A Simple and Positive Solution to a Multi-billion Dollar Problem

As America takes the leadership role in the global economy, when "innovate or vegetate" is the catch phrase for corporations; it benefits no one to have competent workers bullied or stressed out of the workforce. Absenteeism and retraining costs cut away dramatically at the bottom line. Lack of mutual respect or job security often manifests itself in a "holding-back" scenario, and in the formation of power cliques; which directly and negatively impact on efficiency and productivity.

Traditional practices of punitive, heavy-handed, top-down management remain the norm for many companies and public agencies. Employers still promote and hire individuals whose track-record in human resources management is suspect, but who, for whatever reasons, sell employers on their "old school" approach to leadership. As a consequence, board level management is over-burdened with human resource costs and problems, and at least 1/3 of workers report they are being bullied/victimized at work, most often by management.

Since 1994, Sweden has had an ordinance against victimization at work. Victimization is defined as "recurrent reprehensible or distinctly negative actions which are directed against individual employees in an offensive manner and can result in those employees being placed outside the work community." Included in their definition of victimization are more commonly used terms such as: adult bullying, harassment, work abuse, scapegoating, and discrimination. The Swedish statute, included in Occupational Safety and Health Legislation, mandates:

a.) The employer should plan and organize work so as to prevent victimization as far as possible.

b.) The employer shall make clear that victimization cannot be accepted in workplace activities.

c.) There shall be routines/policies for early detection and rectification of such unsatisfactory working conditions.

d.) When victimization becomes apparent, a "special investigation" will take place, which may and possibly should, be done by outside parties.

As this or very similar wording is included in public and private sector policy manuals, or shows up in contracts; workplace bullying, in a very broad sense, would become grievable. Should this, or similar wording, find it's way into state or federal legislation, it could be litigated. This would empower upper management to encourage the evolution of managerial practices, and to develop real methods of timely and fair dispute resolution. The only new idea here is the use of the term bullying. While we may all agree that bullying is a reality in abusive homes, or on school playgrounds, we seem reluctant to apply the term to workplace situations. Notice that the "zero tolerance for bullying" terminology has been incorporated into vast numbers of public school policies, especially in the last year, in an effort to address school violence issues.

This simple change has the potential to override many divisive personnel cases handled under "protected group status" policies and laws, when issues of bullying are redirected to fit the criteria of current law. This policy would certainly change the way in which managers are chosen and trained, cut down on personnel turnover, save in insurance and leave costs, decrease costly and embarrassing litigation, encourage teamwork and company loyalty; and simply and economically raise profits and productivity.

Send This Page to : your HR dept, legislators, local bar association, union, co-workers, etc.

e-mail addresses of your legislators: Get this Message to People in Power
e-mail addresses for your union: Help unions protect workers
e-mail contact fot American Bar Association: Law is their business.
e-mail The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration: OSHA would probably be the enforceing body

about the author:

Ben C. Cline, a former victim of workplace bullying, has since become an activist for workplace reform. He has a MA in communications, and a background in teaching and human resources. For the last two years he has operated a non-commercial informational web site and an online forum/support group for bullied workers worldwide.


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