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Best practice for workplace bullying remains HR dilemma

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HC Online | 12 Jun 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Despite the odds that three quarters of employees will experience bullying during their working life, new statistics reveal that HR’s management of the problem hasn’t improved – it may have actually become worse.
  • Jackie Knight | 12 Jun 2012, 03:11 PM Agree 0
    I firmly believe that the reason that workplace bullying continues to be a problem is that we are not applying a two pronged approach. The first approach is to have the appropriate mechanisms in place for the victim to report the situation. While not perfect the appropriate HR policies and legislation is addressing this prong. The second prong is to provide the person doing the bullying with the appropriate training such that they do not resort to bullying. If the bully is moved or sacked it just transfers the problem to someone else. Bullies need leadership, communication, diversity, emotional intelligence training and coaching so that they can learn to influence others without resorting to bullying tactics.
  • Bernie Althofer | 12 Jun 2012, 04:17 PM Agree 0
    In some cases, it appears that no approach is being taken.

    That said, there was an interesting presentation regarding toxic leadership: psychopaths and psychopathic behaviours in the workplace. Some of the issues raised may have seemed controversial to some people. However, it does appear these issues are on the rise, along with narcissistic behaviours across society in general. A book about the Narcissicism Epidemic suggests that bullies 'need to learn respect for others. They already have tood much respect for themselves".

    The presentation last week also identified the need to change the way some systems and processs such as performance management need to focus less on outcomes and more on alignment with values, etc. It was also suggested that emotional intelligence with ethics training suits the psychopath and the bullies, as they will use a well intentioned process for ulterior motives and destructive forces.

  • Estelle | 13 Jun 2012, 09:54 AM Agree 0
    I have two sons who are doing apprenticeships in different industries. One is treated well and is happy in his work environment. The other is bullied and constantly harassed for trying to "follow the rules and processes" when it comes to OHS and work. He has been warned by union delegates not to go to the boss or else. He has to wait for trades people to supervise him to do jobs and the tradespeople either don't want the responsability or couldn't be bothered. Unfortunately the attitude at his workplace is one of lazyness and jobs are passed on and on so he is not receiving the training he is required to have. He was being harassed for finishing jobs in less than the time the tradespeople would do them because it made them look bad, now they are turning around and say because he can finish a job is less than what they would do it he must be doing a bad job. I have heard stories from other parents and their apprentice/trainee children some of the same things happen where they have done or are doing their traineeships and all of them have said the same thing they are afraid to speak to either their bossess or the apprenceship board because they are afraid to loose their apprenticeships/jobs and they are only apprenctices, who would believe them.
  • Bernie Althofer | 13 Jun 2012, 03:02 PM Agree 0
    A book about the Narcissicism Epidemic suggests that bullies 'need to learn respect for others. They already have too much respect for themselves".

    It was also suggested that emotional intelligence without ethics training suits the psychopath and the bullies, as they will use a well intentioned process for ulterior motives and destructive forces.
  • Maxwell Pinto | 14 Jun 2012, 06:17 AM Agree 0
    In schoolyard bullying, the bullies are children, whose behaviour is controlled by the leaders, i.e. the school administration. In workplace bullying, however, the bullies are often the leaders themselves, i.e., the managers and supervisors. Therefore, reporting a bully to the HR dept, for example, may expose the target/victim to the risk of even more bullying, slower career advancement, or even termination, on the grounds of being a “troublemaker!”.
    Workplace bullying has severe consequences, including reduced effectiveness and high employee turnover. An employee who suffers any physical or psychiatric injury as a result of workplace bullying can confront the bully, report the bully to the HR department or to the trade union, if any, or bring a claim of negligence and/or a personal injury claim against both the employer and the abusive employee as joint respondents in the claim. If the law does not persuade employers to deal with workplace bullying, the economic reality will persuade them. Training sessions can help when combined with a confidential reporting structure, but it is difficult to alter the basic nature of some individuals, who may need counselling.
    Maxwell Pinto, Business Author

  • Bernie Althofer | 14 Jun 2012, 03:52 PM Agree 0
    Currently most resolutions available for targets of workplace bullying include: Do nothing, Handle the matter themself, Speak to a line manager or supervisor, speak to their Union or to a health and safety representative, lodge a grievance or seek mediation, seek external advice e.g. Anti-Discrimination Commission or legal advice. Each of these options presents a number of difficulties for targets, and not all targets can engage the options.

    In my experience, a number of targets will opt for the "Do Nothing" approach for various reasons, many of which have been discussed in previous Human Capital forum discussions.

    Workplace bullying is a complex issue requiring complex solutions, and in some areas, a broader range of issues such as deviance, psychopaths and psychopathic behaviours, along with the narcissim epidemic are being discussed as relevant factors.

    Simply having a policy and procedure for the prevention, detection and resolution of the various forms of counterproductive behaviours, including bullying, may be insufficient, unless there is training and an audit or assessment process to ensure that people are actually doing what they are supposed to in relation to the prevention, detection and resolution requirements. The policies should not be a stand alone model, but there should be very clear and distinct linkages to other related systems and processes e.g. performance management, discipline, Codes of Conduct, work health and safety and the like.

    If an organisation was losing somewhere between $1600 and $4900 per person per year and this was coming off the profits, then serious questions would probably be asked. However, because it appears that the total actual costs of bullying are 'hidden', executives are not being presented with an accurate assessment of the costs being incurred. For example, I am aware of one incident that has been going for five years. I am also aware that in many cases, it is some time before the target actually formalises a complaint e.g. the bullying may have been going on for several months before the target activates a complaint.

    It does seem at the moment that people who are being subjected to bullying behaviours know the resolution options, but may make a choice to stay where they are because of the current economic climate. For some people, litigation is expensive, and for others, simply putting themselves through the other resolution options is a tough choice with no real guarantees of success.
  • Darlene | 21 Aug 2012, 08:06 AM Agree 0
    How about bullies be terminated instead of the targets, such as myself. When they are unable to find work, they will eventually realize they have to adjust their behavior. They are narcissists and unwilling to change, but they can modify the way they treat others when they have to. Why should they be kept? Why should they receive any mentoring or managing whatsoever? Terminate them, let them suffer the consequences of their own actions. Treat people the way you would expect to be treated or get treated the same as you treat others - unfairly, disrespectfully, without empathy, and maliciously with no concern as to how their behavior may affect, or even kill, another.
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