Like the other sectors, I’m talking about, working for charities does offer the 3 things bullies and harassers most crave – status, power, and opportunity.

I wanted to know what things are like on the ground. So, I interviewed an old school friend who has worked in the charity sector for over 30 years.

The charity sector has been improving in gender equality – with 47% of managers now being women. At the CEO level, this falls to 32%. This is especially annoying for those who, like my friend, work in charities concerned with children & families.

The nastier aspects of bullying and harassment tend to happen at the top end of organizations where the real ‘power’ is rather than at the project end. In smaller charities, it’s easier to establish bullying across the board if the CEO and or senior management are bullies. The project work within charities dealing with children and families tends to be done by women. There is bullying, but it tends to be at the subtler end.

One department is run by a woman who befriends all her new staff, “helps them do everything her way.”  At first new staff seem to like a manager making so much effort to settle them in, ensuring they know how to do their job her way. She renders them dependant on her to be told exactly how she wants things done. They lose the ability to use their initiative and lose interest in the type of work they once loved. There is a very high turnover of staff in that department!

I define bullying as “illegitimate attempts to control.” Probably due to a childhood experience, the manager cannot allow her staff any freedom. She infantilizes her team; it’s disabling for the staff and expensive for the organisation. If this manager cannot manage her own behaviours, why is she trusted to manage? Anonymous 360 appraisals by everyone in her team could resolve this situation.

Bullying and harassment can happen within project work if the organization is small so that there is no one senior to a manager to approach. One particular case was mentioned whereby a project was run by a manager who did throw his weight around; he was ex-army, not uncommon in charities. He was committing fraud and tried bullying, particularly admin, into joining his schemes. Once exposed, he was sacked but found another job in a different town but still within the same sector. It’s pretty easy to get a ‘reference’ on-headed notepaper courtesy of friends.

As with other high-status workplaces, promotions can be a question of who you know rather than what you know; the smaller the organization, the more this is the case. It is easier to bypass bullies and harassers (not that anyone should have to) in larger organisations by moving projects.

My friend’s final comment was to say, “If you think charities are bad, you should look at local government who will, if possible, try to shift blame onto charity partners if they can.”

#workplacebullying #bullying #harassment #bullyingawareness #bullyingprevention

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