Monday, September 26, 2011

When not to turn the cheek.

A person in the work place lashes out at his or her employee or supplier. We have seen it and heard about it. There is no excuse for this behavior, and no plausible explanation that makes it OK.

It is plain and simple, good old fashioned, school yard style bullying in the work setting. We know who they are. We know it is not acceptable to act this way.

We knew that back in grade school, but still, we let it happen. We sat by and watched, relieved it was happening to them and not us.  We were complicit participants in the abuse unless we took a stand against the offending action.

Some statistics about bullying: 

Bullying is of a predatory nature, or even may be dispute-related in some cases, but as Namie (2003) was quick to point out, it should never be brushed off as a personality clash because:
  • Targets endure bullying for almost two years before filing a complaint
  • Targets have a seventy percent chance of losing their jobs
  • Seventeen percent of targets have to transfer to other jobs
  • Only thirteen percent of bullies are ever punished or terminated
  • Seventy-one percent of bullies outrank their targets
  • Bullying is three times more prevalent than sexual harassment
  • Bullying is often invisible and occurs behind closed doors without witnesses
  • Even when bullying is witnessed, team members usually side with the bully
  • As many as ten percent of suicides may be related to workplace traumatization
Nationwide statistics on workplace bullying indicate (Brunner & Costello, 2003, and Namie, 2003):

  • Eighty-one percent of bullies are in supervisory roles
  • Fifty-eight percent of bullies are female (Namie)
  • Eighty-four percent of bullied employees are female
  • Twenty-one percent of all workers have been targeted by bullies
Reasons targets are bullied (Namie & Namie, 2000):
  • Fifty-eight percent are targeted because they stand up to unfair treatment by the bully
  • Fifty-six percent are mobbed because the bully envies the target's level of competence
  • Forty-nine percent are targeted simply because they are nice people
  • Forty-six percent are bullied because they are ethical
  • Thirty-nine percent are bullied because it was just their turn

A model for achieving a healthy, harassment-free workplace: Canadian Human Rights Commission 

Reference: Canadian Human Rights Commission, "Anti-Harassment Policies for the Workplace:  An Employer's Guide", March 2006,, Government of Canada  

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) defines harassment as "unwelcome behavior that demeans, humiliates or embarrasses" the individual, unwanted sexual behavior, and abuse of authority." 

Ultimately, employers are responsible for acts of work - related harassment, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. 

"Harassment is against the law. Both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code protect employees from harassment related to work. Provincial human rights laws also prohibit harassment. And the Criminal Code protects people from physical or sexual assault."

The Commission states that "Employers are required by the Canada Labour Code to develop their own harrassment policies. In addition, the existence of appropriate harassment policies and procedures will be a factor considered by the Human Rights Commission in evaluating a company's liability in harassment complaints."  

To assist employers in meeting these requirements, the CHRC has established model policies for small, medium and large organizations.  Employers retain responsiblity for preparing appropriate policies, monitoring their effectiveness and updating them as required, ensuring all employees are aware of the policy and providing anti-harassment training.  

The following is an overview of the guidelines: 
Write an anti-harassment policy that is: 
  • unequivocally supported by management 
  • clear 
  • fair
  • known to everyone, at all levels in the organization; and 
  • applied to everyone at all levels of the organization. 
Create the climate by:
  • changing the workplace culture by getting the word out about the issue of harassment and involving employees in the preparation of the anti-harassment policy.
  • writing a policy that clearly says management will not tolerate any harassing situations, and make sure it is enforced. 
  • making a policy statement that the employer will not tolerate any harassing behavior and by helping employees to understand the laws around harassment. 
  • involving employees in the creation of the policy so that: 
    • people can be educated about what harassment is, why it is unacceptable, and what they can do about it;
    • people may be less afraid to speak up if they find themselves in, or witnessing a harassing situation; 
    • a strong, clear message is communicated that the employer supports the policy and will not tolerate harassment; 
    • employees have a personal interest in the policy, making them more likelly to understand and suppport it; and 
    • employees feel their contributions are valued, thereby increasing satisfaction in the workplace.
  • showing that that you mean it, ensuring the policy applies to senior management as well as other employees. When situations arise, apply the policy fairly and according to the rules, not matter who is involved.
Set up the framework 
  • Explaining what harassement is and giving examples 
  • By giving clear directions for handling complaints
  • By clarifying roles 
Maintain the gains 
  • By educating current and propective employees 
  • By training managers 
  • By trainng anti-harassment counsellors, mediators and investigators 
  • By monitoring and reviewing the policy 
Click on the following link to reference the policy guidelines and models.

Some other reading on the subject:

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