[12/6/13 Update] Last night the Tucson JCC screened my documentary, What Killed Kevin, followed by a panel discussion that included Mike Tully, one of the primary authors of the Pima County workplace bullying policy. He is genuinely committed to making this legislation work. His work will become an invaluable test case of how to address investigating and implementing a policy like this. It also emphasizes the difficulty of how to find a definition of workplace bullying. Faced with this dilemma, Tully chose a list of behaviors that could be pointed to as unacceptable and enforced.
[Original post from April 24, 2013] Last week Pima County, Arizona implemented policy D.23.1 Preventing, Identifying and Addressing Workplace Bullying for their County employees. [D23-1 ] New rule: witnesses along with anyone who was made aware of behavior that may satisfy the definition of workplace bullying must now report the incident/s.Many of us who have suffered the damage of working for an abusive boss have dreamed of the day that our co-workers would step in to help. However, this policy is missing the necessary contextual discussion that helps employees understand the important distinction between conflict and bullying. Only two of the 27 examples of bullying included in the policy reference the fact that bullying must be repeated and none recognize that bullying takes place over time. These actions need to be part of a pattern of abuse.
Why should target/victims of abuse care if a bunch of disrespectful bosses get caught in a net that’s cast too widely? Think of the bullying or mobbing victim struggling to keep their cool 24/7 under a bully who is adept at subtle abuse. It’s not uncommon for the bully to throw up smoke screens by accusing others of the very tactics they are using. And, watch those Facebook gripes! Don’t forget what happened at Hispanics United of Buffalo when an employer’s harassment policy was flipped against employees complaining that a co-worker was unfairly accusing them of laziness [see previous article]. Pima’s policy is broad enough to include “use of the County email systems, computers, internet access, or any other County electronic communication systems or devices to engage in bullying activity. Any employee violating this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.”
But, fear not. Right at the top of this policy everyone is given a get out of jail free card because the definition states that workplace bullying is “intentional behavior intended to create an abusive work environment for an employee or employees.” Good luck proving an alleged bully intentionally intended to create an abusive work environment. Sexual Harassment was rife back in the day, and sadly still exists to a lesser extent. Was the intention of the vast majority of male employees guilty of sexual harassment really to create an abusive work environment? Or, were a heck of a lot of them ignorant and unfeeling about the ramifications of their actions? Pima’s employees need a policy that educates employers, targets, and witnesses about the true complexities of defining workplace bullying rather than a laundry list — and more importantly — without intentionally raising the bar too high for targets to use. Recognizing the repeated nature of abuse that takes place over time would be enough to put bullies on notice and give targets the power to fight back with a witness by their side.
- Top #3 Harmful Definitions of Workplace Bullying (bullyinworkplace.com)
- Anti-bullying Policy OK’d in County Gov’t Workplace (hispanicbusiness.com)