the thorn continues to press

I’ve written here in Marginalia a number of times (1, 2, 3, 4) on the subject of workplace vampires – bullies. I have recently launched a space to gather some research on the topic of workplace bullying – mostly based on the international perspective rather than the New Zealand milieu. Unfortunately, bullying continues unabated in the workplace, and anecdotes from people who believe they are being, or have been bullied as adult workers, are frequently heard. It doesn’t make sense to me – I do understand the bullying component, what I don’t understand is why, in an environment where we frequently hear about the shortage of skilled staff, how hard it is to get good staff, how staff have the loyalty of cats, is it that HR and management are frozen – unable or unwilling to act. It’s not as though there is an infinite number of prospective staff, and needless to say, word spreads rapidly about how undesirable some workplaces are. And these warnings are acted on by prospective staff and customers alike.

I wrote back in August 2007 an article entitled: workplace bullying: the stakes are raised, about certain goings-on at Wellington’s Queen Margaret College and the rather dubious actions and behaviours of the principal, senior staff, and the board. Their combined forces, coupled with spin doctor reinforcement, have done a good job of hushing the whole sordid affair up, and so there has been little or no information about what happened next.

Sadly, the target of the bullying tactics, Dr Stuart Selwood died peacefully at his home on 3 January 2008, exactly 13 months after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. The cancer spread to his brain and a large brain tumour was diagnosed only in early November. It is unfortunate that the cancer hadn’t been picked up earlier – at the time Oncologist Peter Dady was reported as saying “Dr Selwood’s life expectancy was one to two years. Stress would not have caused the cancer, but it could have cloaked the symptoms till it was too late, he said.” Patrick Crewdson – The Dominion Post – Monday, 27 August 2007. Dr Selwood had put the initial symptoms down to stress, and had he not done so there is every chance he would be with his wife and family now.

Apparently a large number of Queen Margaret staff did attend Dr Selwood’s funeral, and one staff member spoke at the funeral, however there has NEVER been any acknowledgment by the school of his passing. Previously, I’d noted that perhaps the school might manage … ‘hollow words at the school assembly, perhaps even a minute or two of silence.’ But no, not even that. Disgraceful and most unbecoming of a church school that lays claims to “professional and supportive staff and a warm, caring and friendly atmosphere“. Perhaps the excuse is that Dr Selwood died during the holidays and no one knew. Questionable, because staff attended. Luce Veritatis – By the light of truth. Perhaps the truth of the matter is more something teachers everywhere are familiar with – there are few things more damning than a guilty silence.

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