7 Thoughts on Workplace Bullying Policies

We have seen significant changes in the workplace related to sexual harassment training, policies and employee expectations.  “In two studies noted by The Daily Campus, one in three women (in a survey of more than 2,000 women between the ages of 18-34) “reported experiencing sexual harassment, and 71 percent of those women declined to report it.” According to a PwC survey of more than 25,000 women, 52 percent reported incidences of workplace bullying and harassment.”[i]  Workplace bullying is a common problem throughout organizations and can have long-term detrimental impacts on our workforce including; decreased employee morale, turnover, decreased trust in leadership, employee stress, depression, health issues, absenteeism, workplace violence, retaliation and legal concerns.  As leaders we need to establish a culture of zero-tolerance for workplace bullying, including policies and procedures that employees understand.

Below are seven thoughts on workplace bullying policies:

  1. Zero-Tolerance Workplace Harassment, Bullying & Retaliation Policy: This is a draft objective statement in a policy that addresses this issue. “The purpose of this policy is to communicate to all employees, including supervisors, managers and executives, that Organization X will not in any instance tolerate bullying behavior. Employees found in violation of this policy will be disciplined, up to and including dismissal.”[ii]  Short and to the point policy objective.
  2. Defining Workplace Bullying: “Organization X defines bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more people by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that includes:
    1. Threatening, humiliating or intimidating behaviors.
    2. Work interference/sabotage that prevents work from getting done.
    3. Verbal abuse.”[iii]
  3. Workplace Bullying Examples: “Organization X considers the following types of behavior examples of bullying:
    1. Verbal bullying. Slandering, ridiculing or maligning a person or his or her family; persistent name-calling that is hurtful, insulting or humiliating; using a person as the butt of jokes; abusive and offensive remarks.
    2. Physical bullying. Pushing, shoving, kicking, poking, tripping, assault or threat of physical assault, damage to a person’s work area or property.
    3. Gesture bullying. Nonverbal gestures that can convey threatening messages.
    4. Exclusion. Socially or physically excluding or disregarding a person in work-related activities.”[iv]

We could write or maybe could not draft a never-ending list of workplaces bullying situations in our policy.  It is recommended to include examples in the policy and training sessions.  When I train supervisors and managers my advice is this; workplace bullying can take the shape of many forms, and it does.  Current or past examples and scenarios are great opportunities to train employees and leaders.  Ask for their input on this, they have great questions and scenarios.  Years of experience means years of situations.  There are hundreds of examples online to use as potential options and easy to create during the discussion.  I use these with undergrads all the time.

  1. Employee Training and Awareness Programs: The focus of this training should include an understanding of why these policies are needed and how employees can report issues or concerns.  These trainings should be conducted on a regular basis and should include; acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior, recognizing bullying and other forms of harassment, reporting this behavior, retaliation and an overview of the policy.
  2. Manager and Supervisor Training: If you recall my article published on January 14, 2019, we covered this topic. Manager’s and supervisors need to understand their role in preventing, enforcing policies and addressing these common workplaces issues.  This training should be tailored for that group of leaders, with role play and enforced expectations.
  3. Building a Culture: Yes, it is our responsibility to build a culture where managers, supervisors and employees at any level always behave professionally. This includes but not limited to, at work, off-site, off-hour gatherings, social media, etc.  If owners, leaders, managers and supervisors at the top of the organization get away with bullying, employees assume this is an acceptable form of behavior.  Over communicate the organizations commitment to ensuring an environment free of workplace bullying and harassment.  Embrace the culture you want in your organization and hold people accountable from top to bottom.
  4. Reporting a Complaint: Clearly define that process for filing a complaint in the policy or employee handbook. In New York State we now have a complaint procedure form and process for sexual harassment, we can add bullying and workplace harassment into the same procedure.  Employee’s should have the opportunity to communicate this information through multiple channels in the organization or outside the organization (HR Consultant, compliance line, etc.).  Ensure everyone understands that complaints are taken serious and investigations will take place, as needed.  Training and policy signoffs are recommended.  Make the policy or complaint form visible, hang it near the labor and employment posting requirements, put it on the intranet, cover it in crew meetings.

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This is a high-level overview of a workplace bullying and harassment policies and organizational expectations.  Organizations should tailor any policy or procedure to the needs of the operation, while ensuring the policy is legal.  Train the workforce on expectations and hold everyone accountable.  This is a training I have conducted for years and it continues to be a success in multiple industries.  Develop a culture in which there is no workplace bullying.  Follow-up on any complaints or issues, efficiently, while communicating with parties involved.  It is as simple as holding people at every level accountable.  If you are unclear on how to write a policy, train the workforce or implement a complaint procedure, seek guidance, this is an area I am happy to help with and drive forward.  Culture starts with leadership, embrace the culture you envision for your organizations.

NYC Sexual Harassment Training Requirements April 1, 2019

“Perhaps most notably, the act requires New York City employers with 15 or more employees to provide annual interactive training to prevent sexual harassment for all employees, including interns and supervisory and managerial employees.
Effective date of notice posting and fact sheet distribution: 9/6/2018*
Effective date of annual interactive training requirement: 4/1/19*
Text of the measure can be found here.”[i]

NYC Bans Family Planning Discrimination May 20, 2019

“The New York City (NYC) Council has added “sexual and other reproductive health decisions” to the list of protected classes under the NYC Human Rights Law. This new protected category encompasses “any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for or offered or provided to individuals relating to sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions.”
Covered employers: All employers in NYC with four or more employees.
Effective date: 5/20/19
Text of the measure can be found here.”[ii]

Yes, these two pieces of legislation only impact employers in New York City.  However, as we have seen in the past, the changes start in NYC and slowly work their way throughout the state.  Be aware of these changes in NYC and how they might impact us in Upstate New York.  If there are comment periods on new legislation, comment during that time period.

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[i] SHRM Email

[ii] SHRM Email

[i] https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/workplace-harassment-prevention

[ii] SHRM Draft Policy

[iii] SHRM Draft Policy

[iv] SHRM Draft Policy

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