HR and bullying
Bullying arises from an interplay of factors – individuals, interpersonal relationships, groups and organisation dynamics. Procedures and actions to prevent bullying and effectively manage bullying scenarios need to include all these aspects.
- When recruiting staff, be aware of the ‘false self’ of bullies (see definitions). Try not to be seduced by a facade of ‘perfection’. Chose employees who have realistic perceptions of themselves, their abilities and their future roles in the organisation.
- Do a risk analysis of where bullying is most likely to occur in your organisation. Bullying occurs around vacuums of support, where employees are overloaded with work, and/or do not receive the recognition they think they need from management and colleagues.
- Identify the negative aspects of the culture of the organisation. Are these more prevalent in some departments than others? Are they giving rise to bullying?
- In bullying scenarios there is a loss of reality. Bullying disengages employees from their work and from each other – this is costly to organisations. More effective engagement comes through ‘recognition’ of the other. (see definitions). This can be fostered e.g. through diversity training – in appreciating difference rather than perceiving difference as a threat.
- Improve your communication strategy and implement it. Does communication lack consistency? Inconsistency in communication breeds cynicism which in turn fosters a culture of a lack of trust, loss of creativity, feelings of desperation and loss of well-being of staff.
- Moving a victim to another part of the organisation may provide a temporary release of tension but it will not solve the problem in the longer term. Keeping a bully/bullies in place could, in time, lead to further bullying. Alternatively removing a bully may create a potential space for another one to evolve unless the culture of the organisation and/or group dynamics change.
- In looking at how bullying could be arising within your organisation question the nature of the organisation’s boundaries. Research indicates that bullying is more likely to occur when organisational boundaries with external stakeholders are too rigid or too open. Permeable boundaries are needed for the development of healthy organisations.
- Establish training with line managers on the dynamics of bullying as part of health and safety programmes.
- Get training for yourself in understanding the deeper dynamics of organisational life e.g. projection, envy, shame, emotional patterning, group theories, social defences in organisations etc. Learn why and how bullies and victims often appear to switch roles. Training on the deeper dynamics of organisations is provided by www.opus.org.uk and www.tavistockconsultancy.com
- There are no quick fixes to bullying. Manage bullying scenarios in a holistic way by supporting individuals, improving group dynamics and fostering a healthier working environment.
- Bullies and victims are often very conscientious employees and losing them can be costly. Set firm boundaries for the bully so he, or she, doesn’t become over anxious and project anxieties around the organisation. Provide life coaching for bullies and counselling for victims.
- Identify where support is needed in teams. Team training without the bully can alter the dynamics for the better.
- Raise awareness that management/ authority is about more than maintaining a pecking order and putting others down. There are enlightened ways of managing staff.