So what is the fundamental difference between which one of you, “the bully” or yourself, is out the door? Power. If “the bully” is someone with power or influence over others in the organization, even if not beloved by the workforce, you will be out the door if you solicit support from others. If “the bully” does not have much meaningful power, has displeased someone who does have it, or their power is precarious in the organization, then they will be out the door. Either way, the workforce joins together to share and shape their perceptions of who is undesirable, forge an identity of the target that will be more widely communicated to others, and pursue the results they are after – the elimination of someone.
Dr. Janice Harper, Just-Us Justice: The Gentle Genocide of Workplace Mobbing
Serendipity it may be, but although I may call my recent discovery of the website of Dr. Janice Harper and her paper a fortunate discovery it is hardly a happy circumstance. Having been the subject of personal attack and workplace marginalization, Dr. Harper recognized in the treatment meted out to her through her bullying at the University of Tennessee Knoxville the hallmarks of genocide. The tale of her progressive and deliberate career destruction bears such similar hallmarks to that of the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue (aka ‘Pat’) that I was at first astounded. Dr. Harper’s misfortune differs from that of Pat in one basic detail: Pat was targeted for his race, Dr. Harper because of her gender.
Dr. Harper makes note that whilst dismissing a staff member is generally easy, factors such as gender, race or colour can make dismissal of a staff member difficult. She only briefly touches upon political or influential connections, although broader reading indicates the patriarchal dominance within her workplace protected those seeking her departure. Not at all unlike Pat, targeted because of his heritage by the Inquisitor, who readily called upon his association with Ted Quinlan, the then ACT Treasurer and Minister for Police. Ultimately it seems, it all comes down to who has the more powerful allies, who can command the backing of the leadership. Like Pat, Dr. Harper found herself backed into a corner and pursued by the ‘grizzly bear’ of the dominant patriarchy, abandoned by those she once thought supported her. It’s an apt metaphor, in which the description of a vicious animal pursuing its prey will destroy anything else that gets in its way; hence if the target seeks support from colleagues, those colleagues fear becoming entangled in the mess and flee, leaving the prey exposed and alone. What’s more, those once considered friends become aggressive toward the victim, even throwing him to the wolves themselves for the sake of self-preservation. It’s at this point that the mob has formed and the victim is assured of total annihilation. The employer would prefer that the employee leave of his own will, but if not, will ultimately push him out the door themselves. Dr. Harper although dismissed by the University of Tennessee Knoxville, did manage to rebuild her life and fight another day. Pat did not and his career and personal life have become dust.
Get out. No matter what the cost, mobbing is not something most survive. Take pro-active steps to protect your health, career and finances by finding new employment, before your reputation and your spirit are destroyed. Whatever the costs of leaving, consider your assets and preserve then. Leave before your reputation is destroyed, your finances wiped out by attorney fees, your spirit savagely attacked. When you are at war, you can win. But mobbing is not a form of warfare, it is a form of genocide, and the only way to survive genocide is to flee.
Pat’s attempt to move on when he tried was deliberately blocked by the manipulation and falsification of his academic record and curriculum vitae. This really was an attack motivated by the most racist of intents.
Fleeing a destructive work environment assumes several things. Firstly, alternative work must be available. In the case of Pat, accused of falsifying his academic records to gain a role at the ACT Department of Treasury, such an option was severely curtailed. Worse yet, Pat’s marginalization was driven, at least partially, by the fact that he had noted $130,000,000 missing from the ACT Home Loan Portfolio during his time at the Department of Urban Services (noted in a letter from Cathy Kosmidis, page 1 of 2 and page 2 of 2). Whistle blowers, argues Dr. Harper, simply become the target of increased pressure placed in the hands of the bully. Colleagues formerly believed to be allies and friends begin to keep their distance, eventually forming a mob that castigate and denigrate the victim until finally he has no support network, his self-esteem crumbles and his mental health begins to suffer.
Such was Pat’s course as documented by Dr. Jillian Fleming, who noted and documented the racist attacks on Pat (page 1 & page 2), which the Australian Federal Police (AFP), one of the perpetrators of the attacks, accessed via subpoena from Dr. Fleming directly. Despite being fully cognizant of what had already transpired at the ACT Department of Treasury, the AFP continued to racially attack Pat. Bullied, standing alone in a sea of venom, Pat was the victim of a deliberate and targeted mob attack that included the ACT Department of Treasury, the AFP, Ernst & Young and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC, now the Australian Human Rights Commission or AHRC), all supporting one racist, manipulative minor celebrity whose power is grossly disproportionate to his public role.
By this stage, Pat’s marginalization was complete. Devoid of the support not only of his work colleagues, but of the protections supposedly afforded all Australians in this democratic state, Pat’s demise was almost complete. And it all happened just as Dr Harper says, who describes that it is ‘easy to eliminate a person from any group, and persuade others to share that objective …’:
1) shape perception that the target is different from others and that the difference is undesirable;
2) frame the problem in a specific manner that places the responsibility for the conflict squarely on the shoulders of the person to be eliminated;
3) elicit fear and loathing among the workforce toward the targeted employee; and
4) diminish the social support and strategic capacity of the target to defend themselves.
Pat’s image was manipulated by the Inquisitor who, having accessed his supervisor’s personnel file illegally from Ernst & Young as well as from Louise Fitzgerald within the ACT Department of Treasury on at least two occasions, manipulated documents in both at some point between the two. In an initial letter dated 9 May 2002, the Inquisitor paints an image of Pat’s family as untrustworthy criminals for the simple reason that they are Indigenous Australians and because his cousin was an elder at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. He further conscripts the support of Tanya Taylor, to reinforce his opinion that ‘Aborigines are compulsive criminals and liars’. The Inquisitor further pushes his opinions, tapping into the fragility of the white-Australian psyche by pursuing the ever present fear and loathing for ‘the general disposition of Aborigines to lie and the criminal records of his family’. Of particular note are Pat’s qualifications mentioned by the Inquisitor in his letter of 2002, which directly conflict with those he says Pat claimed to hold in a second letter addressed to Gillian Morphett at Ernst & Young eighteen months later.
As attested to by Ms. King and bragged about by the Inquisitor during the assaults at the Waldorf Café in 2005, Pat’s file was doctored by the Inquisitor and Tanya Taylor. In doing so, the Inquisitor was able to alter the perception of Pat among his colleagues and superiors, discrediting him and barring him from sourcing alternative employment.
The fact that a subordinate of Pat’s could access his personnel file at Ernst & Young, despite acting ultra vires and after the express warning of Pat to his former employers on the advice of his lawyers has never been investigated. Notably, the National Privacy Principles (NPP) referred to by Gillian Morphett only apply to law enforcement agencies, which the ACT Department of Treasury is not. Hence, Ernst & Young released the documents illegally. One can only assume that the ruling elite, uneasy about the missing $130,000,000 for which the Inquisitor denied involvement, preferred to dismiss one whistle-blower and support the racist invective of a minor celebrity rather than go hunting for revenue that had possibly found its way into the coffers of people they preferred not to challenge.
And so it went. Marginalized in both his then existing workplace in the ACT Department of Treasury and set on the path to his nadir by his former employers at Ernst & Young, Pat found himself without friends in all corners, unable to redirect his career with claims that he lied and falsified his records and denied his rights to an impartial investigation by the Australian Federal Police or the Australian HREOC, with whom he had lodged complaints. The Inquisitor’s letter of December 2003 to Gillian Morphett marked a crucial point in Pat’s demise, immediately preceding Pat’s dismissal from his role in ACT Treasury by just six weeks.
Evidence of the lack of public support for Pat was further reinforced by an encounter with the Inquisitor in late 2005 in which both he and a companion, Ms. King, were assaulted, Ms. King indecently. Taunted by the Inquisitor that there was nothing Pat could do about his assault of Ms. King because ‘he “is friends with Ted Quinlan the Treasurer and Police Minister […]’, Ms. King, Australia’s most senior female Indigenous banking executive, was subsequently also vilified and marginalized by the AFP and has been unable to affect her own justice.
The marginalization of Ms. King has continued since 2005 with intimidation in various forms. In the small pond that is Canberra, Ms. King has been subjected to the Canberra mob, although her own experience has been somewhat ameliorated by the fact that she works in the private sector, not the public service. However, her own experiences led Ms King to comment:
After this encounter with my assailant […] and my subsequent treatment from the Australian Federal Police I felt used and violated and realised for the first time that Aboriginal Australians do not have the same protections under the laws that govern Australia that non-Aboriginal Australians do.
Dr. Harper’s background in anthropology no doubt informs her arguments in this paper. She points out the institutions that are adjusting to the inclusion of minority groups, including Indigenous people, may put existing long term employees off-side as they see the incoming new staff, be they subordinate or superior, as threats to their own opportunities within the institution. Certainly the Inquisitor, disappointed by his own failure to ascend to the role of ACT Commissioner of Revenue, felt his own opportunities limited by Pat’s appointment as evidenced by the aforementioned letter, penned the day after Pat’s appointment. People like the former Commissioner and Ms. King are the sacrificial lambs in this Christian democracy that so prides itself upon liberty and equality.
Despite the Australian Capital Territory establishing the nation’s first Bill of Rights, Pat and Ms. King, along with others including Lucinda McMillan have been ignored by the AFP. All are Indigenous Australians. The women have both been dismissed after their assaults. This ineffective Bill of Rights is little more than lip service to the rights of Australia’s Indigenous people and women. It protects manipulative actions and the racial hatred of people with connections, such as the Inquisitor and enables the deliberate acts of a white misogynistic patriarchal hierarchy, intent upon never admitting wrong and protecting their own even at the expense of social stability and democracy. It is in this aspect that genocide is identified:
Genocide is a far greater scale of atrocity than is warfare, and has as its aim the annihilation of a group, the strengthening of power, the control of the group to fear and love that power, and to fear and hate the group that is targeted for annihilation. When those ends are achieved, those in power are in complete control not only of the actions of the population, but of their minds … Justice falls away in favor of Just Us.
… If there is any one thing a mobbing target must understand to survive, it is that when mobbing commences, no matter how popular and well loved the target has been in the past, no matter how unified the “us” against “them” might have been on the shop floor when workers wailed about managerial abuses or misconduct or a bad boss, the target no longer belongs to a workplace “us.” Instead, a new “us” begins to form among the non-targeted workers, with leadership at its helm.
Dr. Harper got out of the University of Tennessee Knoxville in time to find a new path for her life; Pat did not and he, his family and Ms. King live with the stigma and continued denigration to this day. Pat’s reputation has been destroyed. Ms. King virtue has been sullied. The safety of both themselves and those close to them, including a three year old child, has been clearly threatened and the law enforcement and justice agencies have demonstrated their intent to allow the abuse of the human rights of all these people to continue. Pat’s fate has played out just as Dr. Harper described. There is no making amends here. Justice, in whatever form it takes, will be limited and the peace that those associated with him seek can only be achieved with the accountability and transparency of all those institutions and individuals implicated. Until that happens, what has befallen Pat, Ms. King and those close them can only be viewed as a deliberate act of genocide, condoned and supported by the ACT Government, the Australian Federal Police, Ernst & Young and the AHRC.