There is a trend in the workplace that is increasingly becoming popular, however this is not the sort of popularity that one might expect. However, it is a matter that needs to come more to the forefront. The matter is workplace bullying.
Unfortunately, this workplace trend is and has been on the rise in recent years. What is workplace bullying? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force conducted a study that was discussed at the June 2016 Society For Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) annual conference. It found that over the past 30 years, corporate training has not had a positive impact on preventing workplace harassment, according to a recap of the study in SHRM’s HR Magazine.
In other words, HR and Corporate Trainers cannot “train away” workplace harassment. The EEOC report also provided a similar definition of harassment. “Harassment is generally defined as any unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 and over), disability or genetic information. It becomes unlawful when employees are forced to endure offensive behavior in order to keep their jobs or when the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment.”
However, the Task Force realized that workplace bullying and harassment cannot be limited to the number of rising claims that have been filed. Claims are underreported as 90 percent of people harassed never file a legal complaint. This means there are virtually thousands of workers who are being harassed either by workplace bullying, sexual harassment, workplace violence, hostile work environment, racial, gender, religious, etc. All of the items listed above (and more) fall under the category of harassment.
In a day and age where employee engagement, out of the box onboarding is being promoted, this is a disturbing trend that does not appear to be getting any better.
What can managers, supervisors and employees do to help curtail this problem? One way is to gradually change the workplace culture. This is not an easy task. It has to start with someone, and usually that means the organization’s leadership. The leadership should be looking for signs of workplace bullying. There are numerous online resources that can assist in the process. Management and employees alike can start with their HR department.
If the problem is the actual manager or supervisor, the HR or an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) professional may need to take charge.
Organizations should have confidential processes in place where employees can report confidentially without fear of retaliation. Employees should be able to report themselves, or if they see another employee in distress, the reporting employee should be able to report either via email, phone call, an online submission, etc. This brings us to another point. Employers should have or form some sort of whistleblower’s program in place for this type of reporting to occur.
This program should be administered by a third-party company so that employees can be assured that their reporting will be taken seriously and not swept under the rug.
In conclusion, we hope that this will give us some options to consider to curtail this increasing trend.
Joan C. Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.