Contractors Bullied At Work

contractors bullied at work
Contractors are getting bullied at work

IT Contractors Bullied at Work


One newspaper ran an article about bullying in the workplace and lots of their readers got in touch to share their experiences. This includes contractors bullied at work.

Indeed one IT Contractor said that that they hounded him out of his job by bulling which was institutionalised.

He said, “I was given meaningless tasks, unsolvable problems, put at a desk in the farthest corner of the office facing a wall, excluded from meetings, and had development plans removed. They used the HR performance measurement process to ‘prove’ the point that I was a failure.”

He added, “There is a culture of cronyism, protectionism and jobs for the boys that is institutional. It is so deep-rooted I doubt you can resolve it.”

Although the article was mainly about the bullying of permies, I wonder how many IT Contractors actually went contracting in the first place because of bullying in the workplace.

Institutionalised Bullying of Contractors

I also wonder how many contractors feel that there is institutionalised bullying of IT Contractors at certain companies.

I found, in my long contracting career that, whilst there are some companies that treat contractors pretty well, there are other companies where there is bullying of contractors both by the management and by permanent workers.

There are certain people at companies who don’t think that the company should be hiring IT Contractors at all. They make that very clear at every opportunity by being as rude and mean as they can to the contractors. That’s if they talk to them at all.

Refused to Speak to Contractor

I remember one company I was at where there was one guy who refused to speak to me at all. They told me it was because he didn’t think that the company should be hiring contractors.

If that was the case then it should have been the managers that he was refusing to talk to rather than me.

At some companies the permies leave the contractors out of the social activities, like playing squash, or inviting them to the pub. At some places the permies form a kind of Permie Club from which they exclude contractors.

A Clique of Permies

I remember being at one company where there were only five us working away from home on a project.

Just after I joined, the manager said that the company were paying for a meal out for the group of us. So I went along.

When it came to paying the bill two of the permies demanded that I pay myself as this was not a perk that they thought I should have – despite the Project Manager inviting me along.

If they had told me that I would have had to pay beforehand I wouldn’t have come.

Snide Remarks by Permies

The contractor before me had been sacked. All the way through the contract remarks were made to me by one in particular permie. I didn’t get invited out in the evening when they went eating or drinking. So it made for a pretty lonely contract.

I got on a lot better with the permies in the company that we were doing the project for. They much preferred my company to the clique from the software house. They didn’t mix with the employees from the other company either.

It’s even down to small things like not including them in the tea or coffee club.

There are others who think that IT Contractors earn too much money. They let them know that at every opportunity.

The Managers who Bully Contractors

Then there are the managers.

They come out with comments like “for the money you’re earning” or “I couldn’t motivate myself to work for money” –  and other similar comments.

There was one manager who used to always say “I believe that the employees here are every bit as good as contractors”.

That would be fine and motivational if he said it to the permies who worked for him. But the only people he used to say it to were the contractors.

Serial Sacker of Contractors

I remember one guy, at Anglian Water, who used to sack contractors every so often just to satisfy a bullying lust. They used to call him a serial sacker.

He sacked one guy on the spot for reading a newspaper at five minutes past two.

He called him into the office and sacked him instantly.

Indeed, he used to regularly gather the contractors together to threaten them about what he would do if they stepped out of line or underachieved.

Not surprisingly, the project screwed up.

All the contractors knew the project was going down the wrong path but none of them wanted to tell him – for whatever reason, be it fear or schadenfreude.

IT Contractors Soft Targets

The trouble is that IT Contractors are what you might call ‘soft targets’.

They don’t have any unions and they are hardly likely to get the Professional Contractors Group (now IPSE) involved in bullying of contractors in the workplace.

They are easy targets for managers who have an instinct for bullying anyway or who want to impress the permies who work for them by being nasty to the contractors.

Indeed some see the bullying of IT Contractors at the places as a motivational factor for the other permies there.

Humiliating Contractors

There are too many companies and managers where managers want to humiliate IT Contractors. They don’t want to learn from the experiences of contractors at different workplaces.

Indeed, there are quite a few companies and managers where, if a contractor proffers some advice about how things are done elsewhere, they are let known in no uncertain terms that their views are not welcome and that they are being paid to program or analyse and not to give their opinions on the project or tools or methodologies etc.

Own Goal Scorers

Many managers shoot themselves in the foot.

IT Contractors are just as human as permies. Managers can motivate them or demotivate them.

As they are paying more for, and likely to get more from, their IT Contractors, demotivating them so that they just do the minimum is far more costly to them than demotivating their permies.

However, some of them never learn.

In saying this, there are many great companies where they treat the IT Contractors exactly in the same way as the permies.

Spiteful Managers

But it’s a shame that there are still a number of these mean and spiteful dinosaurs around.

I wonder if other contractors have had, or are having, similar experiences. I also wonder whether they see it as bullying.

Also. I know that there are some contractors who say that, as a small business, you shouldn’t need motivating. That you should just get your head down and do the job. But we’re no more machines than the permies are.

Contractors bullied at work should complain more about it.

Are you one of the contractors bullied at work?

Let’s hear your comments.



  1. Sounds like most client sites I have worked at all of the above basically. For some reason permies think bullying IT contractors=Revenge of having a career they do not want & perks which they perceive are below their worth!

  2. Yes this happens in Canada – rubbish talk, and swearing, shouting hissy fits from site managers- blaming contractors for their own mistakes- and who do not think before they talk.

  3. I’m half way through a 6 month contract working with a small group of 4 permits. They all go to breakfast and lunch together. I’m never invited. In the early days there were times I didn’t get spoken to. My so called mentor barely used to give me 10 minutes of her time a day to show me basic procedural tasks like how they use jira with agile. She gave me a document dated 2009. I said they were old, she said things hadn’t changed much. I followed a procedure. It worked. She then saw me doing something said it was wrong and claimed she’d told me the procedures were old and I should have asked her. They been there some 13 to 17 years and have everything in their heads.

    She belittles and undermines me when I do get procedural things wrong and called me ‘special just last week. I hate the role. It should be straightforward but she watches me and the second she sees me doing nothing tells me to get on with something.

    I dread the remaining time there.

  4. I work with a contractor getting bullied by a contractor but not sure what advice to give them. Anyone know who can help or who they should turn to?


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