Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group: Bullies at Work

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bullies at Work

In a report released March 21, 2007, the Employment Law Association found that nearly 45% of American workers say they have experienced workplace abuse. This poll refers to behavior by supervisors not typically regarded as serious enough to warrant special legal protections afforded to racial, religious, or gender discrimination.

In a 2005 survey, 39% U.K. managers reporting being bullied within the last three years. In this survey, bullying was defined as "offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, or abuse or misuse of power, which violates the dignity of, or creates a hostile environment which undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures, the recipient."

While legal protections are being sought in many jurisdictions, the real actions need to occur in the workplace. The report from the Chartered Management Institute suggests the following:

  • Institute a policy and procedures for handling bullying and abusive behaviors which may include
    1. Policy rationale and position of organization on bullying
    2. Definition
    3. Examples of unacceptable behaviors
    4. Responsibilities of managers and supervisors
    5. Informal procedures for addressing concerns
    6. Grievance procedures
    7. Disciplinary procedures if appropriate
  • Ensure a workplace culture from the senior management that serves as an appropriate example
  • Educate managers and supervisors on the symptoms of bullying, the policy and procedures for addressing the bullying specific to your workplace
  • Build awareness amongst the employees on the position of the organization on bullying, the policy, practical actions they can take, and grievance procedures
  • Investigate and/or identify behavioral, counseling or mediation programs to address bullying and harassment situations
In all cases, be certain to understand the current and developing legal environment for your organization. Finally, treat all complaints seriously. An informal process may be of value where there are single incidents occurring under stress or unintentionally; however, the complaint may reflect significant underlying issues requiring intervention.

Remember, in two separate studies, significant portions of the workforce indicate that they have experienced bullying. Don't underestimate the seriousness of this issue.

For more reading, see links above for Employment Law Association, Chartered Management Institute, BNET: Nipping Workplace Bullying in the Bud, and Workplace Bullying Institute.

Books available on this topic include:

Bullying and Emotional Abuse in the Workplace: International Perspectives in Research and Practice

The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

When You Work for a Bully: Assessing Your Options and Taking Action

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