I called a session with this title as I felt it equally important that we examine our own behaviour and professional approaches with honesty and an eye’s wide open acceptance that we can be both bullied and bully, given the right (wrong?) set of circumstances and management or team dynamics.

In my own professional life, I had an awful experience being bullied working for a large national arts organisation in the 90’s. The experience stayed with me and affected me adversely for years, but it wasn’t until much later than I recognised the elements of it that would define it as bullying.

However a few years later in another organisation, in my first few months after being promoted to manager, I treated a colleague badly and was accused of bullying. Thankfully, this was resolved to my colleague’s satisfaction with a union mediator before any formal action was taken. The experience left me shaken, realising how easily I had slipped into a bullying management style. My colleague and I resolved our differences; I apologised, asked for more support in my new role and changed my behaviour. I realised what kind of manager I didn’t want to be.

With these two experiences in mind, the issues discussed in this D&D session were around the following:

• Models of creativity are similar to misogynistic bullying – creative masks can hide it. But if something feels wrong, it usually is.

• Is the model to much about eg. directors, telling people what to do in a didactic, dictatorial way?

• It’s a balancing act – personal dynamics, rudeness, deliberate undermining, unintentional behaviour, personality clashes; emotional situations.

• HR departments and procedures don’t necessarily mean that this culture/behaviour is spotted or tackled.

• How relevant is power/status/hierarchy?

• The creative sector has no standard working model, therefore where do we go for redress?

• How can we ensure that we don’t bully? Where can we get training in how to treat people – especially if you are a freelancer or part of a very small arts organisation?

• The Equity Contract – this should ensure a working framework. Equity offer mediation as part of their contract.

• If you stand up for yourself, will you ever work again?! If you feel beholden for each job, then are you forced into collusion from the start?

Are you good to work with? Do people want to work with you again? If so, why? Just because you’re powerful or because you’re a good team worker who is respectful, professional and creative.

Early diagnosis is important. Openness, approachability, respect, healthy communication are all essential for successful relationships. Most bullies don’t realise how obnoxious they are because they aren’t challenged.

If I’m being bullied, or dealing with someone whose working pattern I don’t like – what’s the behaviour in them that I don’t like? Do we share behaviour traits? Can I use that similarity to tackle it? Or is that being as bad as them?

Has anyone ever made a show about Bullying, apart from issues dramas as part of Anti-bullying Week in schools?

Terminology – we must look at our language:- Tortured genius; creative genius; diva; prima donna; All these seem to accept bad behaviour as the price we pay for the creativity and brilliance of mercurial characters in the industry.

But are they just bullies? Ways of not being a bully:

Take on responsibility, share the fear, create a sense of collective creativity. Ask for support.

Be honest about your limitations; abandon pretence and fear of ‘being found out’ that makes us puff up our own prowess.

Who sets the boundaries? Can we collectively agree on boundaries? eg. within a rehearsal room, so that the boundary between creative licence and rudeness/bullying is caught before it gets out of hand. Face the fear – call them out – what would happen? Face the fear of the unknown and uncertainty.

It was a great session and thanks to everyone who contributed so openly and honestly – it’s a scary subject!