Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Workplace harassment and bullying: Actions and policy required!

Canadian Contractor

‘Boys will be boys’? Sorry! Not good enough

Our most recent ‘What would you do?’ Contractor Dilemma had workplace bully Howie and his victim Brian going at it with their fists at lunch. It was long-simmering issue which sadly the boss Ian Dobson had either overlooked or ignored. Sadder still are statistics reveal that unfortunately over 75 per cent of bullying victims end up leaving their jobs, are forced to leave, or transfer to a different positon within the company. That’s not a good outcome.

Our reader-respondents came through with a massive number of well-considered proposals to deal with the issue. We’ll share some of them with you here. But first, let’s see how some professionals in the field feel about workplace bullying.

“Companies would be better served by adhering to policies that value the victim over the bully, even if the latter is a strong contributor to the bottom line. If you decide in favor of the harmony and teamwork of the group — and take the short-term deficit of losing what is otherwise a good performer — you’re going to be more successful as an organization, because the team can always outperform the individual.”
Garry Mathiason, senior partner at law firm Littler Mendelson, San Francisco, CA

“After you describe the complaints, ask for the bully’s thoughts. Watch their style. Do they blame others? Do they get angry? Their reaction may tell you a lot about that person and whether they can change. Try asking the offender if he or she would want their spouse or their child to be treated the same way at work. Often their whole demeanor will soften.”
Holly Latty-Mann, president of The Leadership Trust, Durham, N.C.


“Too many managers personalize the issue when confronting workplace bullies. Do not confuse the person with their conduct. Do not ask them to “change” but instead tell them that the behavior itself must stop. Don’t get sucked into a bully’s defense that their target somehow deserves the mistreatment. Tell them, ‘Regardless of your motive or the reason, it has to stop.’”
Dr. Gary Namie, Work Doctor

“If the employee is considered valuable then you may want to consider coaching, counseling, or anger management. But this only works if the person has the ability and desire to change. If the
bully is insincere and is unlikely to get it, then fire him or her quickly. To protect yourself legally, be sure to give a warning and document the behavior. Don’t just transfer the person to a new job, because that only passes the problem along to someone else. Remember: the cost to your organization in terms of bad morale, turnover, emotional distress, or low productivity may be equal to or greater than the cost of lost talent or clients.”
Bob Sutton, author of  The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

Also, view this excellent video from WorkSafe BC

Here are some of the great reader thoughts that you can consider as part of your efforts to stamp out workplace harassment and bullying.

“We don’t have to love each other but we need to learn to respect each other and at the end of the day have each other’s back not only for safety reasons but also to ensure the company and team are meeting the goals. If they don’t feel they can commit to both we would have to go another step further and either let one or both go. At the end of the day, respect is key.”
Hanna (Toronto, ON)

“They both [must be] sent home for the rest of that day as well as the following one. Howie and Brian [must] with Dobson first thing upon returning to work for a discussion on both behaviours, and how they will have to put aside their ego from now on. They both will be given document explaining to them what work site harassment and discrimination is. Howie in particular, has to understand that his attitude toward his teammates must change immediately. Following this, a whole team meeting is in order, to remind everyone that if there is a problem that should be address, in regard to someone behaviour, to bring it to Dobson, and not try to address it themselves if it is going to cause problem.”
Martin (Ottawa, ON)

“Dobson needs to set up this employee dissatisfaction process, even a box for private employee feedback on site.”
Robin (Courtenay, BC)

 “Since Dobson shirked his responsibilities, he really needs to re-evaluate his management style. Whether or not he can do that on his own or needs professional help, only he can decide.”
John (Lethbridge AB)

 “Ian needs to sit down immediately with both men and take responsibility for failing to act sooner. [He] should define the kind of workplace culture he wants for a healthy and respected business. A code
of conduct should be in place for all employees and sub-trades. It is 2017 after all, and as more women
enter the trades and as good companies embrace all kinds of diversity, people like Howie, and perhaps
Ian too, will find themselves left behind, if they can’t adjust their ways of dealing with people.”
Sharon (Burlington, ON)

There were far too many excellent ideas to publish them all.
Thanks again to everyone who took the time to write!

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