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“Mental disintegration” is just workplace bullying

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"Mental disintegration" is just workplace bullying showing a cricket player (Steve Waugh)

I will confess to being a cricket fan and I will also confess to a nostalgia for the grand old days of Australia touring the world and winning every contest. However I am concerned that it often came at a moral price. The team’s ruthless approach to seeking to dismantle the psychological well-being of opponents was adopted as a blatant and even proud tactic, particularly during the Steve Waugh era. Graeme Smith’s (South African batsman and ultimately captain) account of his early test against Australia and the way he was treated by the bowling side when he was seeking to establish himself in International cricket is harrowing reading.

If Smith’s account is correct the Australians sought to take advantage of his inexperience to intimidate him out of the game. He was repeatedly targeted by experienced test cricket warriors and told, amongst other things, that he was not good enough to play at that level. We have also heard that the Australians have become extremely unpopular with opposition sides through their very aggressive approach to verbal interaction on the field. To make a few key points about this:

  • Professional sport is a workplace.
  • The International Cricket Council is a governing body with overall responsibility for the game internationally.
  • Repeated targeting of individuals to cause them psychological harm is bullying.

We now have a new coach of the Australian cricket team, one who developed and prospered during the “mental disintegration” era. I hope that the recent pain of everyone associated with Australian cricket causes a reflection on the fact that mental disintegration as a technique is out of date and unacceptable in contemporary workplaces. Perhaps cricket matches should go back to being won by the team that is best at cricket rather than best at sledging.

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Andrew Marty

Managing Director at SACS Consulting

Andrew is a qualified psychologist who has over 25 years of human resource management consulting experience, including extensive senior executive search and selection experience.

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