Recognize This! – Bullying is a cultural issue that cannot be addressed through a policy in the employee handbook.
Have you ever been bullied at work? To some, this is a sensitive
question to ask. Some don’t want to acknowledge having been bullied out
of fear it will make them seem weak. Others, perhaps, stood aside
instead of intervening when bullying was happening. Still others may
have been (or still are) the bully themselves.
Regardless, the reality is bullying is as prevalent in the workplace
as it is in the schoolyard. And the impact of that reality extends far
beyond those who are actively bullied. According to research reported in
“Canadian researchers writing in the journal Human
Relations, published by SAGE, have found that nurses not bullied
directly, but who worked in an environment where workplace bullying
occurred, felt a stronger urge to quit than those actually being
“This is potentially interesting because we tend to assume that
direct, personal experiences should be more influential upon employees
than indirect experiences only witnessed or heard about in a second-hand
fashion. Yet our study identifies a case where direct and indirect
experiences have a similarly strong relationship to turnover
Is an anti-bullying policy (as suggested in another recent article) the solution?
“The time has come for employers who have not declared
their workplaces to be bully-free to do so. Even if the law does not
require it, many employers of goodwill know that bullying does nothing
for their employment brand, their retention or their productivity.
“Antibullying policies and attendant education are essential for the
kind of workplace that is a haven from the rancor of our political and
social divides. The courts are smart enough to know the difference
between a tough performance review and a vicious attack. Responsible
employers do as well.”
I don’t think a “policy” will solve bullying in the workplace. This
is a cultural problem. The Canadian research proves this point in that
even those unaffected by bullying but aware of its occurrence want out.
These valuable employees want no part of a culture in which bullying
and, more to the point, employees who engage in bullying behaviors are
If not through a policy, how do you address this culturally? First,
clearly define the behaviors you want to see from employees. Second,
recognize and reward employees for demonstrating those behaviors. Third,
clearly define the behaviors you will not allow. Finally, take
appropriate actions, including firing, for those who violate these behaviors.
Adhering to these guidelines will communicate more strongly, clearly
and consistently your position on bullying in the workplace than any
formal policy ever could. The same is true for any other undesirable
behaviors such as unethical actions counter to the culture you want to
create in your organization.
How is bullying addressed in your workplace?
10 Jul 2012 6:00 PM
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