This question asks to address how bullying policies and procedures are a task of HR to implement in the workplace therefore this answer will define exactly what bullying is, what policies should be in place and any recommendations for the occurrence of bullying in the workplace. Relevant case examples will be used to support the argument along with relevant referenced authors, on this topic. On concluding, how bullying can be prevented will be reflected on after stating what the future may hold for bullying in the workplace.
What is Bullying?
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Since the shift from Uni-cultural societies to multi-cultural societies in recent times, there has been a significant decrease in perceived inequalities in the workplace. However, the issue of bullying is still prominent in many organisations, (especially throughout Ireland today). Baillien et al. (2009) defines bullying as persistent negative behaviour at work in which the victim is subject to psychological, physical or sexual acts by the perpetrator and often find themselves in a position where they are unable to defend themselves.
The analysis carried out found that bullying, or some form of harassment, was likely to occur out of one of three pathways: interpersonal frustrations, interpersonal conflict and intragroup level. The problem with the latter is that the culture of gossip within organisations has become a norm and hence the certain behaviours by perpetrators may often be overlooked. Although bullying is often associated with actions that people carry out, it also includes actions that individuals fail to do such as providing necessary training to a particular employee. For example, if new technology is introduced into the firm, extra training will be required. Hence, if bullying of a certain employee was occurring, this may lead to their deprivation of sufficient training which in turn will have a negative consequence for the entire firm. ) Within Maslow (1943) hierarchy of needs framework, safety needs are crucial to all employees and the victimisation due to bullying will prevent the fulfilment of this need in the workplace. As a result, low productivity and low morale may be present within the workforce.
As the question states, it is the task of the HR department to ensure the design & implementation of policies and procedures to prevent or deal with the occurrence of workplace bullying. The event hierarchy of the bullying (reference) intervention process has three levels: the prevention zone which involves policy enquiries by the target, the intervention zone which begins with an informal complaint and may lead to a formal complaint, and the failure zone where legal action is taken.
In order to prevent an employee reaching the highest level and engaging in legal action, it is the responsibility of HR to assist in dealing with the problem immediate to the first complaint. Bullying/Harassment must be occurring in the workplace as opposed to personal life conflicts between workers in order for HR to manage the situation but studies carried out in this area have shown that senior level management are often weak in dealing with issues of bullying or harassment. (Baillien et al. 009) Consequently, when HR is implementing practices, they need to ensure the co-operation and comprehension of senior level managers in this area. There are three main actions HR can take in order to reduce bullying situations. Firstly the implementation of clear, concise policies needs to be carried out which state unacceptable behaviours classed as bullying or harassment and the procedures an individual may take if found subjected to this behaviour. In addition to this, a Code of Conduct should be established in order to set out training procedures for employees and management as a means of preventing workplace bullying.
Within management training, conflict resolution and mediation skills need to be provided in order to act effectively. During the recruitment of management in an organisation, it is vital to ensure they have people management skills along with task related competence. Finally, often the most important thing HR and senior managers can do is lead by example. If policies and procedures are implemented but managers are not behaving in a way that complies entirely with these, then this could lead to adverse effects by subordinates.
One primary example of where HR failed to act on behaviour of a new employee that initially was unacceptable by the firm but resulted in unacceptable behaviour to moral society was in relation to Rob Parsons within Morgan Stanley. (Burton, 1998) Parsons was hired to achieve a growth implementation strategy as Nasr believed he was the man to do it. However, a culture of strict policies and procedures within the organisation meant that Parsons Non-compliance immediately stood out. Initially, he was not involved with bullying but was seen as a ‘lone wolf’ within the firm, significantly seen through his inability to perform within a team.
As time lapsed, HR and Parsons Management failed to confront him on his behaviour and essentially allowed the collapse of their organisational policies for him due to the fear he may leave the firm. Eventually, he was fired as a result of a bullying case that occurred at a client meeting. He had been making unacceptable critical remarks to a fellow female employee of the firm, humiliating her in front of the client. Hence, the occurrence of Parson’s psychological bullying was finally evident and may have been prevented if HR followed through with their policies with all employees including Rob Parsons.
Future of Workplace Bullying
Due to the increase of technology, the working environment now often extends into the realm of personal life. In effect, this may cause the enabling of workplace bullying to stretch further than the perimeter of the four walls of the organisation and in particular, social networking sites are a primary target for the extension of this bullying. However, since present policies and procedures focus on ‘workplace bullying’, victims may be limited to the actions they can take.
With the growth in the integration of personal and work life, HR may be unable to re-address their policies to include outer work boundaries due to legal constraints. Although, conversely it may be easier to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of bullying or harassment if the behaviour extends to personal life, such as through social networking sites. Conclusion Bullying and harassment is often a topic ignored within the workplace as victims sometimes feel ashamed and managers choose not to deal with the problem. However it is the responsibility of HR to ensure these practices are implemented and abided by all, including management.
Failure to do this will undoubtedly lead to extensive consequences such as reputational damage to the firm, direct costs including replacement costs and indirect costs such as low productivity. Although not a continuing case of bullying, the Morgan Stanley case briefly highlights how the failures of HR and senior management to address his unacceptable behaviour from the outset led to undesired effects, including his removal from the firm and legal action by a fellow employee. All in all, the prevention of workplace bullying can be assisted by appropriate practices carried out by HR.
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