Saturday, March 10, 2012

The hedgehog syndrome

I once saw a dead hedgehog under an electric fence, thought little of the matter until I saw the second one.  It was a fair guess on my part that when the animal got a nasty shock from the fence, instead of relaxing and walking safely away from the danger, he did what hedgehogs do, rolled into a big ball (making himself much larger) and got another shock, then another and another until it killed him.  I name this ‘the hedgehog syndrome’; it is a phenomenon that is happening to people in New Zealand and perhaps all over the corporate World.
Why the ‘corporate’ World?  Stay with me on this one.
                The hedgehog syndrome is hitting office workers, under managers, labourers in fact anyone who has been unfortunate enough to experience stress through the mean minded, unfeeling and totally unreasonable attitude of a boss who is quite simply a CORPORATE BULLY.
If you wrote of all the cases of corporate bullying in New Zealand business circles, I have no doubt you would fill a volume the size of war and peace.  It is a culture that at first I put down to our current economic climate but have since realised that most corporate bully’s have been trained to be just that. 

The Bank Finance officer, dedicated to his job and appreciated by his established clientele, is attacked by a new Bank Manager; who actually has no idea of the officer’s excellent record.  The result, a stressed worker who has gone from a willing employee to a hedgehog; whose fellow workers have no idea why there is such a change in their colleague.  The stress is so debilitating his whole family suffers, his home life is affected to such a degree they all become stressed.

                A policeman is put down in front of his colleagues, a local council employee is battling with human resources department who have run rough shod over them, ‘and if you don’t like it, you know what you can do.’ Or the favourite put- down, ‘there are plenty of people ready to take your job.’

Ten years ago I was fortunate enough to obtain a management position in a large Auckland company.  I was to train and work with sixty agents; dream job, great salary, long hours.
The Company owner, my new boss insisted that I do not mix with these agents, he considered them to be beneath management. I understood the reason for his insistence but did not adhere to it; in fact a few of the ‘underlings’ became very good friends.  What is so wrong about communicating with the people a rung or two below you on the corporate ladder? Have we not all been there?

The truth of it all is that corporate bullying is leading to a lot of good people getting shafted.  I can hear some saying, ‘tough it out, get real, the boss is tough and that is why he is the employer and you are the employee’.  Actually I have owned my own business employed a number of people and know that fairness and integrity was the mainstay of our good worker/ boss relationship.  Which brings me back to our prickly friend under the electric fence; you have trouble toughing things out when you are caught up in the ‘hedgehog syndrome’.
It may be that the managers and corporate bosses of today have been watching too much Gordon Ramsey. They think that the best way to handle underlings, most of whom have had far more experience than they, is to bully, cajole or ball out in front of other workers or simply write them a letter that has the effect of stripping every vestige of dignity from their battered lives and stresses them to the point of handing in their notice or seeking an advocate to fight on their behalf.

You have now been introduced to New Zealand’s corporate bullying culture.  It is turning employees against their bosses, destroying marriages and upsetting kids.  Furthermore, it is affecting the profitability of businesses and the smooth running of essential services.

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