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Building a culture of zero-tolerance to bullying and harassment

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HC Online | 29 Jun 2011, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Last week Human Capital wrote that incidents of bullying at work had a detrimental effect on employee perceptions of their workplace, whether they themselves were victims or witnesses. Workplace bullying claims are on the rise and it is imperative that HR professionals are aware of the potential consequences of such incidents.
  • Arishma | 29 Jun 2011, 01:49 PM Agree 0
    Its important not to just report and investigate bullying, but there needs to be a thorough follow up process to help the victims recover from their traumatic experience. Sometimes, we get caught up in damage control and forget about the impact on victim - there are no guidelines for coping strategies and managerial styles as to how to take care of the victim's future in the business
  • Bernie Althofer EGL I ASSESSMENTS PTY LTD | 29 Jun 2011, 03:02 PM Agree 0
    Whilst HR plays an important role in organisations, line managers and supervisors play a pivotal role in 'deciding' whether or not inapppropriate workplace behaviours such as bullying and harassment are tolerated and even accepted. Speakers at the recent SIA Qld Safety Conference illustrated the importance of creating 'safety leadership' and creating workplace cultures that address physical and psychological hazards. In addition, explanations provided about due diligence suggested that the mere existence of policy, training and 'signage' might not be enough. On the other side of the coin, it appears that some organisations may not fully comprehend the magnitude of workplace bullying and harassment given the disparity in 'costs' that range from $3 billion to $36 billion. The costs of harassment and bullying seems to be 'included' in other costs e.g. absenteeism, presenteeism, and many hidden costs are not be recorded but absorbed into other parts of the business. Creating 'safe' work environments pre and post incident requires a range of strategies that may or may not suit everyone. It does seem however that there have been a number of investigations and inquiries (past and ongoing) that highlight the importance of being proactive and preventive, as well as taking reactive action i.e. responding to the needs of not only the victim/target, but also of the alleged bully, and the witnesses/bystanders who may be family/friends or associates. Of course, in some cases, it might be difficult to change the behaviours of some individuals. There may need to be some consideration given towards changing the environmental factors such as job, roles and responsibilities, communication and management practices to name a few.
  • Brian Grace | 29 Jun 2011, 03:04 PM Agree 0
    No employee should have to put up with any level of harassment . Life it self is hard enough. Some people confuse assertiveness with harassement. The two actions are similar. But sexual harassment has no place in modern business and must be stamped out , zero tolerence is the only path to take.
  • Bernie Althofer EGL I ASSESSMENTS PTY LTD | 29 Jun 2011, 03:29 PM Agree 0
    Unfortunately it seems that in some cases, the points made by Arishma are only too true. There are a number of points that should be made. In some cases in appears that 'blaming' the victim/target for the incident is a blood sport. In these types of situations, the victim/target is continually torn apart by the organisation (line managers/supervisors,co-workers) at the same time being provided with support and guidance by support networks. The support and guidance is designed to help the victim/target be more resilient and more able to cope with going back into the workplace. The organisation may provide the individual with assistance in seeking professional advice from psychologists etc and may even put the individual on a return to work plan. In some cases, putting the individual back into the same workplace will only make the situation worse. In some cases, the victim/target will realise that the writing is on the wall and leave a job that not only did they like, but they were good at. I am reminded of an organisation years ago that using a series of drawings to illustrate everyone running after a victim, but the fire was still burning out of control. What really changes if only the victim/targets needs are addressed? How are the behaviours of the alleged bully addressed? and if not addressed, how will they operate in the future? Strategies should also address managerial responses and practices and should also provide guidance and assistance to the witnesses/bystanders e.g. work colleagues on how they should or shouldn't respond. In some cases, colleagues will feel they are walking on egg shells not knowing what is 'safe' to raise, and the victim/target will continue to feel like an outsider as the barriers go up. Some managers may not want to get involved in bringing the victim/target back into the work fold simply because they may be afraid that whatever they say or do will trigger and emotional response. In a sense, it is not just about the social injustice caused to the victim/target and how to get them back into productive mode again. Any corrective strategy or action has to take into consider the other parties e.g. the alleged bully, the organisation, and the family/friends and associates. When people who have been subjected to bullying and harassment and don't see or feel that an inclusive approach is or has been taken, they do leave and then try and fend for themselves. Telling victims/targets to keep their head down, don't create waves and to get on with life is just not going to cut it any more.
  • Bernie Althofer EGL I ASSESSMENTS PTY LTD | 01 Jul 2011, 09:34 AM Agree 0
    The late Tim Field made these comments regarding some myths about bullying. I will leave it up to readers to make up their own minds about where they stand in relation to these myths.
    What some people call “bullying” is really tough dynamic management

    The purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy. Good managers manage, bad managers bully.
    Most employers don’t want to calculate the cost of low morale, poor productivity, poor customer service, high sickness absence, high staff turnover and frequent grievance and legal action that are a consequence of “tough dynamic Management”.

    The word “victim” allows disingenuous people to tap into and stimulate other people’s misconceptions and prejudices of victim hood which include the inference that the person was somehow complicit in the abuse.

    Victims contribute to the bullying

    When held accountable, abusers, molesters, harassers, bullies and violent people abdicate and deny responsibility for their actions by blaming their victim. Abusers, harassers, bullies and violent people seem possessed of an army of supporters, apologists, appeasers and deniers, and appreciate all forms of support which mitigate their crime.

    It takes two to tango

    Abusers choose to abuse, molesters choose to molest, rapists choose to rape, harassers choose to harass, bullies choose to bully.

    Victims are weak and inadequate

    Normal people don’t need to bully; only weak people need to bully to hide their weakness and inadequacy. Therefore, anyone who is exhibiting bullying behaviours is revealing and admitting to being weak and inadequate.

    Victims are weak

    Targets of bullying have no interest in power or exercising power. They go to work to work and they are not interested in office politics or conflict. Targets of bullying have high moral values, a vulnerability (e.g. need to pay the mortgage) strong sense of fair play and reasonableness, a low propensity to violence, a reluctance to pursue a grievance, disciplinary or legal action, a strong forgiving streak, a mature understanding of the need to resolve conflict with dialogue.

    Victims are loners

    Targets of bullying are independent, self-reliant, self-motivated, have no need to form gangs or join cliques, have no need to impress, and have no interest in office politics.

    Victims are not team players

    Targets of bullying are not corporate clones and drones. They are independent, self-reliant, self-motivated, imaginative, innovative, and full of ideas. Bullies operate a divide and rule regime and work hard to isolate and disempower their target who they falsely accuse of “not being a team player”.

    Victims are isolated

    This is a correct observation; bullies isolate their targets in order to disempower them. It’s a classic tactic of control used by all abusers.

    Victims are sensitive/oversensitive

    Sensitivity comprises a constellation of values to be cherished and nurtured, including empathy, respect, tolerance, dignity, honour, consideration and gentility. Anyone who is not sensitive is insensitive. Bullies are callously insensitive and indifferent to the needs of others and when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others react with impatience, irritability and aggression.

    Victims are too weak to stand up for themselves

    Targets of bullying are high-performing employees who go to work to work. They do not go to work with the intention of indulging in conflict.

    Victims can’t defend themselves

    Prolonged negative stress results in trauma which prevents articulation. People who blame targets of Bullying for not being able to express themselves in an articulate manner are revealing their lack of empathy and their lack of knowledge of trauma and its effects.

    Targets aren’t really bullied/harassed – they’re only in it for the money

    Seeking legal recourse is very expensive both financially and emotionally. In rare cases where the employer sacks a serial bully, the bully feigns victimhood and sues the employer for as much as they can get.

    Targets are just whiners who can’t get along with people

    Targets are targeted because they are competent and popular. Bullies are jealous of the easy and stable relationships that targets have with others. Jealousy and envy seem to be the conduits for the release of the seething inner anger, hatred and resentment that bullies harbour.

    It’s a personality clash

    A personality clash is where two people of equal rank or status or value or power don’t see eye to eye. Bullying consists of a pattern of persistent, daily, trivial, nitpicking criticism, isolation, exclusion, undermining, discrediting, setting up to fail, etc on a target who the bully has disempowered and disenfranchised.

    There’s a fine line between bullying and tough management

    I’ve never heard anyone say “there’s a fine line between a normal relationship and sexual harassment” of ‘there’s a fine line between marriage and domestic violence’ or ‘there’s a fine line between sex education and pedophilia”. Bullying (by a serial bully) and managing have as much in common as Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa. The objectives of the serial bully are power, control domination and subjugation, achieved largely through manipulation, deception and abuse of power; “management” is a convenient cover for the serial bully’s disordered, dysfunctional behaviour.

    Bullies are nice people really, they’re just under a lot of pressure

    Abusers, violent partners, harassers, rapists, molesters and paedophiles are also nice people really; it’s just that they’re under a lot of pressure. Lack of knowledge of, refusal to recognise, and outright denial of the existence of the serial bully are the most common reasons for an unsatisfactory outcome for employees and employers.

    Female bullies bully because they’re under more pressure than men to succeed

    A female serial bully, like all serial bullies, bullies because she chooses to bully. Bullying is behaviour, and behaviour is choice. Whilst women may face more pressures and demands at senior levels, the most successful females are not bullies – they get there because of their integrity, ability to plan and organise, and achieve. Bullies are non-achievers. The view that women must become bullies to succeed is insulting and offensive to the majority of women who succeed on hard work, persistence and skill.

    Victims have problems with people in authority

    This is one of the tactics that bullies and abusive employers use. They claim that the target who is busy exposing incompetence, negligence etc has “a problem with authority”. Some less-than-competent mental health professionals claim this too. The truth is that targets have the uncanny knack of spotting fakes, fraudsters and weak, inadequate and incompetent people abusing their positions of power: said incompetents also have an uncanny knack of being able to spot who can see through them. Targets of bullying are accountability-focused so they must be ruthlessly controlled, and if this doesn’t work, they must be eliminated by all means possible.

    You can’t get PTSD from bullying

    Those who promote this view are increasingly out of touch with both reality and research. This view is also offensive to those who suffer PTSD as a result of bullying (and harassment, stalking, domestic violence, abuse, etc. The late Professor Heinz Leymann established the link between bullying and psychiatric injury (PTSD) in the 1980’s

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