We're All in This Together: A recent survey of our fellow case workers in the UK revealed that the number one problem they face is unreasonable and overwhelming case loads.
A Surprise: However, the same survey of UK case workers revealed a rather surprising fact: management bullying was mentioned most frequently as their second biggest problem.
The Nature of the Case: UK caseworkers reported that direct supervision, under enormous pressure from upper management, was resorting to bullying tactics to wring more productivity out of an already overburdened system. They reported that shouting, name calling, threats, and intimidation were becoming frequent management tactics. As a result, workplace moral was at a new low as more caseworkers called in sick, avoided the office, or abruptly quit after being victims of bullying.
Further research revealed that as an increasing work load strained limited resources, top management had gradually regressed to a check off management style. Productivity was measured by how many cases were filed as "resolved" rather than actually being successfully completed on behalf of the client.
Top management had instituted ill-conceived bonus programs that were tied to numerical resolution, not actual resolution. Artificial goals were forced on case workers in the field. Pressure on middle management began to build as they were caught between the unreasonable expectations of top management and the severely limited ability of field management to meet the unreasonable goals.
The Case in the US: Over the last few decades in the US, the number of people who have admitted to being the target of workplace bullying has increased drastically. In 2011, half of employees in one survey said they were treated rudely at least once a week, an increase of 25% from 1998.
Some researchers say the recent economic downturn has put undue stress on bosses, causing them to lash out at employees. As the incidence of workplace bullying increases, rates of employee engagement are plummeting. Studies reveal that employees who feel undermined at work are more likely to be stressed and to miss work for health reasons.
What Can Be Done: Researchers say it is important to give employees resources before bullying actually occurs. That may mean, for example, establishing a social support network that recognizes and labels bullying as soon as it occurs. "You can't change the bully," researchers say, "but you can prevent yourself from being a victim."
Do you have the resources in place or an anti-bullying program at your agency?