A recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) polled HR personnel about workplace bullying and how they respond to complaints. It’s clear that HR is aware of the problem. In fact, the vast majority of those polled believe it is the responsibility of HR to deal with it (only 1% feel there should be a special workplace bullying/workplace violence committee) and please keep in mind that about 27% of those taking part have been the targets of bullying themselves. Here are the results of the SHRM survey — note: respondents were allowed to choose more than one option:
How HR responds to complaints
- 76% response depends on specific circumstances
- 65% internal investigation
- 40% written warning
- 27% performance improvement plan
- 24% referral to EAP or counseling
Why do so many workplace bullying targets/advocates report that employees don’t find solutions when going to HR? Perhaps because for many the actions they would consider a successful outcome come in at 17% and below: suspension, termination (zero-tolerance), mandatory counseling, probation, reassignment, anger management training, paid administrative leave, demotion. All the more reason that any viable solution needs ALL the players at the table not just advocates and legislators.
Who’s doing the bullying?
While nearly 66% of HR personnel said they have a grievance process in place and a commitment to stopping workplace bullying, only 25% have regular awareness trainings. [Note to HR: If employees don't know about it they are less likely to report incidents or come in for advice.]
- 82% of the reported incidents involve workers at the same or similar level
- 56% Supervisor abusing the employee
- 37% upwards – employee abuses the supervisor
Based on the blogosphere there will be those who say that the large number of peer bullying (lateral bullying) is because targets are afraid of coming forward. But, all it takes is a look at the definition of “mobbing” or a look at the scientific research about lateral bullying in the health care profession to recognize that this type of bullying is something that needs much more attention. Whether or not you go to speak to HR depends on your own unique situation and the best advice you can rely on is best discussed with a lawyer – not Internet/media gurus who sell books and self-help DVDs.