While sexual harassment has been under the limelight for quite some time, it is not the only form of harassment that employees may be faced with. If you thought that bullies were confined to schools and colleges, you were wrong. Mistreatment, hazing, mobbing, victimization, whatever you call it, bullying at work is real and an upsetting nuisance. Bullies have the ability to poison the work environment and be nothing less than a hazard for your organizational culture. As an HR manager, you need to be able to not only get to the root of the issue and nip it in the bud, but also be ready to deal with situations that have already escalated.
Policy control: Your organization needs to have policies in place that not only state zero-tolerance, but also clearly define what variants of behaviour will be classified as bullying. Employees often do not report cases of bullying because they aren’t sure whether what they are feeling uncomfortable or even threatened about, are “worth reporting”. Disciplinary actions that will be taken should also be specified in your anti-bullying policy. Having detailed policy statements not only make your employees more aware and conscious but also creates a positive organizational image through a culture that denounces bullying.
Often, employees seem to regard the HR department as the last resort. Moreover, they often tend to believe that HR managers might give more importance to the benefit of the organization that the benefit of the employee. These notions need to be attended to and the employees need to be encouraged to be prompt in reporting cases.
Organizational involvement: How your organization tackles bullying proves to your employees how much to value them and the environment they work in. You need be approachable and make sure that employees feel comfortable in reporting cases. While managers in many organizations tend to avoid any involvement and seem to believe that employees should be able to resolve their own issues at work, this might often come across as insensitive. Complaints regarding bullying need to be investigated as seriously as cases of sexual harassment. Written statements from both the employees (the one lodging the complaint and the one being complained about) and any witnesses need to be recorded. In case the accusations are proven true and the “bully” is terminated, these written statements will help the organization deal with claims of wrongful termination.
Bully V/s Bullied: Stating this might seem like playing the devil’s advocate, but the bully and the bullied both need help. The employee being bullied is at the receiving end of rude, uncivil and hurtful actions and might be dealing with too much stress and even depression as a result of it. While that needs to be addressed, it is also necessary to understand why bullies behave the way they do. A strong sense of insecurity and inferiority might serve as a trigger that unleashes the bully in an employee. While this definitely does not justify acts of bullying, it does bring out the fact that bullies need help too. Termination might not always be the wisest choice. Both the victim and the victimizer are employees and the HR department has to deal with both in the best way possible.
As an HR manager, you might often find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place while dealing with cases of bullying. Moreover, not every situation will fit into your policy system like a glove. While such situations may be difficult, they are not beyond your capacity. Making sure your policies are up-to-date, doing a thorough check on allegations, mobilizing support of organizational authority against bulling, prompt response to complaints and effective action will help you deal with the “corporate thugs”. You can not only make your employees feel safer but also let them know that they are part of an organizational culture that values their wellness.
Has your organization gone the extra mile to prevent cases of workplace bullying? Tell us all about it at [email protected]