I recently had a conversation with a former colleague who informed me that the organization started was trying to address workplace bullying. Of course, I was interested in this because bullying directly led to my leaving.  Another motivating factor for me was to develop an understanding if an organization that is plagued with bullying can effectively address this problem from the bottom up. So, can organizations solve workplace bullying when the initiative is driven from workers rather than leadership who is at the top?

I did a little inquisitive questioning to get a better understanding of what they had done and what they would be doing in the future. A committee of faculty members was created to address bullying amongst the faculty. A committee with only faculty is likely to be a limitation because they come from one perspective; that of a faculty.  A university that has sustained an environment of bullying for years, has many victims, bystanders, and bullies that are on all different levels. Faculty to faculty bullying often spills over onto staff and students.  As such, a real solution will involve understanding these perspectives, how they affect the bullying environment, and how the bullying culture impacts them.

Having a well-rounded committee is important. This includes having members from all different levels.  In a university, a committee could consist of faculty, staff, a union representative, and/or administration. A strong committee with a variety of members will allow for honest discussion about the current environment, procedures, and strategies for change.

Another avenue that this committee pursued was education. They received training on “workplace bullying.”  It did not appear that this was a mandatory workshop for faculty, human resources, and administration. It is necessary to educate everyone in the organization on workplace bullying. This provides a common understanding of what it is. It is not helpful if the same faculty continue to receive training on workplace bullying and others important entities in solving this issue are not required to take it. 

This training was focused on conflict resolution including using mediation as tool for resolution. Conflict resolution is important for organizations, but conflict and bullying are not the same. The approach to both are totally different. Organizations need understand workplace bullying and clearly identify how it is different than conflict to adequately design strategies to stop and prevent persistent workplace aggression. It is a mistake for organizations to address bullying using the guidelines for conflict resolution. Conflict resolution strategies are not equipped to deal with such a complex issue as workplace bullying. These strategies are most damaging to targets because they re-victimize targets and enhances the bullying environment. It is, therefore, vital that organizations get specific training in workplace bullying and not just conflict resolution to help them stop and prevent it.

I asked my former colleague about the commitment from administration. It seemed that some administrators tried to sit down with the committee to talk about this issue, but it did not appear that a solid commitment had been made. Leadership must be committed to solving workplace bullying for interventions to be truly effective. Administration has the power to enact policy change as well as hold workers accountable for both positive and negative professional standards. A committee working with an administration who does not have 100% buy in to solving workplace bullying will run into obstacles that will prevent them from truly stopping it.  The committee will most likely go through the motions without having the ability to take real action against workplace bullying.

In conclusion, committees and workers that lack the support of leadership may struggle with creating and developing real change in a workplace bullying environment.  Leadership and administration are powerful entities that can enforce policy change and demand professional accountability which is needed to stop workplace bullying. It seems, a top down approach to dealing with workplace bullying may be more effective in the long run. 

If you or your organization are experiencing persistent workplace aggression, please contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there.



02/09/2017 3:12am

I'm so much against bullying. Not because I was bullied before, but because I believe that no one should belittle someone. I never bullied anyone because and I will never do that. People who think that they are stronger and superior to others should be isolated from normal people. I hope that someday, bullying is not existing anymore.

08/02/2017 2:26am

Handling bullying at work is the same thing as handling bullying in real life. You need to be the bigger person. If someone is bullying you at work to the point where you find it hard to work, you need to go to your superior and report about it. Bullying is not something that we should just let pass because it is a very serious issue. No one should ever make you feel less of yourself because no one has the right to say horrible things to you. Instead of fighting back, take the high road and focus on the positive things in your life. Gather evidence of your bullying so that your superior and the authorities will be able to help you.


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