Workplace bullying occurs because it can. Simply put, it takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to support the interests of its players. The question then becomes, what game are you playing? A company or organization exists to make a profit and to attain results. To the employer, a workplace bullying incident ‘takes time and energy away from profits and results’ in the short term. Companies and organizations that have long term vision, ideally value people before profits, however, striking the balance between caring and productivity is key.
I have been interviewed many times with regard to Ontario, Canada’s new Bill 168 becoming legislation (June 2010). The question that I have received the most has been: “Will this new Bill help stop workplace bullying”? My response as noted in the Globe and Mail was that any law is only as good as the leadership support around it.
Even if a company or organization has a workplace bullying policy, the bully will still have tactics to move around such guidelines, so leaders and targets must be aware and everyone must plan to not to be out-smarted by the bully. Will the law work? Only if organizations have a plan as this is not an easy task by any means.
Here are some factors to consider:
1. With much of the legislation throughout Canada, there really isn’t any documentation outlining the consequences of workplace bullying behavior should it happen. For this reason, it is easier to get rid of targets than to support them. (Often the target waits to take action internally and by this time, they are too ill to take legal action. Also quite possibly they are facing job loss and financial ruin due to their state of mind).
2. Bullies are adept at deception, especially the manipulation of HR and management’s perceptions of their target. They will often appear confident, in control and capable, even charming. This is an illusion and a front which employers often fail to see beyond. In fact many bullies are high producers and organizations value them for that fact. However, consider the lower productivity overall by allowing one bully to remain: turn-over, sick time, disability claims and good people leaving.
3. Many times an employer’s main concern is profit and productivity, and if a case looks ‘overwhelming’ and ‘hard to solve easily’ then no one seems to own the problem unless the target keeps pressing in with resources and support they often do not have. The case is dragged out and is only closed due to the exhaustion of the target.
4. Bullies have often made friends and alliances with senior management and are thus protected when a case comes about. The bully is often given more room and support as a result of their connections above. Remember it is the target who ends up suffering and becoming weak and consequently at the same time, the bully seeing this, becomes even more resilient. Odd, yes, but everyone must become aware.
5. Employers are frightened of the legal action by both the target and the bully! Who do you think would have more resources? The larger employers have unlimited resources when it comes to engaging legal representation to defend a case against a target’s claim. The bully is protected once again as it is not ‘great press’ to have a workplace bullying issue out of hand and noted in the media (even though the target might be justified by their case, the organization will often do what it can to defend their organization’s name). It is common for the target to be “bought out’ or transferred – but there is a huge problem that still exists: the bully is still employed only to find another target.
Did You Know?
6. The bully will often gather others to be on their side, either by direct force or by being so powerful it keeps others silent from supporting the target. HR and senior management can be fooled into believing ‘this is only in the target’s mind’ and be swept up into thinking it sure would be easier to remove the now unproductive target then deal with this issue.
7. The bully is often a high producer by their striving nature. Why would an organization let someone like this go?
8. The senior management and HR who are approached find it easier to subscribe to ‘shooting the messenger’.
9. HR, unions and senior managers are not trained or rewarded for dealing with workplace bullying issues so why would they seek them out? It takes time away from productivity; and in addition, it can be exhausting to try and solve a problem you have very few skills or authority to address. What gets rewarded gets repeated: profits and productivity are rewarded in most organizations, not more intangible factors to success such as team morale, dealing with and solving issues etc.
10. No one ‘owns’ the problem. Stopping workplace bullying must be the responsibility of everyone in an organization. The target must keep an accurate log of repeated events to support their case in order to avoid a ‘tail wagging the dog’ complaint structure many organizations are afraid of. The senior management must first believe in people, then profits when it comes to workplace bullying situations and put proper resources into standing behind this belief. Training for managers on how to support targets as well as accountability skills for the entire organization in order to hold the bully accountable are necessary steps in this process. The bully will never be accountable; they will only adhere to consequences put forth by those who can enforce the consequences.
But there is good news. There are some organizations who have chosen to empower their leaders to know how to recognize these situations and also how to deal with them effectively. This goes for the target, the leader and the bystanders.
We have worked with many organizations in order to assist them with the skills needed to handle these situations without taking “more time than necessary” but at the same time, providing a valuable support structure for all parties involved. Organizations who make a commitment to do this see lower turn-over rates, higher morale and higher productivity and loyalty. It might seem impossible, and that is understandable as this is such a subjective issue many times, but remember, you can’t expect to know everything to run your organizations and there is support out there for you. do, Feel free to contact us anytime; it might just give you the support you need!
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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to http://www.BullyFreeAtWork.com
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