Reducing the harm of bullying and harassment

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Effective investigations are a vital part of workplace conflicts, but when an investigation reveals bullying or harassment the solution needs to go far beyond just the main perpetrator.

According to employment lawyer Krista Siedlak, from Bernardi Human Resources Law, many employers are missing an opportunity to improve their outcomes by addressing widespread issues in a workplace.

“Often we look at bullying in isolated environment,” Siedlak said. “There was a bully and there was a victim, as opposed to looking at the whole continuum of how other people may have played into that dynamic. We have to deal with all these people when we’re looking at solutions.”

There are no innocent bystanders, she added. From those who knew and looked away, to workers who jumped on the bandwagon, just getting rid of one offender won’t solve the problem for the whole workforce.

Managers will often either fire the bully or separate the two parties by putting them on different shifts or in different locations, and think their problem is solved. However the problem is often bigger and deeper than that and these steps won’t address the learned behaviours in that group.

From her firm’s work with employers, Siedlak said some of the following steps can help resolve some of these deep set issues:
  1. Developing rules for the group
    “We’ve had a lot of success with employees in a team developing their own rules of what civility and decency look like in a group and then holding each other accountable to those rules.”
  2. Experiential learning
    This allows employees to experience specific situations so they can get a feeling of what it looks  and feels like.
  3. Video learning
    In some of the more difficult cases, Siedlak and her team have experimented with showing bullying videos, which focus on the schoolyard but still examine the actions and emotions around bullying.
“Investigations are vital and in the course of investigations often uncover dysfunctional working,” Siedlak added. “What can we do to make that team better? More effort and cost and hard work but that’s when you are going to see results.”
  • Brenda on 2014-01-22 10:13:41 AM

    Would you be able to direct us to appropriate videos? I would like to have something like that in my office so that I could have the offender watch is and then I could document that I have taken this step as well, just as I would do in a WSIB back injury, have the employee redo lifting technics training and assessment.

  • Ken on 2014-01-22 9:59:20 PM

    I agree Brenda. I would like to have these video tools as well. They would be very useful for workshop training and proactive awareness.

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