HRM AND WORKPLACE BULLYING
Instructions key points
– There are differing understandings of workplace bullying. Explore some.
– HRM can play a role as a cause of workplace bullying – eg through overzealous performance management, and through creating a particular climate at work.
– HRM can also do a lot to prevent bullying, and indeed is obliged to under OHS – it needs to provide a safe workplace.
– FWA plays a role as an independent mediator, conciliator and arbitrator of workplace bullying claim
HRM AND WORKPLACE BULLYING
Workplace bullying has attracted increased attention over the past few years considering its contribution towards employee performance and turnover. In most workplace environments, there is at least one form of bullying, which may either be downward bullying, horizontal bullying, or upward bullying. Downward bullying refers to cases where the senior staff bully their juniors, while horizontal bullying involves employees bullying other employees at their level. Nevertheless, in selected cases, one would find upward bullying, whereby junior staff members bully senior staff members. In most cases, bullying is confused for strict Human Resource Management (HRM) practices. However, it is beyond doubt that HRM practices may develop into bullying at a given level. This paper wishes to explore the distinction between bullying, Zealous HRM, and harassment, and how HRM can contribute to bullying. It is also aimed at establishing measures that can be adopted to prevent bullying within the organizational environment.
Understandings of Workplace Bullying
There are many definitions of workplace bullying, most of which tend to distinguish it from harassment. Case in point, according to Simmons (2008), workplace bullying could be defined as a phenomenon that involves negative behavior within the workplace including being ridiculed or humiliated, being excluded or ignored, one receiving hints that they should quit their job, being shouted at, being persistently criticized, and being excessively monitored. Workplace bullying is distinct from harassment and hence ought to be handled differently. This two terms are mostly used interchangeably and confused in the workplace. Nevertheless, they refer to different activities and relate differently to HRM, hence require isolated treatment. To start with, harassment refers to a type of employment discrimination, which violates the law. This relates to any unwelcomed conduct that is founded on the basis of color, race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability (Agervold, 2009). Such acts become unlawful in the cases where they are pervasive or severe enough to establish a work environment that is hostile, intimidating, or abusive.
On the other hand, bullying refers to any intentional act involving physical or psychological abuse of an individual by another individual (Baillien, et al., 2009). As much as some cases of bullying may be based on a person’s race, gender, physical ability, and religion, it is mainly focused on the competency of the victim. Most bullies feel insecure concerning a certain part of their professional abilities and hence they increasingly feel intimidated by other persons who show competence in the same areas to an extent that they engage in behavior that would discourage the other parties. Bullying occurs covertly as opposed to the various forms of harassment, an aspect that makes it highly difficult to identify (Baillien, et al., 2009). This is especially the case in the contemporary workplace, where there are different avenues of non-verbal communication that can be exploited by bullies such as e-mail.
HRM’s Negative Contribution to Workplace Bullying
The HRM practices are meant to encourage the employees and to manage them in a way that will allow them to increase their efforts within the organization. For any business to be successful, there is need to review the performance, conduct, and productivity of the staff on a regular basis. An important element of such reviews involves engaging the employees in discussions of the areas in which they have failed to meet the expectations and requirements including requirements for quality (Beale & Hoel, 2011). As such, the employees have to be criticized to allow them to recognize the areas in which they require to increase their efforts or institute positive change. In such circumstances, the criticism given to the employees is not considered as bullying if given respectfully, constructively, and appropriately. In the work environment, the management and supervisors criticize the employees constructively in view of facilitating their personal development and the general development of the organization (D’Cruz & Noronha, 2010).
Nevertheless, if the senior members of the staff use their position and power within the organization to criticize the employees through approaches that could be deemed inappropriate and by putting on them intense pressure that may make them feel victimized, then such is considered as bullying (Beale & Hoel, 2011). There are different ways through which top-down bullying can be sighted within the organizational setting. One of the approaches that the senior members of the staff may apply is by deliberately setting goals that are unrealistic and unreasonable and putting much pressure on their juniors to achieve them, with the intent of frustrating them. In other cases, managers or supervisors may decide to publicly criticize the performance of employees without having a solid ground to do so beside the intention of humiliating them. Another common form of bullying by senior members of the staff involves forcing the juniors staff to work overtime and for longer hours without compensation and creating workloads that are unimaginable. Last but not least, senior members of staff may exercise their bullying by taking away an individual’s work. Importantly, such actions, among other aspects that are aimed at intimidating employees are only considered as bullying if they are repeated (Beale & Hoel, 2011). Such issues pose a major challenge in detecting and quantifying them considering the emotional issues involved.
HRM also have an undeniable impact on the coping of the targets of bullying within the organizational setting, with some of the managers taking advantage of their position to impede such cooping. In this case, one could refer to two HRM typologies, one of which includes Soft and Hard HRM. Hard HRM considers employees as inputs just like any other resources that are entered into the production process with the intention of maximizing the organization’s economic gain. On the other hand, Soft HRM refers to human resources as assets which ought to be invested as skilled employees are of additional value to the organization (Jenkins & Delbridge, 2013). As such, HR employs the “professionalism” rhetoric to cover hard HRM practices to control the employees better. The HRM hence encourage the employees to give loyalty and work more priority as opposed to their personal needs, establishing measures that ensure that each of the employees complies with the requirements of the organization, with termination and discipline being widely embraced in the rational process. The other HRM typology involves Inclusivist vs. Exclusivist approaches. In this case, Inclusivist approaches are intended at fostering engagement and loyalty among the employees. On the other hand, exclusivist approaches are transactional in terms of their nature, with focus being directed at layoffs, dismissal, opposition to unionization, and outsourcing (D’Cruz & Noronha, 2010).
The Role of HRM in Prevention of Workplace Bullying
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws place a duty on the HRM to uphold the safety and health of the employees within their organizational safety, an aspect that places a responsibility on them to eliminate and handle any cases of bullying considering the impact of bullying on the psychological, and in selective cases, the physical health of individuals. A duty is placed on the employers by the OHS law to ensure that any risk to the safety and health of the employees is eliminated, as much as it is reasonably practicable (Payne & Mayo, 2014). In cases where such risks cannot be practicably eliminated, it is upon the employers to ensure that they reduce them. The employers are required to consult with the employees who are affected by any given safety or health matter. Given that the risk of bullying in any work environment that involves interaction between different employees, it is important for HRM to employ various approaches through which the risk can be controlled.
One of the approaches that HRM can reduce the risk of bullying is by facilitating the establishment of procedures and policies that would prevent bullying at the workplace. HRM can develop a workplace policy that would outline the various steps to be taken to prevent bullying including the various measures that would be taken against those who engage in bullying (Law, et al., 2011). In addition, by coming up with a clear procedure through which bullying issues are to be handled, the HRM creates a consistent approach that would define HRM response to such cases. The workplace policies allow the HRM to set given standards for employee behavior within the work environment, making clear statements with regards to the intolerability of bullying behavior.
Another role of the HRM in preventing and reducing the risk of bullying is by encouraging the employees report any cases of bullying within the organizational setting (Hoel, et al., 2009). Employees will only be receptive to the idea of reporting cases of bullying if they are confident that the established procedures are practical and will be effectively used when need arises. By encouraging the employees to report bullying, HRM ensures that action is taken by the employers to address issues of bullying in a timely manner. In addition, encouraging reporting allows the employers to test the effectiveness of their prevention measures and to offer employees prompt support and assistance. HRM can encourage reporting by responding to issues of bullying consistently and effectively (Hoel, et al., 2009). The employees are also likely to be encouraged by appropriate action being taken by the managers and supervisors when they learn of issues of bullying. By regularly providing the health and safety committee with information regarding the reports recorded with regards to bullying and the actions that were implemented to resolve such cases, the employees are bound to develop faith in the established system of reporting. In addition, the HRM are expected to provide the employees with instruction, information, supervision, and training that would allow them to operate in a manner that reduces risk to the health. As such, it is important for the HRM to ensure that all the employees have a clear understanding of their role in reducing bullying within the organization and facilitating the acquisition of the relevant skills for each of the positions (Law, et al., 2011). Case in point, the HRM should ensure that supervisors have the necessary skills for supervision by braining them effectively on their roles and scope of practice.
The Role of FWA as an Independent Mediator
It is highly the case in most organizations that the persons who are expected to handle cases of bullying are the perpetrators of the same. In such cases, no steps are taken to respond to reports of bullying, and such reports may aggravate the situations. In such a case, the Fair Work Act of 2009 protects the employees or victims of the bullying. Through the Fair Work Commission (FWC), the Act provides the victims of bullying with an independent mediator to their situations (Dunn, 2014). The Commission has established a system through which individuals are able to establish if their situation is eligible to be categorized as bullying. One a quiz has been taken with the commission to establish eligibility, individuals are granted an opportunity to lodge an application for an order from the commission that will ensure that the bullying policies at the organization are effectively enforced. The Commission acts as a mediator as it listens from both sides before establishing a course of action. In view of this, the commission has set criteria through which bullying can be distinguished from reasonable management action (Payne & Mayo, 2014).
It is evident that HRM has a vital role to play in minimizing
the risk of bullying in the workplace as much as they are major contributors to
bullying through their overly zealous approaches. There is a thin line between
management action and bullying, with some of the individuals in influential
organizational positions taking advantage of their juniors to enforce unattainable
goals and objectives with an intent to frustrate the latter and impose blame on
them for the failures of the organization. As such, it is important for the HRM
to establish proper management of bullying by encouraging reporting among the
employees and ensuring that a set practical procedure is in place to
effectively address the issue of bullying without limitations of position or
power of the perpetrators.
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