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Do you let Rudolph play in your Christmas games?

As we get closer to Christmas when thoughts are turning to the holidays and celebrations, I’m still being called in by clients to deal with grievance and disciplinary cases, some of which involve allegations of bullying and harassment. These are not pleasant at the best of times, but it struck me that sometimes cases of bullying can get worse at this time of year. It is not just about physical or verbal bullying, but can be more manipulative – for example excluding others from an activity or poking fun at them.

Just think of Rudolph in the famous song:

“All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names,
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games”

We tend to think of it as a jolly song, but actually it is about an unfriendly herd of reindeer who are bullying poor Rudolph because he looks different with his red shiny nose. They only start to involve him when it becomes obvious that they need him. This is hardly a friendly working environment! Humans don’t normally pick on people because they have red noses, but we need to guard against other forms of discrimination such as race, gender, religion, age, disability or sexuality. Something which has been brought to public attention very recently in cricke. It cannot simply be dismissed as a, "bit of banter" as it can be quite hurtful to be on the receiving end.

But this isn’t just about fictional characters – think about how people are treated during office “Secret Santa” arrangements. Are there any individuals who are singled out to get embarrassing gifts of the sort that wouldn’t be given to others? Have arrangements been made for the company’s Christmas meal that could cause distress, for example with regards to the seating arrangements or the choice of venue? Is there one person who is always told that he/she can’t come and has to stay behind to take the office phone calls, when this role could be rotated or other arrangements made?

We often wish “Peace and goodwill to all mankind” to others in our Christmas cards, so maybe we should reflect on how that happens at work and take positive action to prevent bullying in 2022.

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
Posted on 17 Nov 2021
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