Workplace Bullying: 8 Great Ingredients for Policies Against Workplace Bullying
If you follow my blogs, then you know that I’m not a big fan of workplace policies around workplace bullying. Why? Because they are generally weak and ambiguous and they bring false hope to targets and make administrators pass the buck to overworked HR professionals who may not be empowered to take action beyond the investigation.
I’d really like to see managers and leaders take personal responsibility for the behavior of their staff and themselves, rather than defaulting to a policy that is likely unworkable.
That said, policies are being written and so I will weigh in on some ingredients for a better policy. If you’re going to write one, it should work.
Workplace Bullying Policy Ingredients:
- Define bullying and give lots of examples of the behavior
- Be sure those examples are real examples and not a definitive list of behaviors
- Prohibit bullying behaviors by everyone from the top down. Everyone. No exceptions.
- Give people the option of talking with you before they file a complaint (many procedures require a manager or HR professional to take action on any inquiry or complaint and that’s discouraging because your employee needs your information and guidance before they commit to a process).
- Make sure your procedures for using the policy are easy to follow and reasonable. That is, don’t make your procedures discourage people from using the policy
- Give the policy some teeth. If you are going to prohibit bullying, then make it a real offense worthy of strong discipline including termination.
- Prohibit retaliation and make any retaliation punishable
- Tailor your policy to the values and culture of your organization so that there is an alignment between what the company stands for and what the policy states
In 1964 sex harassment was outlawed by Presidential mandate. The EEOC created definitions and guidelines. These were adopted almost verbatim. That made life easy for researchers (like myself) but not so easy for companies because those guidelines far outreached the culture of the organization and they were imposed not embraced. Take the time to get buy-in from your employees, from the top down. Your company has a culture and values, just like a family. Use that culture and those values to make your policy workable and meaningful. And, be sure to use the real culture and values, not the fancy ones you have in your mission statement.
Be Honest About Your Policy and Enforce it. Really.
Don’t create a policy if you don’t plan to enforce it. Policies breed hope. If there’s no hope to be gained from the policy, then don’t pretend. It’s better to be brutally honest than brutally dishonest.
Workplace Bullying Policy: Get Support
If you want more guidance on developing a policy, including setting up a program to discuss workplace bullying and abrasive behaviors, then contact me.
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I’ve been a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.
I’m Kathleen Bartle, Conflict Consultant.