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New approaches to bullying and conflict at work seminar IV: Corporate Perversion, Toxic Leaders

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building

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This seminar concerns itself with the burning issue of corporate and individual narcissism, perversion and leadership, and their impact on bullying and conflict. We explore the nature of relationships in toxic environments.

Insight into Ill Treatment in the British Workplace
Prof Ralph Fevre (University of Cardiff)

Planning for this long-term research project on the British workplace began in 2006 and led to an ESRC award in the following year. The spine of the project consists of two representative surveys of British employees, the British Workplace Behaviour Survey (BWBS), which is the largest representative study of workplace ill-treatment so far conducted anywhere in the world, and, in the following year, the Fair Treatment at Work Survey (FTWS), which allowed the repetition of some questions asked in the BWBS.
Four qualitative case studies complete the dataset. These were effectively four separate research programmes undertaken in well-known British companies. The case studies helped us to pin-point the major causes of the ill-treatment of employees and the actions that organisations could take to bring about better treatment.

Trouble at Work
Prof Duncan Lewis (University of Plymouth)

Whether it is bullying, harassment or stress – it is always in the headlines. Yet, in many discussions, the research and statistics that are cited prove unreliable. This book summarises the largest specialist research programme on ill-treatment in the workplace so far undertaken. It provides a powerful antidote to half-truths and misinformation and offers a new way of conceptualizing trouble at work, moving the discussion away from individualized explanations – and talk of ‘bullies’ and ‘victims’ – towards the workplace characteristics that cause trouble at work. The biggest problems arise where organisations fail to create a workplace culture in which individuals really matter. Paradoxically, these are often the organisations which are well-versed in modern management practices. Even though they may try their best to avoid the most troubled workplaces, minority employees continue to suffer more ill-treatment than others.

Working in a Country at War: Trauma in Afghanistan
Dr Lucia Berdondini (University of Strathclyde)

Lucia Berdondini has been working over the past 15 years both in Italy and in the UK, as an academic, psychologist, counsellor and psychotherapist. Her PhD focused on bullying in schools, and pioneered the use of cooperative group work as an anti-bullying intervention. She has been involved in several projects in Afghanistan and her areas of interest have been recently focused on developing counselling training courses in countries in war and post conflict.

Dr Berdondini will talk about a project funded by the British Council under the scheme called INSPIRE in collaboration with the University of Herat, Afghanistan. Each year a group of Afghan practitioners, medical doctors, nurses, lecturers and counsellors have received a training course focused on trauma and the reality of living in a country in war. She will focus on how the therapeutic work with trauma, using a humanistic approach in a Middle East country, has been developed and dealt with.

Workplace Bullying and Destructive Leadership
Prof Stale Einarsen (University of Bergen, Norway)

Stale Einarsen is the undisputed leader in the field of bullying at work research. Head of the Bergen Bullying Research Group, he is a founding member of the International Association on Workplace Bullying and Harassment, and he has acted as an advisor to the Norwegian Government. His Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ-R) is used worldwide, and he has published widely, including three international volumes on workplace bullying.
Prof Einarsen will talk about bullying and leadership. As great leaders can create wealth and success for a company, destructive leaders can be equally as harmful. While the qualities and outcomes of good leaders have been widely researched, destructive leadership has received relatively little attention. Research conducted by Einarsen and his team show associations between destructive forms of leadership and work withdrawal. Both supportive-but-disloyal forms of leadership and abusive leadership were significant and equally strong indicators of work withdrawal, while not reporting any sort of destructive leadership was associated with significantly less work withdrawal.

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