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Criticism is not 'bullying'

PUBLISHED: 09:34 26 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:29 06 July 2010

SO Gordon Brown says he has never hit or assaulted his staff.

That's a relief. A Prime Minister managing by violence is hardly gold standard industrial relations in the highest office of the land.

SO Gordon Brown says he has never hit or assaulted his staff.

That's a relief. A Prime Minister managing by violence is hardly gold standard industrial relations in the highest office of the land.

But Downing Street workers did call the National Bullying Helpline several times, according to its founder.

Whatever the truth about Bullygate, finger pointing at 'bullies' in the workplace are becoming ten-a-penny.

Bullying - a serious accusation in any setting -is becoming all too easy to call.

It has come to describe anything from hurt feelings and ruffled sensitivities to full-on persecution and infliction of daily misery.

People regularly complain about 'bully bosses'. They do exist.

But too many workers confuse expectations of high standards for undue pressure; mistakes pointed out as inappropriate criticism and displeasure about personal phone calls in work time and slap-dash work as harassment.

Bosses might be passionate, fiery and driven in a bland-and-getting-blander world. They get angry. They're perfectionists. They expect the same from their workers.

It's not bullying; it's managing.

'Bullying - dictionary definition 'to hurt, intimidate or persecute' - has become the catch-all term for causing offence. The more sensitive people become about being 'told off', the more it's used - and the more it belittles and dilutes genuine cases of bullying, which can be horrific and life-sapping for victims.

As for Downing Street, no one goes to work in the PM's office for a quiet life.

Those jobs demand thick skin, eyes in your back, fortitude and high stress thresholds as well as nerves of steel in a cauldron of fever-pitch high tension. The odd temper outbursts are expected from strung-out, sleep-deprived, travel-addled, ambitious politicians.

Politics is not for the feint-hearted, clock-watchers or shirkers.

It's not a lovey-dovey mollycoddled world of politeness and protocol where everyone pussyfoots around being pleasant and complimentary.

Bullying is vile, painful and life wrecking - and so is politics.

Trouble is, in today's education system everyone is a winner and every effort, however mediocre, is praised and passes the system's test.

The most basic spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes go unchecked- red pen corrections knock kids' confidence, teachers say, and stymie ideas.

They go though school believing they can never fail and accuracy doesn't matter.

Plain speaking, hardness, and demanding the highest quality work is alien.

So young people are totally unprepared for the reality of the workplace. They interpret an employer's expectations and constructive criticism as bullying.

When then they meet their first boss, have work sent back, shoddy spelling highlighted, and their efforts criticised, they think they're being victimised.

Everywhere the real victims living under unbearable daily pressure and harassment of bullies are being drowned out by the cries of the thin-skinned and feeble calling foul because a boss or colleague isn't nice to them all the time.

Speaking of bosses…. it's interesting that male managers who rant and lose their tempers are 'angry' while females are 'hysterical', 'mad' and governed by their hormones.

Have you ever heard a male described as “highly-strung?”

Napoleon described Britain as a “nation of shopkeepers”.

A stranger landing here today would discover a land of gamblers, fast-food addicts, drinkers and leering men in lap dancing clubs.

Britain's changing face from small communities to out of town supermarkets, drive through takeaways, and bookies is highlighted by figures from the Valuation Office Agency.

In the last 13 years, the number pubs, police stations, schools, swimming pools, hospitals, post offices and libraries have declined while casinos, hypermarkets and supermarkets, wine bars, drive-throughs and lap dancing clubs and bookies have gone up.

And people wonder why Britain is a crime-ridden under-educated nation of obese drinking gamblers in communities dying on their feet as pubs, village and corner shops and post offices close.

Fast-forward to 2023 and every beloved spit and sawdust local will be replaced by a 24-hour strip joint.

Children's packed lunches are among the biggest waste offenders.

Lunchboxes full of fiddly individually wrapped confectionary, sandwich bags, and packets of crisps; single-wrapped cheeses, yoghurt pots and drink cartons end up in school every day.

Piles of unnecessary waste destined for landfill.

So well done to Lowestoft's Foxborough Middle School for sending the children's waste home to their parents' bin rather than clogging up theirs.

It's easy for parents to buy individually wrapped stuff -and just as easy to fill reusable plastic boxes from bigger packets and boxes to reduce waste.

Thinking about what to put in those boxes will probably make the lunches healthier too.

Hopefully the school's Zero Waste fortnight will encourage other schools to follow ad parents to carry on after it ends - and teach their children to waste less and eat better.

The luscious, voluptuous and funny Denise Van Outen thinks she has been left off the judging panel of Andrew Lloyd Webber's new talent show because she's pregnant.

The 35-year-old is being replaced with 23-year-old Charlotte Church.

Pregnancy has nothing to do with it. The clue is in the ages - the difference between 35 and 23 - 12 years to be exact. Younger.

When will TV bosses realise we don't want? Younger usually means inarticulate, inane and giggly.

Dancing on Ice was a delight on Sunday with the guest appearance of Angela Rippon on the panel.

Fresh, perky, opinionated, elegant with beautiful expression. And 66. More please.

David Cameron is willing to submit to a “substantial” television interview after Piers Morgan melted Gordon Brown into a human being.

But Cameron refused Morgan's questions because he is “not a fan” of his format.

“I would rather do something more substantial,” he said.

Dimbleby? Paxman? Snow? Now we're talking.

No, Alan Titchmarsh. Alan Titchmarsh the gardener. The afternoon light-entertainment Alan Titchmarsh.

How much more of this pap can we stand as the country crumbles?

The modern mania for tearing around the country picking up jobs like cub badges and moving on after a year or two has never appealed.

I hate the snooty scoffing at anyone who is happy to stay put in their hometown, in the same community and job for years on end.

They're often the real people - the people who don't have to move on once they're found out or upset everyone.

The ones who earn genuine respect, trust and friends in the test of time.

Roy Goggs has spent the last 70 years at the corner shop - starting as an errand boy and eventually buying the shop 57 years ago, still working today at 80.

Photographed in front his reassuring old-fashioned stock of Lyons cakes, Tuc biscuits and Bovril, he said: “As long as I can get a little bit extra on top of my pension, I'll be happy. I always said I would pack it in if it got stressful but I'm happy here. I've stuck at it because I enjoy my job. I like meeting people.”

How many ambitious job-hoppers can say that, even if they've survived the stress?

Memories of the intense rivalry between British athletics legends Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett were revived when Amy Williams won her Olympic gold, beating arch rival and teammate Shelly Rudman, who could barely bring herself to congratulate her.

A film is being made about Coe and Ovett and much is being spun about the bitter relationship between new golden girl Williams and Rudman.

Whether it's running or speeding down an icy run on an old tea tray, only the most competitive become sport winners and the most focused, single-minded and focused and selfish.

I'd just believed women winners might just be a bit more open-minded and forgiving.

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