Just last week I wrote an article outlining the important role company culture can play in preventing workplace bullying and harassment. However, the truth is that this is a hugely important topic which can only be addressed by a multi-faceted approach. For that reason, in this post I want to look beyond company culture and unpack how management and HR professionals can have a real impact in helping to eradicate workplace bullying and harassment.
Are there management styles that can be adopted to help limit harassment? Are managers currently doing enough? What needs to be done on the office floor to put an end to bullying and harassment? Here are three measures that can be taken to try and address these questions and ultimately reduce workplace bullying and harassment:
1. Educate Line Managers
Educating line managers on how to identify, mediate, and ultimately prevent harassment and/or bullying is by far one of the most important ways an organisation can prevent bullying and harassment.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, line managers are in prime location to spot any bullying or harassment issues that may come up in the workplace. Secondly, the more educated a line manager is on bullying and harassment policies and standards, the less likely they are to commit any offences themselves. Additionally, the better the education around these issues, the more likely managers are to be both sympathetic and empathetic towards those who are victims of harassment.
When it comes to actual material that should be taught to both managers and HR professionals, it is imperative that it’s not solely focused on policies and guidelines (it goes without saying that every company should have clear policies in place). Too much theory is hard to transfer to real life situations and can make people lose focus. Training programmes should include role-play examples and incorporate emotional intelligence in order to ensure that managers are well versed in dealing effectively with their teams.
Organisational psychologist, Patricia Murray believes that about, “one third of the time, people are blind to their own engagement in a negative transaction with someone.” If this doesn’t highlight the need to further educate line managers in bullying and harassment issues I don’t know what will.
2. HR Must Engage Regularly With Staff
Consistent HR engagement and communication with staff at all levels is a major way to help put a stop to bullying and harassment. HR professionals should not underestimate the value of immediately sending out a message to all employees if an incident has occurred as this has the potential to knock a bullying issue on its head right from the off. Of course, it’s not always that easy and bullying and harassment in the workplace can be extremely complex. It may sound clichéd, but making sure that open lines of communication exist between HR professionals, line managers, and all staff encourages workers to come forward, harnesses trust and shows staff that when it comes to these very serious issues they have someone in the workplace to talk to.
3. Be Open to New Management Styles
Finally, businesses shouldn’t be opposed to adopting or trying new management styles that may make the workplace more open and transparent, and ultimately help to reduce bullying and harassment. Agile management, for example, focuses on a horizontal management structure, with much less of a hierarchy between workers. As cases of bullying and harassment often come from power dynamics and abuses of power, creating a management structure wherein workers are on much more of a level playing field has the potential to reduce incidents of both bullying and harassment. Even minor changes like the size of teams or the number of office managers can go a long way to helping to find a solution to bullying issues in the workplace.
That’s not to say that changing management structures is guaranteed to reduce bullying and harassment – there will always be incidents that need addressed in the workplace. Finding out what management style best suits your business and helps teams gel together most effectively is very important when it comes to reducing workplace bullying and harassment, and increasing talent retention and acquisition.
As my last two articles have shown, there is a vast array of measures which companies both can and should be adopting to tackle this pressing issue. HR as a department must take a stand against bullying and harassment of all sorts in the workplace – luckily we are very well placed to make a true difference.
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