Beware: focused exploder at work

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Management bullies are costing British business billions of pounds, an expert warned yesterday.

Not only are stressed staff taking time off sick, but they are starting to sue their employers for damages. Estimates put the number of working days lost through stress at 40 million a year, costing business up to pounds 4bn in lost efficiency.

Charlotte Rayner, a psychologist from Staffordshire University, told a teaching union conference that bullying managers were one of the biggest causes. She said the bullies fell into several types, including the "focused exploder" and the "anger parcel passer".

But Mrs Rayner told the conference in Birmingham, organised by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the "employee worm" was starting to turn.

An unpublished survey by Professor Cary Cooper, of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, showed industrial relations cases sparked by management bullying were the fastest growing category of civil action, accounting for nearly one in three. Some involved racial or sexual harassment.

A growing number of cases were using health and safety laws which said employers should not cause staff mental distress. "Whatever the cost in time lost by employees who are made ill by the stress of management bullying, the legal cost to firms could grow to be far higher," Mrs Rayner said.

Her own survey showed more than half of employees had been bullied. She said: "Don't think it couldn't happen to you. It may be only a matter of luck that it hasn't yet."

The conference was told management bullying was rife in schools. An NASUWT survey last year suggested that up to 10,000 teachers were victims.

Ten types of bully

t The unfocused exploder - someone who blows up at whoever gets in the way when they are angry.

t The focused exploder - those who shout at weak members of staff because they feel they can get away with it. At home, they would kick the cat.

t Personal dislikers - who target staff they do not like or who are underperforming.

t Threat responders - managers who bully staff they think might pose a threat to their own position.

t Anger parcel passers - they say: "My boss is bullying me so my staff can have some of it too."

t Deliberate bullies - those who think that giving their staff a hard time is the best way to get good work out of them.

t Exasperated bullies - they have tried being nice to their staff and it hasn't worked.

t Sadistic bullies - they just enjoy it.

t Resignation seekers - they deliberately make life hell for staff they want to resign.

t Macho image seekers - they feel bullying is essential to bolster their position.