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Several states are proposing legislation to combat bullying in the workplace. The folks on FOX News “The Five” debated the issue- and they completely missed the point…
Greg Gutfeld fired the first volley:
“What a great problem to have in America. Having a workplace bully means that you’re at work- you have a job; that’s a good thing! I think a lot of people would like to have this problem…”?
Workplace bullying is an issue whether you appreciate it or not…a very expensive issue…
…and it’s about to get a lot more expensive…
…especially if your organization does not have a comprehensive policy and training program on workplace respect and civility.
Eric Bolling posed a sensible question that highlights the confusion over this issue:
“How do you define it? …what if I don’t like someone? What- do I have to be nice to them or they’re going to say they’re bullied?”
First of all, bullying, harassment and incivility are three distinct issues. Each contributes to the enormous drain of resources on business, but it’s important to define each clearly to assure the most effective response.
This is where it all starts. Simple rudeness, offensive language, idol gossip and low levels of shunning all belong in under the category of incivility.
This is not usually the level that merits legal action, but incivility does still cost you real money.
Tangible effects include reduced productivity, increased lost days and use of sick time. If nothing else, a culture of incivility and disrespect stifles innovation and creativity- a hidden cost no business can afford in these challenging times.
Lao Tzu said, “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.”
Installing a clear Respect Policy and handling the issue in this phase can literally save you millions- because millions is what you pay when disrespect escalates to the next level…
Unchecked, constant incivility can easily rise to the level of bullying. In fact, the generally accepted definition of bullying implies a consistent pattern of sustained behavior.
When the commentators on The Five worry about a lawsuit rising from every rude comment, they show that they simply don’t understand the real issue- and unfortunately, many business people don’t either.
An isolated rude or offensive comment is an example of incivility, but is not in itself an example of bullying or harassment.
One of the most comprehensive and useful definitions of workplace bullying comes from the UK’s Amicus MSF trade union as published by BullyOnline.org:
“Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.”
Address the components of persistent abusive behavior and abuse of power and you all but eliminate the bullying problem.
You certainly don’t want to fire people for minor acts of incivility- but when someone becomes a bully, even a high producer- it’s time to chop some heads. When the boss abuses power- you’re heading for court.
A bully can reduce the productivity of a target by 50%- if the target chooses to stay in your employ. Productivity for other people in the area where bullying occurs can drop as much as 38%.
Getting expensive enough yet?
And that’s before we factor in legal costs if the employee decides to take action- and you don’t necessarily need new legislation for that to happen.
Think it’s not a problem in your company?
InsuranceJournal.com reports that “Half the employers in a 2011 survey by the management association reported incidents of bullying in their workplace, and about a fourth of human resource professionals themselves said they had been bullied.”
Do you want to install a Respect Policy and training program now, or face the possibility of litigation later on?
More important, do you want to nip incivility and bullying in the bud? Or- are you willing to take a chance on the behavior rising to the next and most damaging level…
This is the $95 million level…
That’s the current record for a judgement on a single harassment action. If you really want to scare yourself at this point, read “95 million reasons why you MUST offer Respect Training in the workplace.” In that article I share all the tragic details of Ashley Alfond vs. Aaron’s Sales, now a landmark case.
Harassment has traditionally been thought of in terms of sexual aggression. Proposed new legislation broadens the scope of harassment complaints to include persistent incivility and bullying.
Again from InsuranceJournal.com:
“‘I believe this is the new claim that employers will deal with. This will replace sexual harassment,’ said Sharon Parella, a management-side employment lawyer in New York. ‘People who oppose it say these laws will force people to be polite at work. But you can no longer go to work and act like a beast and get away with it.’”
And if you allow people in your organization to act like beasts, well- you’re going to end up paying for it.
The Black Belt Perspective…
Life is tough- and if you’re going to make it, you’ve got to be tough too.
You certainly aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any good if you develop a reputation for over-sensitivity. You don’t want to be filing complaints every time someone snaps at you- especially in the heat of battle or if you genuinely asked for it!
We’re not talking about childish schoolyard antics here. Act professionally. Your job does not include making other people’s lives miserable.
For most people, work is not optional. There is a built-in disparity of power and authority in the workplace that can exacerbate the problem of bad behavior on the job.
There is no reason to tolerate incivility at any level in the workplace.
When I’m training front-line employees in Workplace Respect, part of the discussion is focused on simply not accepting the role of victim. Part of the responsibility of the employee is to report incivility.
Standing up to genuine incivility, bullying and harassment in the workplace does not make you a whiner or a coward- it is an act of courage.
As an employer, your part is to encourage employees to identify and report incidents.
When an employee has the courage to address and report bad behavior, they should be treated seriously- they may be saving you millions!
I enjoy The Five- their lively discussions are entertaining and informative. This time they just got it wrong. Workplace bullying is a serious issue.
Dana Perino asked, “Are we trying to legislate away something that is human nature?”
Forget about the coming legislation- act now. Incivility is not the default human condition, but it does grow best in a vacuum.
Install a clear Respect Policy and a comprehensive Respect Training Program. You won’t have to wait to see a real, positive impact on your bottom line and best of all…
…you won’t end up in the courtroom or the headlines!
Increase productivity, creativity and employee loyalty TODAY!
Book Jim Bouchard’s BLACK BELT RESPECT training program for your organization TODAY!
Jim was chosen as a featured expert and will be blogging regularly on the JenningsWire platform presented by Annie Jennings.