Fortune/CNN Money’s article by Jonathon A. Segal, “Hard to Define: Even Harder To Ban,” clearly recognizes the severity and devastating impact of workplace bullying on the American worker and their employers. It’s been over ten years and 25 states since the first version of the Healthy Workplace Bill was introduced and still no takers. Segal sees a message in this #fail.
I’ve been hosting discussion groups and interviewing targets of workplace bullying for over 7 years and most victims of abuse really want an answer to what is no doubt the hardest question of all: why me? An excellent article by Salin & Hoel in the new Journal of Managerial Psychology argues that part of the answer may be linked to how differently men and women perceive the severity – and definition – of bullying:
Workplace Relation’s Minister Bill Shorten was interviewed on ABC TV about the results of Australia’s exhaustive parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying Calling it a scourge that runs into billions of dollars and more importantly takes a human toll, Shorten called for “zero tolerance.” An article in News.com.au says the inquiries report, “Workplace Bullying: We Just Want It To Stop,” recommends “strengthening existing laws and clearly definingwhat workplace bullying is.” America, are you listening?
We all know it exists. The co-worker that just makes their boss’ life miserable and meetings are power struggles that hinge on games meant to humiliate the manager and make them look foolish. Or the employee refuses to provide important information or perform a task on time in order to sabotage their Boss and make them look inept to their superiors. Maybe the employee’s ideas weren’t implemented or they don’t like the performance review they received. Maybe they don’t like authority. Groundbreaking research in this area shows that the impact is the same. The study below found that: “Over half of the interviewees (including most of the managers who experienced an experience of upwards bullying) reported an increase in stress, along with anxiety symptoms such as shaking and sleeplessness. Interviewees also reported experiencing anxiety attacks and clinical depression.”
Other industrialized countries have enacted workplace anti-bullying protections – some decades ago. Australia now takes the lead as it conducts an impressive inquiry into workplace bullying. Early testimony released by Australia says national legislation requiring employers to implement strong, clear policies is needed.
U.S. Falls Farther Behind
The following text is from the organization lobbying State by State for passage of their anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill:
…it doesn’t mandate the state to do anything and it has no fiscal impact, nor does it make employers do anything. If they want to be abusive then they operate under the threat of litigation. Which should scare them but truth be told it doesn’t scare them too much…
When Policies Don’t Work
I would give anything to have the U.S. replicate the broad national investigation of abuse in our work cultures that Australia is currently undergoing. [sign our petition] At least we can watch from halfway around the world and learn from information being presented. Because, one of the issues being discussed is that policies in the workplace need certain components if they are going to be effective. Unfortunately, here in America the most popular template for legislation, the Healthy Workplace Bill, doesn’t even require employers to put policies in place much less dictate that the point person for employees to complain to should be separate from HR. Hopefully that will change and the bill will be amended by some smart legislator before it passes.