Tackling Bullying

This article is focussed on applying Human Resource techniques and tools with holistic approach towards achieving solutions focused response to tackling bullying. From an all-inclusive perspective by involving all parties the victim, the organisation, the group and the perpetrator. Then by adopting solution’s that concludes with a fully agreed commitment for restorative intervention.

Where incidents of bullying exist and are brought to the attention of senior leaders, there is a personal professional and legal responsibility for dealing with the issue.

HR Consultancy:

Flexibility is the key, working within the legal and policy framework that supports the organisational compliance, commitments and regulatory obligations, within a methodology and a framework that is inclusive. A bi-lateral agreement is effective when a mix of mediation, coaching methods, consultation, negotiation and finalisation of outcomes prescribe to restorative intervention, which aims to bring all parties affected into a state of effective working relationships.

Each party facing the issue has a different experience, perspective, and view point of how the organisation should approach the issue. They could have understandable fears around the organisational process, reputation and potential individual effects. Case issues can be complex when the bullying extends outside of the workplace. The organisational rules of governance and engagement that require compliance are often a source misinterpretation or understanding in perceiving a viable way forward, when facing complex and specific circumstances surrounding a particular issue of bullying behaviour. This is why a considered collective approach managed independently can provide a way forward.

What is bullying

From Young Minds:

Bullying is where someone hurts you either physically, by hitting or kicking you, or verbally by calling you names or teasing you.

From a study by the Ivey Business Journal November/December 2003, Title: Workplace Bullying: Escalated Incivility

We define workplace bullying as “status-blind” interpersonal hostility that is deliberate, repeated and sufficiently severe as to harm the targeted person’s health or economic status. Further, it is driven by perpetrators’ – 2 – Ivey Business Journal November/December 2003 need to control another individual, often undermining legitimate business interests in the process.

Both of the above definitions involve an attack on the individual or group that can result in loss of ability to function in a positive way. This very often creates a negative sub culture that is dysfunctional and has its own rules of engagement.


What are the effects?

Generally speaking bullying is about power and control. The behaviour is either covert or overt and perpetrators can be either male or female. The results can be severe, certainly affecting the production and the psychological, emotional, engagement of the individual and the other parties or groups, creating consequences for those around them. There are major risks for the organisation, including financial risks and damage to company reputation.

The organisation the threats can be catastrophic, effecting business operations, creating dysfunction, creating costly reputational or litigation battles and other penalties from sector regulators.

The Individual Serious illness and in the extreme this can result in the individual taking their life.

The Group can either be the victim or perpetrators. The mentality bought into by the group members, defining the group, motivation and the individual hierarchy.

The perpetrator to neglect the perpetrator in addressing the solution is to risk a continuation of behaviour and the seriousness of the effects increasing.

What is the solution?

Involvement, negotiation, consultation, inclusion and agreement are keys to an effective long term resolution.

A considered approach is essential based on the issues within each individual case, the type of method being agreed and bought into by all parties. The aim is to discuss, negotiate, consult and restore relationships and/or change to employment terms.

To develop a plan, negotiate and consult a sensitive way forward that will address the issues and inclusively involve all parties in the outcome and at the same time address their fears and apprehensions. Monitoring and reviewing to measure the impact of any action and changing elements, as part of the process and finally making appropriate changes to the organisational policy and/or contractual terms.

Concluding with the relevant recorded evidence required to demonstrate transparency to meet the organisational and legal requirements.

Representation and advocacy

To include an-inclusive party agreement, to appropriate support and representation.

 Organisational Resolution, restorative and Legal Compliance

Collective agreement is effectively a compatible way forward to ensure that all associated legislation like equal opportunities race, religion, ethnicity, gender are included in the process and practice. Then by investigating with a combination of interviewing, coaching and mediating techniques with the individuals, organisation, victim, perpetrator or group, it is possible to facilitate a level of understanding  gained across the parties affected. This understanding forms the basis of agreement and the way forward and provides solution for restorative recommendations.

The benefits of a third part intervention in steering a resolution is well researched as providing effective unbiased evidence to achieve significant longer term sustainable solutions. ACAS have produced a guidance document that is endorsed by the CIPD. Mediation: An Approach to Resolving workplace issues Feb 2013.

The guidance suggests:

Buy-in to agreement

Separate meetings

Exploring the options

Building a written agreement

Assurance, to all that nothing discussed in the individual sessions can be used in the formal process.

 The International on line training programme on intractable conflict from the University of Colorado USA

The following is included in the universities ethos and methodology as part of conflict resolution:

By clarifying the divergent views and reasons for those views, mediators can usually get the parties to develop a common understanding of the situation, which often yields a solution which satisfies the interests of all parties. While some mediators take a stronger role in option identification and selection than others, mediators do not have the power to impose a solution. At most, they can suggest a solution, which the disputants may or may not accept.

The most powerful third party role is that of an arbitrator. An arbitrator listens to presentations made by both sides, examines written materials and other evidence relating to a case, and then makes a determination of who is right and who is wrong, or how a conflict should be settled. Usually, the arbitrator’s decision is binding and cannot be appealed. Thus, the arbitrator is the most powerful type of intermediary. Arbitration works well when the parties simply want a settlement, and do not worry about losing control of the process or the outcome. For parties that want to maintain control, however, the other forms of intervention (mediation or facilitation) are often preferred.

Restorative interventions

When an organization has been through this kind of process, it is important to deal with the relationships that have been affected. By monitoring and reviewing the changes after the investigation, as part of the restorative process. By continuing to monitor those individuals most affected as well as reviewing any changes to policy, terms or conditions, it is possible to manage any negative after effects. By using 1-1 sessions with individual most affected and making formal changes to employment terms and conditions, sustainable solutions are effectively maintained.

  • Coaching/counseling, possibly development work for perpetrators, with employment-contingent to change contract terms.
  • Interviewing affected work teams to identify those most harmed, to provide coaching or counseling.

Author: Hazel Rowell-Peverley