Most HR professionals are keen to help the people in their workplaces to thrive in safety, to work within and understand the policies and Codes of Conduct. They help with leave entitlements and when issues of conflict, bullying or harassment arise, they assist the workers to resolve them at a very early stage.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially in large organisations and many government departments, where HR are seen as the police of the organisation. They deal with workers who make reports about conflict, bullying or harassment as if they were the problem.
Hierarchical workplaces mean that the chain of command keeps workers firmly in their place. Such organisations discourage creativity and encourage conformity, reducing the potential of growth and prosperity. To survive, workers sacrifice their initiative and values to work within the confines of workplace politics.
When an issue is reported, instead of helping the worker to resolve it, they investigate the worker’s past. Bad HR Managers try seek find fault in the complainant, highlighting minor issues such as sending personal emails, which would normally have been dealt with in a conversation, turning them into misdemeanours to be punished. The original issue has not been resolved as it could have easily been, it has been escalated. The worker is now in a cruel process and harmful, set to persecute them.
When workers in such organisations witness bullying, they keep their heads down and say nothing. They are unwilling to be subjected to investigation and persecution themselves. This is institutionalised bullying. It is sad. It is real. It is unfortunately very common.
These organisations have anti-bullying policies, which may be buried in a file somewhere. Nobody really has the skills to deal with issues of conflict bullying and harassment when they are reported. All they know is to escalate, investigate and find fault – someone to punish and close the file.
Don’t despair. There is hope.
Smart organisations with intelligent managers understand that when issues are identified early, as they should be, it is entirely possible to resolve them before they escalate and become harmful to the worker and expensive to the organisation.
All workers need to be trained in how to Identify, Prevent and Manage Bullying, which will encourage resilience, personal responsibility and positive behaviour change. Training is available online or face to face.
Rather than reporting minor issues to HR, all managers, supervisors and team leaders need to be able to know how to deal with a report of conflict or bullying. They can learn how to have crucial key conversations with workers in a respectful and less formal way. Those making reports can be encouraged and able to feel safe to speak about their issues, without fear or feeling bullied. Reports of bullying against untrained managers who are just trying to do their job, will reduce as vital skills gained.
Managers can even be trained to help provide a facilitated discussion between workers with low level conflict, to help them resolve these quickly and effectively.
Conflict Management Coaching is available for managers dealing with conflict. Managers can have a coach help them by phone prior to dealing with a conflict, so they can plan their course of action, enabling them to feel confident and are competent in helping those having the conflict.
Imagine how the culture of the organisation will become more positive, with workers able to feel respected and safe. The productivity and profits will grow as those who are able to enjoy satisfying work become more optimistic in a collaborative environment.
It CAN be done, but change must come from the top, with a high level of commitment to changing from a toxic to a positive workplace, and a sound, long term plan in place to make it happen.