Workplace Bullying informal resolution

Workplace Bullying informal resolution

Why are bullied employees skipping informal resolution

Workplace Bullying informal resolution – Originally published in HR Daily 

This is a very good article by Blythe Rowe from Human Incite who says that employees who feel bullied are needlessly damaging workplace relationships by making a formal complaint their first point of call, most “big grievances” start as a series of smaller instances that employees let slide until they begin noticing a pattern. This can sometimes take months to become apparent, and when employees choose to address it, their first point of call is a formal complaint. However, Rowe suggests this can be unnecessarily damaging to workplace relationships.

“The first they deal with it is formally, where they’re sitting in front of HR… and then that’s very, very hard to come back from,” she says.

“My advice to people always is, ‘if there’s something that’s happened, whether it seems small or not… if it doesn’t sit right with you, if it doesn’t make you feel comfortable about dealing with that person or coming to work… then let’s try to nip it in the bud before it gets any bigger’.”

In some cases, employees may feel there is “no way” they could directly approach the person themselves. Rowe suggests employees in this position consider who else is available to take the issue up with, such as the individual’s boss, or members of the company’s people and culture team.

However, she warns employees to refrain from using phrases such as, “I want you to stop otherwise I’m going to go to HR”.

“Straight away, that’s going to get that other person into fear mode, into threat mode, and it will escalate,” she says.

“You’ve got to work with these people; it’s all about relationships. If we can do that in a really practical, assertive way, not an aggressive way, then it can actually build relationships.”

Formal complaints

While Rowe believes resolving any bullying issues is best done without the interference of HR through a formal complaint, some behaviours do call for a stricter approach, such as repeated offences after a colleague has tried to address the problem.

Other instances where an informal approach may not be appropriate include those involving employees in positions of seniority, where employees find it more difficult to approach a leader about their behaviour.

“That’s going to be very challenging to do in an informal way,”  although there is definitely “a place for both” approaches, Rowe suggests considering the other person before making a formal complaint. “Put the shoe on the other foot, and if that was you, would you prefer that you had that opportunity to at least hear the person’s perspective before they took it to, say, HR for example,” she says.

“What was the specific situation, and let’s try to talk to the person about that, because normally, it’s often just a misunderstanding.”

Colleagues can keep an eye out for each other

Even if bullying doesn’t directly affect an individual, it’s important to watch out for smaller behavioural issues occurring around the workplace that colleagues may be brushing off,  this can include small things such as colleagues being excluded from meetings or actively ignoring specific people, which easily go unnoticed.

“All [that] really subtle stuff is so dangerous in terms of its impact, with the subtle bullying… unless you document some of that, I think you just go and say ‘no, I’m just imagining it’… which is a bit of a bully’s tactic.”

Colleagues may not feel that they can make formal complaints about bullying on behalf of a colleague, but they are able to begin the informal resolution process – Rowe says if someone recognises the risk of bullying between employees, they can raise awareness of the issue with organisation leaders and say “I’ve witnessed this, I think you need to look into it”.  Then the organisation can absolutely, and definitely needs to… do something,  they need to, informally, be looking around, going and chatting and seeing for themselves.”

Bullying in the virtual workplace

With employees working remotely and collaborating through computer screens, Rowe suggests virtual work spaces can increase perceptions of bullying.

This might be in the form of “subtle, passive stuff”, such as being excluded from important meetings, feeling ignored, or being micromanaged by managers to get work done.  It doesn’t mean there is bullying, but there may be potential for people feeling bullied..

“The root cause will be if the teams aren’t communicating well… a lot of communication is going to be via email, instant messaging, text messaging, all that stuff. Of course, as we know, the written communication can get really misinterpreted.”

Workplace Bullying informal resolution – Lessons for employers

1. Have a policy that includes a informal dispute resolution option.

2. Mark sure that your staff are aware of this option and how it works.

3. Train you mangers on how to conduct a basic dispute resolution process so that they have the confidence to tackle these prob;ems before they get out of hand.

How can AWPTI help?

I have created a Basic Dispute Resolution training program to assist managers to conduct disputes resolution processes. – details here.  This program is part of our short course or Lunch & Learn series of programs

The Basic Dispute Resolution 1 training program is a short course that runs for about 90 minutes to 2 hours, it is a lecture format with some interactive case studies and discussions.

The Basic Dispute Resolution 2 is a half day course that has the same content but in addition provides managers with the opportunity to practice interviewing with our facilitators acting in the role of the complainant.

We recommend a limit of 6 -8 managers in Basic Dispute Resolution 2 to allow for sufficient interview practice time.

These courses can be run face to face or remotely via Zoom or MS Teams.

The Basic Dispute Resolution training program is also part of the larger Management Essentials Program

The training is conducted by Phil O’Brien a highly qualified and experienced workplace investigator as a result of having to investigate a number of complaints against managers that had their origins in disputes where employee were unhappy with the response from a manager and the dispute escalated into further complaints.  The training is not theory based, it is based on actually complaints and issues experience by managers. and designed to ensure that if a complaint is made that the manager acted in the appropriate manner.

Please contact us for more details, costings and to book courses –

This course has been designed for business owners, managers and supervisors of all levels