As almost 40% admit to being a victim, can TV rid itself of the problem?
What kind of TV boss are you? It’s a question our columnist Steven D Wright posed recently, albeit tongue-in-cheek: Are you a Gandalf type, patting errant hobbits on the head like a kindly uncle dishing out Werthers? Or a Roman dictator, a rampant egomaniac baying for fresh blood?
It would appear that mostly it’s the latter, and it’s no laughing matter.
Bullying is back in the spotlight, stubbornly refusing to go away after last rearing its ugly head at the Edinburgh TV Festival in 2003.
At that time, YouGov found that 28% had experienced bullying. Fast forward to a survey conducted by GfK among 518 people, including Broadcast readers, and the figure has shot up to almost 40%. Given the economic climate and the increasing squeeze on budgets, this is, perhaps, no surprise.
Targets, quotas and ratings pressure might be tougher, but is that an excuse for what’s been identified as the most common form of abuse: tantrums, screaming and yelling? What sounds like a typical Saturday morning in my house doesn’t make for a professional office environment.
Operating more like a cottage industry, TV’s casualised workforce and lack of formal training provides a breeding ground for bullies. Temporary and mobile staff rarely exploit their limited rights because the worst thing you can be branded in TV is a trouble maker. Keep your head down; if you don’t, there are a hundred others to replace you.
These points are reflected in the often combative relationship between commissioners and producers, as our insider explores [click here for more].
The lack of training is a perennial issue. There are few brilliant creatives who also have the skills to lead and manage; most have been thrust into the role and simply left to get on with it. The few that excel gain little recognition. Where’s the equivalent of the Baftas for creative leadership?
What we have instead are the ‘Bafta bastards’ - a moniker coined in 2003 when BBC staff accused the corporation of failing to tackle management bullies because programme success made them immune from punishment. It resulted in a promise to train 5,500 managers in ‘how to get people to achieve goals without bullying them’ and a ‘bullying tsar’ who, unbeknown to many, still exists. Contrast this with the US, where fear of litigation means formal training is a legal requirement for managers. Here, we rely on buying people’s silence.
All of which helps to explain the most alarming aspects of the survey: 60% believe bullies prosper and 72% believe there is no point in complaining.
If we can get the industry to sign up to Albert, the carbon calculator, where companies promise to limit emissions to protect resources, shouldn’t we be working even harder on a pledge to protect their most precious of assets? Or is bullying just another price people pay for working in TV?
Lisa Campbell is the editor of Broadcast