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Is mediation the answer to workplace bullying?

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HC Online | 13 Sep 2016, 10:00 AM Agree 0
While investigations are necessary for legal reasons, they may not be the best way to stop bullying at work, one expert says
  • Jennyt | 14 Sep 2016, 12:57 PM Agree 0
    Mediation definitely is a way to resolve work place conflicts. But workplace 'conflict' is Not an equivalent of harassment. It's repeated, vexatiouse actions and abuse of power in order to control (power can be positional, physical or mental etc.).

    There might be some overlap between conflicts and harassment. 'Conflict' itself is not illegal but harassment often is. In this case mediation will not resolve the root cause of harassment unless HR is willing to take warranted disciplines.
  • Linda | 17 Sep 2016, 04:06 PM Agree 0
    An argument between two coworkers is not bullying. Mediation might well be suitable as a way of resolving a long standing argument, but not for bullying, especially when a power imbalance exists or where the alleged bullying behavior has been investigated and the behavior was found to be bullying, and in contravention of the workplace policies on bullying. In those cases, disciplinary action, appropriate to the circumstances, should be considered.
  • Viola Tam | 24 Sep 2016, 06:19 PM Agree 0
    Great article to highlight the importance of mediation in preventing more serious consequences!

  • Leonard Nolt | 26 Sep 2016, 06:41 PM Agree 0
    An argument between two people is not bullying. Bullying is the repeated targeting of one employee by another, or sometimes by more than one other employee, with the intended purpose of driving the victim out of the workplace or at the very least imposing constant stress and pressure on the target. It's possible that the argument stated above could have developed into bullying, but I doubt it. It seemed to be a single incident, or a temporary misunderstanding. Bullying is repeated over and over again, with one person designated as the target or victim.

    I was the target of a workplace bully at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, ID. The bully withheld information I needed to do by job, blocked communication with me, made false accusations about me to co-workers and to management, etc intentionally creating a toxic work environment. These bullying acts occurred nearly every time our paths crossed which was multiple times each shift. There was only 2 or 3 exceptions to that in 2 years and 8 months.

    I think mediation might have worked early before I was diagnosed with PTSD. I even requested it, but management denied my request because the bully refused to participate. I reported the problem to the department manager several times but nothing was ever done to address the problem. Years later I learned from another manager that the dept. manager was just "waiting to see if the problem would go away or solve itself." When I reported it to human resources things got much worst. HR first reaction was to refuse to even listen to my side of the story. They promised an investigation and a written report of the findings but then refused to give me a copy of the report. When I reminded the HR manager of the PTSD injury, diagnosed by my employer, he responded by threatening to terminate me. Later I was ordered to lie about the injury. I eventually had to leave after working there for 30 years with an outstanding work record. After I left the bully and the dept. manager both received significant promotions.

    When the bullying has gone on for so long that the target is injured and no longer has a safe working environment, mediation between the two makes as much sense as mediation between a rapist and his victim. It just adds more injury to the victim. After all, there is no question as to who is in the wrong. The bully needs to be stopped and the target has to be protected from additional injury. There can no longer be any contact between the two. Placing the bully on another shift, as happened to me, does nothing to protect the target if their shifts overlap.

    Probably the best way is to educate employees to recognize bullying and report it when it is observed. That's especially necessary for managers who are the ones most often guilty of bullying. Addressing the problem early before anyone is injured and before it drastically impacts productivity, which it definitely will if continued, is the best response. Not all harassment is bullying, but all bullying is harassment. Bullying is psychological violence. It can cause PTSD, and PTSD can be as permanently disabling as a severed spinal cord. Psychological violence in the workplace is just as dangerous and deadly as sexual and physical violence and efforts to stop it should be just as definitive and determined.
  • Debbie Dunn | 08 Nov 2016, 09:07 AM Agree 0
    I am an accredited mediator under the national standards and have mediated some 400 plus mediations where there have been allegations of bullying.

    I have presented this work at several conferences including the International Conference on Bullying and Harassment in Cardiff, Wales in 2010.

    Following this I was asked to write a chapter in the book Workplace Bullying Symptoms and Solutions 2012.

    The approach to mediation I use is Narrative Practice informed and from this work and that of others using this approach has proven to be successful where bullying has been alleged.
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