Tuesday, June 11, 2013

WHO MANAGES THE MANAGERS?

DOWN BOY!
After my (and many colleagues) recent and ongoing experience of being bullied at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), it has occurred to me that in all the supposed changes CIT claim to have made to anti bullying by awareness training and new processes of reporting, I don’t see any evidence of managers being made accountable to their inferiors in any concrete way.

We need a new regime that makes managers responsibility to use their authority fairly wisely with neither fear nor favour absolutely transparent. If there were such a regime, we could nip in the bud in most cases, the long process of putting in a formal complaint and waiting for an outcome.

Managers are answerable to higher management, but it seems to me that once you gain (I will not say earn) the title of ‘manager’ at CIT, you are suddenly in a new separate and holy club of untouchables. At least this is what I found. When we went to other managers with complaints, they were loath to act against those in their ‘own club’. Sometimes they actively covered them up.

Teachers at my level have to draft a Performance Management meeting document each year or six months about our own performance in the job. Then we have a meeting with our manager, discuss and come to agreement on our projected workload, our goals for ‘increasing the (teaching) business’, and our professional development, then both sign off on the agreement. Unfortunately, this very process was used at CIT against me and others either to bully us, or as some kind of ‘disciplinary’ meeting which is not its purpose.

Teachers are formally assessed by students as well - feedback is written, the student does not have to give their name and the feedback is read and filed by education management - fair enough of course. Students also have a dedicated Equity Officer available to them who will act immediately to sort out any difficulties they have with teachers. Students also have the counselling service on campus. 

Teachers on the other hand, especially casuals have traditionally had no come back and were very effectively at the mercy of bad managers. My bully (not even my own manager) took it upon himself to harass me verbally over the phone regarding supposed complaints from students. This over the phone contact allowed him to say what he wanted and I have NO IDEA whether he recorded any of it. Meanwhile, certain students reported they were questioned in such a way in the corridors that they felt they were being asked to report 'dirt' on teachers.

Nowhere in the reporting/performance management process is there space or opportunity to comment frankly on how we feel we have been ‘managed’ over the last year but our manager gets to read and file the report on us. What teachers need is a process where they can record their experience of being managed confidentially, by management other than their immediate manager. This has to become either a part of the process, or, a complete new process where higher or peer management are responsible to check on whether the staff of lower/other management feel they have been professionally and appropriately managed.

If the manager gets a bad ‘Management Performance Report’, especially if a pattern is developing, they should be required to meet and find a way to remedy this with their staff immediately. The process of requesting mediation or putting in a formal complaint usually happens when the problem has escalated by neglect and/or lack of process into something much more serious which is why CIT is under the hammer at the moment. 

The problem has arisen at CIT largely because those who attain Education Manager status are not required to have any management qualifications at all. In many cases, they are also less experienced in teaching and much less educated than those they manage. They are more likely to be experienced in CIT processes and have been around a long time and that is about all that qualifies them. A certain admin manager had only a year 10 qualification until May this year despite managing staff for over 10 years at CIT.

Surely anyone going into management positions at work should have some kind of a qualification? At the very least they should have some in-house management training to see whether they actually have the ability to manage people? Their attitudes to supervising, power and responsible use of that power should be tested. With the sheer amount of bullying at work would it be too much to ask that prospective managers have a psych evaluation?

Governments around Australia urgently need to look into simple processes where each and every one of us at ANY level in the workplace are responsible to others and each other for how we treat colleagues and subordinates. Current processes are not transparent, are too hierarchical, favour the ‘high’ and are easily circumvented. No manager should ever be a law unto themselves – and this is effectively what has happened at CIT and many public service work places – this is how I was bullied and I can vouch for many others as well.


Lorese Vera MA.

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