elements? You said that training was one. Has anything specific stood out to you in organisations that have done things either very poorly or very well? I cannot remember the words that you used, but you talked about management in particular. But what would you say are the key principles or key elements that have created either very unsafe workplaces that allow bullying and psychological injury to occur or very good workplaces?

Ms Field : Stale Einarsen presented a very good paper two years ago on leadership. A lot of leadership is good. But a lot of it is passive-aggressive or aggressive. That is your problem. What I would like to share is a story of a case that a presented in Copenhagen about a training organisation in Ballarat. They had a staff turnover of 110 per cent two years ago. I went in a year and a half ago. All I did was talk about bullying and interviewed people. When I met with them again I validated the story and the injuries—the bystanders, the bullies and the targets all had injuries—and encouraged them to think about what action they would like to take. What happened is that the CEO, who was seen as the bully, left. New management took over. They did a lot of staff training and listened to staff. Now they are one of the top training organisations in Australia—they were in the lower 10 per cent. It is a lovely place to work. You can feel the environment. They are getting more jobs for handicapped people. This took place in 18 months. That is a really good story. I can think of another fellow, one related to me, who monitors how his staff are feeling on a monthly basis. If staff are feeling safe and comfortable, they work better and his business will do better.

I would encourage you to look at the work of Professor Rob Sutton and his book The No Asshole Rule. Basically, at the end of the day listening to your staff and taking into account their feelings and trying to adjust your workplace is what it is all about. The inquiry into the Columbia disaster, which was the shuttle that fell to the earth with the loss of seven lives, concluded that leaders should listen, listen and listen to get all the information. I might be oversensitive and think that I am being bullied. That is fine: I have my perspective. The manager thinks that they are just being a manager. But if you listen to people and give people a chance to listen to one another then I think that you can solve the problem at the grassroots. It is a problem if the manager says, 'No, you're wrong; it didn't happen,' and supports their mates.

The boys' club is very strong in many organisation. There is a lack of awareness about how men think, feel, behave and act and women think, feel, behave and act. If you look at the body languages of males or females, you will find huge differences. We have to look into that. There are more females affected by bullying than males. I see more females in my practice than males because they are more likely to suffer a trauma. We have to look at the role model that the CEO provides all the way down. I have sent to you examples of bullying in organisations that are meant to deal with bullying, whether they are law firms, work cover organisations or some of the self-help agencies. We have to make sure, if we are going to help people who are being bullied, that in our organisations we practice what we preach.

CHAIR: Excellent.

Mr RAMSEY: I am trying to get a clear picture. I think that you are telling us that positive encouragement of management in the workplace is more likely to succeed than legislatively forcing them in that direction—I think that that is what you are saying.

Ms Field : Yes.

Mr RAMSEY: In that light, there is a code of conduct under consideration by COAG at the moment that concerns workplace bullying. Would you like to see that become a legislative or regulatory instrument or do you think that it should be an example and that businesses can choose to adopt that code?

Ms Field : It needs to be law. I know that when they changed the law about bullying in schools that kids just stopped from one weekend to the next. You need to put the boundaries in place. It is the same in football, cricket or anywhere else: people need to know what the boundaries are. If you tell them that they are going to make more money and have a better business does not get the message through to employers—I do not know why not, but it does not get through. You have to say: 'We will help you. These are the guidelines. There will be audits. This is what you can do. Here is some training. But at the end of the day there are hefty fines.'

Mr RAMSEY: All right. Thank you.

Ms O'NEILL: There is an article in today's Financial Review that talks about productivity. It indicates that the greatest threat to productivity for the nation is management. It was very interesting to have heard your evidence here today. It was great to get that international perspective, because that is something that we have been asking about for the last couple of days. You mentioned one thing that we have heard absolutely nothing about, which was workplace trauma. You indicated that you could come up with a set of descriptors that would identify the workplace as the only place in which that kind of trauma could have happened. Could you expand a little on that.

Ms Field : Thank you very much. You have got to the heart of what I like to do research on. In Copenhagen, I presented a paper on 50 long-term victims of workplace bullying. I gave them two tests to assess post-traumatic stress disorder. What we found is that everyone satisfied the conditions for post-traumatic stress disorder according to the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health—who use a Breslau scale, which is an internationally accepted brief scale. Forty satisfied criterion A, in that they felt that there was a threat to their life. That is what the major debate is about. I have included that in my submission and if you want more detail I am happy to send it to you. Out of the 50, 49 said that they felt traumatised. I have sent you a reference list. There is sufficient research. The major research shows that bullying may cause—not always—a post-traumatic stress disorder.

The interesting thing is that when I have someone come to see my now am starting to look for certain symptoms. With regards to physical symptoms, more than half will put on weight—some will put on 15 to 16 kilograms if not more. Some will lose weight. I find that they will have gastro problems, headaches and breathing problems. The list goes on and on. Most of them will have sleep disorders. I am starting to take that as a given. All of them will have cognitive difficulties. They cannot remember things; they cannot learn new material. Yet if you ask them about their workplace bullying most of them will remember everything. This is unlike victims or witnesses to rape, child sexual abuse, murder or anything else. So there are differences coming through.

In terms of their social life, most of them find that they are socialising with their families and their friends, but not with work colleagues—that goes down to nil, because everybody is told not to talk to the target when they leave. Their social life goes down. That is why the groups that I ran for 11 years were so successful. You will not see that as clearly with a rape victim or a domestic violence victim. Their social lives continue. I guarantee you that Holocaust survivors who got out of Auschwitz and came to Australia the parties and the balls began. They held them every week. And they are still doing that today. We have to ask whether these traumas are all the same or different. I believe that this is a different trauma. My colleague in Canada or Pat Ferris would agree with me. I have collected a lot of information about that. It is simple. I think that I can say that workplace bullying causes a different sort of trauma.

You see a person disintegrating into a totally different person. You have to ask: how come this was a top lawyer, a top teacher, a top architect? Look at them now. I have to do a jump in my mind to what they were like before all this stuff happened. If we say they have not been bullied, fair enough, but what has caused the injuries? I am looking at the physical, psychological, social and cognitive injuries. That is the way I have been trained. So, if bullying did not cause these injuries, what else caused them? My hypothesis is that nothing else causes those injuries in that constellation apart from workplace bullying.

Ms O'NEILL: I would like to ask a couple more questions, but maybe you can take them on notice because the time is really tight. You brought up some gender issues that we have not heard anything of before. I note that there are different modes of communication, often, between men and women and perhaps that is part of it. A little more information on that would be very helpful.

The other thing is identifying workplaces of excellence so we can find out what they are doing that is a natural prophylactic to bullying. What are they doing that is stopping it from happening? Where are there outstanding examples in Australia of businesses that prevent it, the champions of the fact that there is a bottom line increase in productivity? Are there any great workplaces that we should be talking to?

Ms Field : I am afraid I do not know of many, but I am working at the other end. Actually, I would prefer to say that a workplace is working on improving their workplace culture. I will make an analogy from the school ground—and, by the way, school bullying is pathetic at the moment, around the world. The White House had an inquiry last year. We still get incredible cases, as you will hear from Sandra after me. It is very, very sad. I saw a little boy yesterday who was bashed and bruised, aged six, at a school probably not even 10 kilometres from here. So I think we have to learn from school bullying that we have to move in a new direction now. I hope I have not lost myself. Could you repeat the question, please?

Ms O'NEILL: I asked about gender and excellence.

Ms Field : Right—thank you. I am more interested in a school that is managing the bullying rather than saying, 'We have none here.' I therefore would be more interested in a workplace that says, 'Yes, we have bullying'—

Ms O'NEILL: 'But this is what we do.'

Ms Field : 'but we are working on it.' I did workshops for the Department of Treasury and Finance last year. The bullying figures are high, but the departments are working on it. I think that is what I really want to see, because we can all bully or be bullied, apart from saints and sociopaths. But if we are aware it is an issue and we work on it then we will head in the right direction.

Regarding women, women are more likely to have a post-traumatic stress disorder than men in any area of trauma. That comes from Professor Alexander McFarlane and those are pretty standard figures. In my practice, I will see men but I tend to see more women. I think women, because we are into detail and we are the gatherers, are more affected by bullying, sadly enough. What are organisations doing to make workplaces safer for women? I don't think they are doing very much yet. I look at the male way of going about achieving things, using 'I' when women use 'we', the way they stand and move, their body language, whereas women usually carry themselves differently anywhere, even on a train. I think there is a huge gap between the way men and women assert their rights. Of course, any woman trying to break through the glass ceiling is going to be knocked down. Very, very few get through.

Ms O'NEILL: I find that very interesting, because I heard a group of gentlemen who were managed by a very senior woman exclaiming how different her emails were in her communication with them and how it was changing the way they thought about how they should communicate with the people who worked for them. So one got through the glass ceiling and the difference filtered down.

Ms Field : I think that is good, but we need to see more women, with or without families, having the opportunities to get through to the top. Then you will get a richer, more productive, more creative workplace. I guess it is the yin and yang—the male mind and the female mind. Women are more creative. They work together. You get a far more productive workplace rather than a stagnant one like we are seeing in many organisations around Australia. I don't think help is being given to women to support them to be assertive. Someone said earlier this morning, 'Women can ask for a better salary.' Women are not good at asking for a better salary. Women just tend to accept. I think you have to understand the nature of the young women, gen Y, who are a bit more assertive, and those who are in their 40s or in their 60s. They are very different.

Mr SYMON: Evelyn, I would like to ask you about a paragraph on page 2 of your submission. It is about the high prevalence of bullying in some professions as opposed to others. You mention the high prevalence in health, welfare, education, public service and semi-government, but you do not go on and give details as to why that is. I was wondering if I could extract from you some of your ideas about why it is more prevalent in those professions. It would seem, from the submissions we have had, that that is the case, but I do not know the reason for that. Hopefully you can shed some light on that.

Ms Field : I will give it a stab, but it is a guess; it is not based on evidence. One could say that in certain professions, like in health and welfare—that is, teachers, PhD students, nurses, doctors, young surgeons or young lawyers—there may be more awareness of bullying. But that does not sit comfortably with me. My gut feeling is that I could be a good teacher but a rotten principal or vice-principal because I have never done any management training. I could be a lovely social worker or migrant welfare worker, but I could be promoted without having done any management training. I think people are promoted because they have done well in productivity, not in staff relationships, and they are not monitored and asked, 'How are you getting on with your staff?' or 'Do your staff feel comfortable to feed back to you?' blah, blah, blah. I think you will find there are a lot of incompetent managers there, and I think it is getting worse, quite frankly.

Mr SYMON: How does that correlate with what happens in a blue-collar workforce? Why is there this big difference in reported cases, and even in submissions that we have received, from this group versus the rest of the workforce?

Ms Field : I am not sure what you mean.

Mr SYMON: You have identified, and we have read in your submission, that some professions are over-represented in terms of cases. I am asking about the professions or occupations that are under-represented. Is there any opposite reason for that—do they have better managers in those areas, or are they less able to complain because they are less likely to know what should be expected in a workplace? Is there something there that has not been said?

Ms Field : I am not aware of the international or local research about that, but I will go by my gut feeling. I had a guy recently who was working on the floor in a glass factory and had complained about the bullying. They did an investigation and they found he was right. After four sessions, I will not see him again, because management listened, they could see what was wrong and they fixed it. I would never get that with a victim of bullying who was working in a school, a social worker, a migrant worker or even a young doctor or young lawyer, because immediately they would get denial. I do not know, but maybe in the trades in some cases management are more prepared to listen. I do not know if that is because of public relations or because they need to get on and do the job. I do not know what it is, but I think poor management is making it worse in some areas.

Mr SYMON: That is very interesting. I would have thought, without doing any research at all, that the highly qualified, more professional managers would be on the white-collar side and could deal better with that. But, from what you are saying, it actually comes down to more than that. That is being prepared to listen to a complaint, and in many cases that may be the start of getting something happening.

Ms Field : Absolutely right. People might think: 'I'm being bullied, but I'm retiring'—or 'I'm going to get pregnant or go overseas'—'next year. I'll hang out for another few months. I can manage it. I can do nothing, I can make jokes. I can waste my time.' Presenteeism and disengagement are very high in Australia. Four-fifths of the workplace in Australia are disengaged—that is according to the Gallup poll. So people might think, 'I can muck around and I'll leave when I'm ready.' But if I say, 'Oh, my gosh, I don't like this behaviour. We've got a policy. We've got procedures. And the union said, "Go for it." ' So I do and I get smashed in the face—and that is when you see the slide. So it is the denial of my perception, the lack of validation, and I start thinking, 'What did I do wrong? I think I followed procedure. I have got a good job. About six months ago I got Saleswoman of the Year but now they are giving me a performance review, a disciplinary review. What is going wrong here?' So that is when people start questioning themselves, they implode, they become obsessive in looking at why it did happen and why it did happen to them and thinking, 'What did I do wrong?' That is where you see the incredible slide.

Mr RAMSEY: Evelyn, is it possible that this has something to do with gender? These workforces that you identify are feminised. The ones that have been talked about are still male domains. Is there a difference about women and male interactions or about more females reacting with each other or do they have a lower threshold?

Ms Field : I am not aware of major differences between females bullying females or males bullying females or males bullying males or males bullying females. I am speaking at the college of anaesthetists in a few weeks time — in Queensland, which will be very nice — and that is about anaesthetists being bullied. I have consulted to the college of surgery about workplace bullying. When you hear about young male surgeons not wanting to practise surgery because they are being bullied, it is very sad. I am sure you will find that in many other areas, whether it is engineering or otherwise. So bullying can happen in both places by both sexes unfortunately.

CHAIR: Okay, we have to finish it there. Thank you for your attendance here today. If there is any additional information that you have indicated that you are going to provide, perhaps something responding to some of the things that you have heard this morning, please provide it. Certainly you have afforded us a lot of very interesting information. If there is anything else that you feel would be of use or of relevance to the committee, we would certainly welcome it through the secretariat—and the sooner the better, as we say to people, so we can consider it as early as possible.

Ms Field : I sent in two of my books. I do not know if they have arrived yet. I am hoping that others will also send in their material, and I think you will get more in-depth information. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: You will also been sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence to which you can make corrections of grammar or fact. Thank you very much for coming.