HR needs to be more aware to have impact on bullying

You have recently drawn attention to the dark side of under-performance in UK organisations, as witnessed by the extent of bullying and harassment in our workplaces (Personnel Today, 10 and 17 October).

You rightly observe that line managers, unions and HR functions often fail to ensure that people are treated with appropriate respect and dignity. But surely this means that it’s even more important for HR to take a strategic approach – building trust, engagement and communication skills to ensure that bullying doesn’t happen.

Perhaps it depends on what we mean by this. I certainly don’t believe that a strategic approach to bullying is about “gathering and maintaining information about policies and complaints, but not intervening to stop it”. A strategic approach can’t be all about capability for tomorrow it also needs to ensure effective performance today. So, if bullying is taking place, HR professionals should be in a position to ensure it is stopped (and not necessarily by intervening). A strategic approach should support, not preclude, this.

However, providing this support means that HR needs to be in touch with what’s going on, and that HR practitioners need to take the time to talk to people and pay attention to what they see happening.

HR business partners – supported by an effective service centre – can do this. There is no need for independent advisers. But HR professionals can’t be highly strategic unless they’re well organised and effectively resourced to ensure their organisations are managed more effectively than your reports seem to suggest.

Jon Ingham
Director, Buck Consultants


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