In commenting on our post “Are Anti-Bullying Laws In The Workplace Workable,” Michael Maggioto, an HR expert in Indianapolis, Indiana wrote that “Laws are most often created because people just won’t behave properly. Not that they cannot, they just will not.”
A lot of readers wrote to us or otherwise commented about the necessity of having anti-bullying laws, versus the concept that “Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.” It’s not that simple, all the HR professionals below seem to agree with their trenchant comments about bullying and anti-bullying laws or policies.
LaVella Perry, a San Antonio HR business consultant, had a short but piercing comment:
“Do we need to wait for a “law”? Shouldn’t we as HR practitioners guide our organizations to having workplace bullying policies?”
David Ratchford, from the UK, had a different view: “Except that all of human history tells us that laws are required to set parameters for agreed human behaviour.
I’ve been involved in the resolution of workplace conflict for over twenty years now. Patterns emerge. One of those is that what Employer A calls ‘unacceptable and demeaning bullying’, Employer B calls ‘firm and no nonsense performance management.’ Employer A concludes ‘Tony’s persistent undermining of Sarah fell far short of the professional standards Alpha PLC demands of all its employees.’ Employer B concludes ‘Tony has a reputation for passionate commitment to driving the work forward and sometimes this zeal manifests as loud and emotional. But Sarah clearly had performance issues and Tony was genuinely frustrated. When he dangled her from an 8th story window by her ankles, he was merely trying to .. blah, blah, blah, etc., etc.
The point being without the law, we end up with wildly different conceptions of what our consensus on matters are and, worse, no means of remedying situations that become unjust.
Just my two shillings, guv’nor.”
Debra Healy, a conflict consultant who specializing in workplace/business conflict in the Portland, Oregon area, repeated Michael’s quoted line, above, and wrote us the following:
“Based on my experience as a organizational conflict consultant, the dynamics of what we perceive to be “destructive” behaviors are complex, systemic and multi-layered. Therefore, the cause is often elusive and may result from a combination of varying factors.
Arriving at an agreement on a one-size-fits-all, or even a one-size-fits-most, definition of “bullying” has proven difficult – as it is with any social issue that we may not fully understand. It is encouraging that a number of disciplines are studying what is perceived to be abusive conduct in the workplace. In the past 30 years, much has been learned, but much remains unknown.
Organizations will often create workplace policies with regard to “bullying” that may not be feasible, with the belief that they can ultimately define bullying and create a policy to address it. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.
All of that said, I do support the work of Suffolk University Professor David Yamada who has drafted the Healthy Workplace Bill. [See our post of February 25, 2014]. It, by no means, offers an easy standard for a plaintiff. I’m guessing that many complaints will be ended on a Motion to Dismiss or, at the very least, a summary judgment motion. However, having worked on numerous cases involving perceived workplace abuse – and on one particular case in which the employee eventually committed suicide – has indicated to me a definite need for a legal remedy in some cases.
Thank you for your post and to those who have commented.”
David Madison Thornton, a Houston EEO investigator/trainer, commented:
“If case law is finally established regarding workplace bullying we as HR professionals better be prepared to craft well written policies and conduct training as this is a hot button issue and organizations that have a culture of bullying will be in a lot of legal trouble as their organizations culture must truly shift in order to ensure compliance with the law.
It’s like when the ADA was first enacted organizations were doing the letter of the law not the spirit of the law making employees come in half dead before an accommodation was granted now we have the ADAA which makes employers look at the spirit of the law when granting accommodations.”