March 21st, 2012

HR says workplace bullying declining


SHRM, the Human Resources professional trade association, released results of a non-scientific workplace bullying survey based responses from 400 members on Feb. 28, 2012. Remember, the phenomenon is seen through the lens of HR staff. Here are the major findings to compare and contrast with the national scientific survey conducted of adult Americans, last done in 2010 by WBI.

Denial that bullying happens has stopped since our founding of the U.S. movement 15 years ago. In the SHRM survey, bullying was reported by 51% of respondents. They have seen incidents. It is most prevalent in large organizations (>500 employees) at 71%; reported by 42% of respondents in firms with 100-199 employees; and the lowest in small organizations (1 to 99 employees) at 38%.

A remarkable 34% of respondents answered that bullying has decreased in frequency over the last two years. Only 18% believe it has increased.

Three (3) percent of organizations claim to have a separate workplace bullying policy. Others (40%) say workplace bullying is combined with another workplace policy. Nearly half (44%) defiantly said their organization has no policy and has no plans to put one in place.

The SHRM 3% matches one of our online 2011 Instant Poll surveys of WBI website visitors (who are primarily bullied individuals) that asked what employers have in place. Bullied targets reported that 3% of employers have a workplace bullying policy and faithfully enforce it. Targets say that 46% of employers are resistant. This matches the SHRM 44% of employers who have no intention of addressing bullying through a policy.

Prevention and/or awareness training is provided in 28% of organizations according to the SHRM 2012 survey. It looks like HR staff receive the majority of training (35%), with managers coming in second at 34%.

SHRM asked a question about how organizations respond to alleged perpetrators of bullying. The most frequent response chosen (76%) was “depends on specific circumstances.” This means that HR prefers to deal with bullying on a “case-by-case” basis. Unfortunately, this allows HR staff to ignore bullying when committed by perpetrators they are powerless to stop, and hammer lowly employees who themselves are powerless to stop a bullying manager. Specific circumstances and case-by-case are troublesome for bullied targets because there is rarely consistency, fairness, or justice.

SHRM members say most bullying is between coworkers or peers (82%) with 56% being top-down with supervisors as perpetrators. This finding contradicts the large national surveys in the U.S. Whereas according to the WBI U.S. survey, 72% of perpetrators are bosses, 18% are coworkers.

Finally, a quarter (27%) of HR survey respondents said they were bullied themselves.

You can download a copy of the SHRM slide show depicting results of the survey conducted in May 2011.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 at 3:51 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  1. kachina says:

    Hmmm…could it be that less powerful targets correctly identify that they are not likely to get anywhere with HR and do not report their bullying superiors as a result? If so, what are the implications? Is it possible that lower level workers are getting their information from outide sources and adjusting their reporting behaviours accordingly in an attempt to avoid further repurcussions and salvage their careers and reputations by failing to undertake actions that might further damage them? Is that the direction we want to go?

  2. TwilightZone says:

    I think we know whose side SHRM is on. The statistics showing bullying as a problem among coworkers rather than from the top down is very telling. In HR, managers are nobility and can do no wrong. It’s the rank and file who are suspect. I’d no longer trust a study on WB from SHRM than I would a report from candy manufacturers claiming sweets don’t cause cavities. At least they were honest about judging WB situations in a “case-by-case” basis. In the case of an abusive boss, HR sees no evil nor hears no evil.

  3. Annie says:

    I’ve never heard of the SHRM organization, but I found HR to be very little help. The only honest and compassionate HR person I spoke with had been bullied out of her position and left the organization as soon as she could.

    Otherwise, four HR people — that I know about — breached confidences after promising me that anything I said wouldn’t be repeated. The higher in the system my complaint went, the less confidentiality.

    Most of the brutal job-killing bullies I saw were management. I’ve seen and experienced secretarial and assistant employees mob and shun. But it’s always in a mean system and follows what’s acceptable from the top down.

  4. Dr. O' C says:

    From the results of an unscientific study, I am suspect of it’s validity and reliability. Reminds me of a poll taken by a TV network and the posting of results. Hmm. What was the sample size that produced those percentages? So many unanswered questions. If this survey was conducted utilizing responses from HR professionals who are speaking for the organization-they are management. Management takes care of management. Why not do a comparison between HR & workers responses? Rhetorical! That at least would give more balanced information for percentage reporting. My experience was hearing my boss say to HR (about me as Target) – “Thank you for listening to me, thank you for supporting me, thank you for helping me.” I place much more reliability on WBI research than SHRM.

    • The more general group to which these HR respondents (managers and manager support staff) can be compared is our WBI national surveys of all adult Americans. See WBI research section at this website.

    • J. says:

      Part of your comment is very familiar to me. I have an email from my bullying boss to the director of HR wherein the boss thanks the HR director for being the only one who supported her in dealing with me (meaning the HR director was the most helpful in trying to get me fired in breach of my contract). There are other emails demonstrating how much the HR director helped my bullies. I got the emails when I sued.

      The HR director’s deposition was taken during the course of the lawsuit and she was the best liar of the group. It was amazing how much she could not recall, even when confronted with emails she wrote and sent. I think she would do anything in her role as administration’s sleazy enabler.

  5. Jay Jacobus says:

    Surveys are a good way to raise awareness in the minds of the survey taker. The survey encourages the survey taker to think seriously about the subject matter. An article on the other hand can be read carelessly.

  6. J. says:

    I’ve heard of SHRM. I don’t have much respect for it, but I must admit to being extremely biased against the HR types. SHRM is becoming involved with the teaching of HR in universities.

  7. wannie says:

    Human Resources staff will support the managers/bullies. .
    Go above them, higher up the chain of command and inform them of the legal and ethical consequences if u sue them .
    People who are bullies, especially managers, are ineffective leaders/ workers and attempt to cover it up by their own destructive actions on staff when questioned .
    When a lot of staff resign because of the bullying and harassment, it tends to be either ignored by HR or the manager concerned covertly stops any investigation occurring .
    Why wouldn’t HR investigate a manager when 11 staff resigned in one year and they all wrote in complaints and one took over 12 months to just get to the initial investigation interview ?
    HR don’t know what to do about bullies .

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      Everyone who works for someone else knows that the employer must be given prime consideration. This applies to the HR department as well as every other employee.

      For the HR department to take a stand that is counter to the employer’s interests, they will have to be told. If they are not told, they will take a stand that is biased toward their employer.

      The HR department will not be fair if being fair is counter to their employer’s interests. Employees who think about HR should be aware of this bias.

      How does an employee know about this bias if it is not written down? He will learn this unwritten rule through experience.

  8. Jon says:

    I am the victim of a bully boss, who happens to be the Director of Human Resources.  In 4 years, 5 people in a department with a staff of 6 left employment because of this person.  I have been the target of this bully for over 4 years, only to experience a brief reprieve when someone else was an easier target.  I have tried to discuss the situation and how I feel on many occasions – only to be treated even worse.  When you work in HR and the Director is the bully boss, who do you go to for help?

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