“There has been considerable discussion in recent years, suggesting that HR should do more to prevent workplace bullying. I don't agree,” Althofer said.
“HR provide a strategic support to the executive management of their organisation, and by the nature of their role, are the organisational custodians of all HR and IR related policies. It is the line managers, supervisors and [other] workers who play an important day to role in preventing, detecting, reporting and resolving workplace bullying.”
Organisations “don't intentionally set out on a path to make 'mistakes' when handling a bullying complaint,” added Althofer, as most are well intentioned.
Sally Woodward, partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, said it is often a lack of clear processes – together with a failure to communicate your expectations and the implications of inappropriate behaviour to your employees – that leads organisations into trouble.
“Ultimately, of course, it is essential that the managers who conduct performance management processes are given the appropriate support and training in relation to these matters,” she said.
Althofer is in agreement, suggesting that organisations need to create a structure and a workplace culture that “does not tolerate any form of counterproductive behaviours”.
“There are a number of managers and workers who need to increase their knowledge and understanding of performance management, in the context of workplace bullying,” he said.
“Otherwise, HR ends up in a situation whereby they are expected to correct the transgressions of others, who are not being held accountable or being made responsible for preventing, detecting, reporting and resolving workplace bullying, and other forms of counterproductive workplace behaviours.”
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Solving the dynamic riddle of how to stamp out workplace bullying is not up to HR. Rather, it requires a whole-team approach to prevent and resolve incidences of bullying in the workplace, said author, educator and HR practitioner and Bernie Althofer, managing director of EGL I Assessments.