One of my mother’s favourite aphorisms was ‘bullies never win and cheats never prosper’. Re-assuring words, but challenging to appreciate when faced with the might of Russian armour on the streets of Kyiv. I’m not sure I can add much more to the millions of words already published in the last few days about President Putin’s policy towards Ukraine, but the fact that he is acting as a bully seems not to be in dispute.
An article in yesterday’s Guardian started with the words ‘I have suffered from workplace bullying’. The headline was ‘Why priests like me are joining trade unions’ and the piece was written by an Anglican clergyman. He went on to describe a range of experiences he had suffered, and commented on the increasing number of C of E clergy joining the faith workers’ branch of Unite. He also discussed the isolation felt by many priests when something goes wrong in their ministry and disciplinary or other measures are invoked. Having a supportive trade union seemed to him to be the best means of securing personal support, an idea that was probably anathema to many clergy up to a few years ago.
The Methodist Church has taken a strong stand against bullying behaviour, whoever the alleged perpetrator, publishing advice and guidance and investing in resources that aim to address the issue. The Safeguarding Team have also become more aware in recent years of cases of bullying that may fit the definition of a safeguarding concern but this can lead to some overlap between the various other Church systems designed to tackle things when they go wrong. What’s really important though is that these systems work smoothly together to challenge the concerning behaviour and offer restitution and relief to the victim. It’s also the case that some people who are the subject of a safeguarding concern will seek support from their trade union if they believe the allegation to be unfair or unfounded, which is another dimension.
The strength of the united response to Russian aggression, that has become evident in the last week, seems to have surprised the Kremlin. So one way of tackling a bully is to be joined up in opposing them. After all, as our training emphasises, safeguarding is all about working in partnership.