August 10, 2008

When it comes to workplace bullying there are distinct stances adopted by HR Departments

When it comes to workplace bullying and its attendant issues – because it never arrives in the workplace alone – there are distinct stances adopted by HR Departments. Like yoga positions, they can be categorized.

1. The Mafioso:

Perhaps the worst stance, the Mafioso HR Department knows there is a problem with workplace bullying and actively participates or supports the abuse by bringing false, fabricated or unnecessary proceedings against the targets of bullying, supporting the culprits, joining in “the fun”. Their typical way is to issue threats to targets and abuse procedure. They are the harbingers of doom to any firm and and they ride in on the pale horse.

Oh, yes, you know who you are. And so do we. We can tell by the attrition rates, the number of lawsuits, and the fact that you can smell the fear and tension the moment you walk through the door.

2. The Ostrich:

Identified by somewhat sandy and muffled responses to questions on respect at work with.“We don’t have a problems with workplace bullying, nor are we ever going to have one” or even “We take respect at work seriously”. The muffled responses get all the fainter when one tried to identify how, exactly, they are taking it seriously. They achieve the same result as the Mafioso except passively, not actively.

3. The Firefighter:

This HR position involves leaping from crisis to crisis, from formal discipline/grievance proceeding to proceeding, from court room to court room. There’s no time to implement good practice – they are too busy putting out fires.

4. The Bureaucrat:

This HR team loves writing policies that look good on paper and then stuffing them in a drawer, and scheduling expensive training which doesn’t tackle the problems. Failure to monitor and audit procedures lead to a failure in implantation. But hey, they look good, even if you don’t achieve much. Often accompanied by Firefighters or Ostriches.

5. The Tinker:

The Tinker is perhaps the least glamorous respondent to the challenge of workplace bullying. They might not look good, patching here and there, but they only step in occasionally when a rare crisis emerges. For the most part, their conflict resolution and workplace harassment policies and procedures work so well they can get on with other stuff – like hiring, succession planning, and increasing the firm’s knowledge base. They do this by practicing preventative medicine in the work place, continually, monitoring and checking for signs of bullying and workplace toxicity. They actively work to reduce the number of grievance and disciplinary proceedings, and attrition due to mental ill health. They keep their stats in order. Quietly.

You know the burning question, don’t you? Which one of the five positions is YOUR firm’s HR adopting in response to Workplace Harassment?


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