Human Resources

Andrew Faas: Former bully turned whistle-blower author

“Each and every day millions of people spend all of their waking hours terrorised because of the psychological, verbal, physical and cyber aggression they endure at work.”

Andrew Faas in the opening remarks for the launch of his new book ‘The Bully’s Trap’.

“The issue is not new. However, over the last decade, because of the economic volatility and pressure for short-term results, it has become an epidemic,” he continued. “Careers are destroyed, families are torn apart, individuals’ physical and mental health are compromised, organisations fail, suicides are committed and people are murdered.”

Andrew Faas has had a long career in the corporate workplace, feels very strongly about workplace bullying and believes it is a topic that should be discussed more often. We catch up with him to learn how he turned from bully to whistle-blower and why he has written this new book.

You had 30 years’ experience as a senior executive then decided to conduct 400 bespoke interviews over four years for the purpose of compiling your new book ‘The Bully’s Trap’. What prompted you to undertake this?

I was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on a corrupt executive and had the support of many associates in being able to deal with it, but through the ordeal found that most who are targeted, do not have this means or support. I also found that there was very little written on the topic.

Why do you think you were called out as a bully early in your own career? Would you describe your younger self as bully?

I was called out because (to put it crudely) I was a prick. I was under the mistaken impression that to get ahead, motivating by fear was the way to manage. 

What caused you to change your mind-set and make you more sympathetic to others?

The person who called me out could have fired me, instead he became a mentor and coach who taught me that respect is a greater motivator than fear without compromising the achievement of tough goals and setting high standards.  For me, managing and leading without using bullying tactics was more in my zone of comfort, and helped me become very successful both in my career and personal life.

What shocked me in our own research into bullying was the level of impact it had on victims and the negative way the naysayers dismissed the problem. Why do you think bullying so often gets dismissed as a figment of ‘whingers’’ imaginations?

The basic reason bullying gets dismissed is the ability of the bully to turn the victim into the villain, giving the bully the ammunition to take action. Unfortunately in most environments the bullies are considered the heroes and are considered more valuable than their targets.

The research we conducted last year also suggested that bullying might be slightly worse amongst IT professionals. Do you think some professions are worse than others than others and what is your view of IT?

Given the competitive nature of IT and where individual over team recognition is in place, it is understandable that the dynamic exists, also where the technical skills are weighted higher than people skills, bullying is condoned and even expected. Financial services and health care are sectors where bullying seems to be worse.

Do you think global competitiveness is making workplace bullying worse, or do you think workplace bullying is just getting written about more than it used it?

Workplace bullying has always been an issue but it has become much worse because of the volatile economic situation over the past decade and much of what goes on is still undercover because people are afraid to either confront it or report it. Compared to what is written and discussed on bullying in schools, proportionately there is scant coverage on bullying in the workplace.

You state in your book that 70% of the time HR is part of the problem because it colludes with the (toxic) work culture. How do you think we can change this?

To change this requires a cultural transformation, where the environment is psychologically safe and human resources be responsible and accountable for the integrity of the cultural health of the organization, much in the same way the CFO is responsible for the integrity and accountability of the financial systems and reporting.

What do you hope to achieve from this book?

The goal of the book is to open discussion and debate on the topic which will ultimately lead to organizations going through cultural transformations becoming psychologically safe and free. My next book will delve more deeply into the economic benefits of this, as I realize that a ROI will resonate with most organizational leaders. It is also my hope that the book will help those who are targeted and the bystanders becoming witnesses, defenders and resistors.

Is there anything else you would like to share on the subject?

Check out The Bully's Trap website where we are posting blogs on a regular basis covering current events on the topic. One that went out recently was about Pope Francis's Christmas message where he is, in my view, initiating the cultural transformation I believe is required. Note in my book, the Catholic Church is illustrated as a 'Disjointed Culture'.


To learn more about bullying in IT read IDG Connect’s August research:

Full report: Bullying: The uncomfortable truth about IT

Video: Video: Bullying in IT

Infographic: Bullying amongst IT professionals

Summary of findings: IDG Connect announces new research


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