CSIRO CEO Shuts Her Door to Bullying Complaints
Bullying complaints must now go through the people who stand most accused of them
The CEO of CSIRO is alleged to have sent a bullying complaint directly to the person being complained about. Now staff at several CSIRO Divisions have been instructed that no further complaints of bullying must be sent to her directly.
In the most recent Senate Estimates, it came to light that a former CSIRO employee whose case was the subject of a Comcare investigation, Dr Sylwester Chyb, had emailed a complaint about workplace bullying directly to the CSIRO CEO, Megan Clark. Clark is said to have responded by forwarding his complaint to the very person he had complained about. Within 24 hours, that person formally responded to Chyb by informing him that his indefinite position at CSIRO was henceforth redundant and he would be retrenched. This allegedly occurred within 24 hours of the complaint to Clark.
It has now come to light that staff in several CSIRO Divisions have been told that all future requests to Clark should first be “cleared” by her deputies before they are sent to her. In emails, CSIRO staff have been warned that all requests to Megan Clark or her office, “need to be cleared” by the relevant Deputy Head (“Group Executive”) first.
“This directive stands in direct opposition to Clark’s very public statements that her ‘door is always open’ ”, said one CSIRO staff member, who requested anonymity. “It sends a powerful message: we dont want to hear your complaints of workplace bullying”.
Other scientists agreed. “The problem is that there is an endemic culture of workplace and management bullying at CSIRO. Directives like this are not going to tackle that, they will only entrench it and make it worse. ”
The directive is particularly concerning to staff given that it is the Deputy Heads of CSIRO who are, allegedly, the main culprits when it comes to workplace bullying. As far back as 2006, public complaints of workplace bullying were levelled by persons as eminent as Senator Kim Carr, the previous minister of Science, at Deputy Heads of CSIRO like Andrew Johnson.
An advocacy group, Victims of CSIRO, has similar concerns (http://victimsofcsiro.com). Group spokesman, Andrew Hooley, said: “This appears to be another poor attempt by Dr Clark to avoid her responsibility to the staff at CSIRO through plausible deniability. Her efforts in this regard became blatantly evident during her last appearance at Senate Estimates. Clark has no apparent interest in dealing with the culture of management bullying at CSIRO, she is only interested in creating a public impression that she is”.
“Clark’s door is theoretically open but, in practice, you have to get past the thugs guarding that door”. “Is CSIRO seriously contending that this will help clear up the shameful bullying situation that exists?” said Hooley. “In a healthy, normally-functioning organisation, the person to whom the correspondence is a addressed usually possesses the civility to respond in person to the communication, even if the response is drafted by some lacky!”.
Another scientist said: “I have serious concerns about CSIRO. Its commitment regarding workplace bullying appears to be focussed in the wrong direction – toward encouraging and entrenching it. What happens when a serious complaint involves a Group Executive or Senior Manager? Well, we know what happens …”