September 03, 2010

HR stops Workplace Bullying, if 3% = Success

I want to love HR. I know good HR people. One shining example was a 2009 WBI University graduate. She was accustomed to serving at the executive level, as Senior Vice President, in several hospitals. When we met, she had lost two previous jobs simply because she dared to stand up to senior manager bullies. Each time, the CEOs terminated her and kept their buddies. We withhold her name so she can work again.

Another good person is a New York City-based HR professional who blogs and has written a book called the HR Toolkit and works with our NY State group to pass the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, despite SHRM’s official opposition to the legislation.

I write this love letter at the request of HR folks who hate reading the negative news about how HR does too little to stop bullying within their organizations. Believe me, I hate the fact that HR doesn’t help enough, too.

Really, I want to tout the value HR brings to organizations, but I need proof. I do not demonize HR. They are not wicked, ok maybe threatening, but not demonic. But I report the experiences bullied targets tell us. It’s that simple.

Clearly individuals are separate from the institutional role that dictates that they serve their executive masters and allow bullies to operate with impunity. The caveat is that whatever personal conflict over doing the right thing or the commanded or expected thing should compel more HR folks to be ethical, right and just.

That’s why I rely on empirical and anecdotal data to shape the story. HR folks, here is what 462 people who probably had been bullied told us on our summer 2010 online Instant Poll.

The percentage of cases in which HR took action and stopped the bullying: 3.4. There it is — the good news. Headline: HR Effectively Stops Bullying (3% of the time). HR you earned it. Celebrate. The 3%-ers are the good people. But what about the rest of you?

In 60% of cases HR did nothing after bullying was reported to them. Doing nothing was followed by an increase in bullying, for 26.6% of respondents.

Worse still, HR botched matters by taking action that helped the alleged bully and hurt the complainant in 32.5% of cases.

This is the reality confirmed by WBI coaches who have listened to over 6,000 detailed tales. And you might want to view the contributions to our HR Forum.

Don’t get defensive. Don’t attack WBI. Just do the right thing for the person hurt by the ones typically more powerful. Stop siding with the powerful just to keep your job or to curry favor from them. Grow a conscience. Be moral leaders. Teach executives about bullying and show them how destructive it is, for people and for leaders.

Now the Good News …

Here’s some great news for HR staffers. Though you have not fooled those who turned to you for help inside your organizations, the general public believes that HR is serving aggrieved employees. This statistic is derived from the latest 2010 WBI-Zogby national poll.

14.3% of adult Americans credited HR with taking appropriate actions that stopped the bullying with positive outcomes for the target. (compared to the 3.4% from the non-scientific online poll)

Botched efforts occurred in only 5.3% of cases.

HR doing nothing was estimated at 24.9%, allowing the bullying to continue but in only 6.2% of situations was the target harmed by increased bullying.

In the majority of cases, 51% of adult Americans , survey respondents were not sure if HR was told about the workplace bullying situation.

So, HR, please do not demonize WBI. Do better and we will gladly report it.



Anonymous said...

At Kingston University (in the UK) HR set up the target for dismissal. They provide guidance on how to stage manage this dismissal. For examples see

Anonymous said...

Interesting to have insights into HR from across the water and to see the similarities in the pattern of behaviour.

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

And the response to that article....

Hey all you out there! Human Resources will act like your friend, matter-of-fact the greatest folks in the world! Ask yourself the simple question? Always, follow trhe dollars…Who pays the H.R. employees, you or the company? This is where the rubber hits the road. Make no mistake, they truly want to hear everything your boss, co-workers, etc., have done to you, because their job is to protect their company from liability or a law suit. They will then take the information that is concerning to your boss, to make certain he/she is following the policy guidelines, and if your boss has not loaded your file up with warnings, etc., then H.R. will advise them to cover the companies behind by leaving a paper trail to properly bury you. H.R., regardless of how wonderful they are become liable themselves once they know your horrific story. They too, have to cover themselves by providing direction to your boss in how to properly fire you. It really stinks, but what you need to do is leave a paper trail yourself and document all conversations, you have with everyone at your company, dates, details to the conversations. Never get upset, or become revengeful, just do your job and follow company policy. As that ole adage goes, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”.

So think about HR's role when you go to speak to them - whose side or they on?

And what about our union UCU - whose side are they are?

What action are they taking to address wpb?

What action are you taking?

Bullying can kill.

Speak out today.

Aphra Behn

Allan said...

After years of bullying from my boss, I submitted a formal grievance. My boss submitted a formal grievance claiming that I bullied her.

In the papers she submitted, there was an email she sent to our HR advisor thanking her for her support over her dispute with me. She also thanked her boss for the same support.

She submitted an email to her previous boss asking for his full support in this matter. He replied saying that she had his full support. That was just days after I had written him a 25 page informal grievance letter explaining, with examples, her behaviour.

Agree with person above. Keep all of your emails. You just don't know what your employers may make up about you. One colleague made up a story that she had avoided contact with me for four years because I've an issue with women. Luckily I had emails showing that we were on very friendly terms, including emails where we were discussing a meal she had just cooked for me.

Another colleague claimed that she was anxious and nervous around me. Luckily I had an email from her just a few days before I was suspended in which she says she is going to tell me "funnies" face to face. said...

In the US HR was also complicit in a tenured faculty dismissal, the director of HR attending the meeting at which an award-winning faculty member was suspended from teaching.
The issue of academic bullying is not a local issue, it appears to be an international one (at least UK/US) which is not being well explored. And it is different from workplace bullying in that freedom of intellectual expression and academic freedom are involved in the discussion among other issues.
I will be bringing this up on my Tennessee chapter of the American Assn of University Professors discussion list this January at - join me if you can.

Assoc Prof, Ret
School of Information Sciences
University of Tennessee