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By Lynne Curry
Bullying is epidemic. A 2014 survey published by the
Workplace Bullying Institute found that 37 million U.S. workers face “abusive conduct” during their workday.
What can human resource professionals do to address this epidemic? A lot.
If you’re an HR professional who wants to make a real difference, you need to understand why an organization’s leaders hesitate to take action against bullies—and why HR is in an ideal position to manage and eliminate workplace bullying.
Bullies can be charismatic and excel at workplace politics, able to kiss up even as they kick sideways and down. As a result, “Leaders may have a blind spot concerning bullies and reflexively defend them, saying, ‘That’s not the Bob I know,’ ” says Gary Namie, co-founder and director of the Workplace Bullying Institute. “Everyone else sees the con, but not the leader.”
What, then, can HR do?
Bullies demoralize employees, reducing employee productivity. Abusive work environments have other serious consequences for employers, including higher turnover and absenteeism rates and increases in medical and workers’ compensation claims. By making a business case, HR can convince an organization’s leaders to stop paying the bottom-line costs for bullying.
Although few state or federal laws prohibit bullying, HR can create a policy banning workplace bullying. This both sets a standard for organizational behavior and provides HR with a tool for disciplining bullies who violate the policy.
Without training, some managers and supervisors may view bullying allegations as a hot potato. HR can provide managers and supervisors with the training they need to make certain they understand their role in preventing and addressing bullying. When HR provides employees at all levels the skills and strategies they need to handle bullies and verbal confrontation, those trained learn how to deal with bullies and know that HR stands behind them.
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