February 12th, 2014

Value of creating your anti-bullying policy vs. borrowing-copying

Now that more employers are learning about workplace bullying from the high visibility NFL case and more awareness in general, some are moving toward adopting policies. At WBI we take the news with a grain of skepticism.

We have been writing specific anti-bullying policies for organizations since 1998. Our process is to facilitate the Policy Writing Group composed of staff representing the various professions and ranks in the organization. The process produces policies and procedures. Equally important are the values of group members that surface when asking key questions enroute to finalizing provisions of the policy and procedures. For example, “How strongly committed eradicating bullying can we afford to declare?” “How many confirmed violations by offenders must be allowed before termination?” “How do we restore victims ‘wholeness’ and regain trust of coworker witnesses?”

The majority of C-suite dwellers believe workplace bullying is a “serious problem,” but, in turn, they prefer to let HR handle complaints, are rarely involved, and don’t believe it happens in their workplaces. Thus, bullying, to executives is a lower-level, HR-level issue. This is a false assumption.

When HR is in charge of promulgating policies, there is a tendency for them to think they can craft a document without the participation of other stakeholders in the organization. And they task themselves with serving as judge and jury when complaints are filed. Bullied targets do not fare well when HR is in charge.

So, it’s not wise when HR writes policies alone. Worse still is when lazy individuals use the power of the “internets” to grab “boilerplate,” sample policy language. There is no discussion of unique organizational values, roles and willingness to prevent or correct abusive conduct. Those policies will be typically called “Respectful Workplace” or “Civil Workplace.” Euphemisms for what is actually psychological, non-physical violence — workplace bullying.

The worst possible way for organizations to have policies on critical problems is to copy them verbatim. Newsweek reporter Katie J.M. Baker describes the sad tale of the University of Akron. The university (probably an individual or individuals in its HR department) lifted in its entirety the Sexual Assault policy and procedures from Miami University (also in Ohio).

An Akron graduate discovered the plagarism. She had been raped in 2008 as a freshman. Police and campus officials bungled the handling of evidence and dissuaded her from filing a complaint. This was bad enough, but she checked the Akron policies. Many procedures described in print were not available to her. There was no Office of Equity and Equal Opportunity. There was no right to file an on-campus charge without filing criminal charges. Victim support and resources were not available as published.

Thus, Akron was obligated to resolve cases and to provide support like assault victims could expect at Miami University. The trouble is no one at Akron bothered to check.

The rape victim suffered PTSD as diagnosed by a university psychiatrist, undoubtedly exacerbated by institutional indifference to her plight at Akron. In fact, she lost her scholarship because she was so frequently absent from classes. Akron now faces the victim’s lawsuit.

Akron wanted to appear current with respect to sexual assault concerns. They thought a policy would be sufficient. A policy dealing with interpersonal violence is never sufficient. It is only a starting point.

The same is true of workplace bullying. A policy is necessary but not sufficient.

When dealing with violence, institutions should not dismiss the risks to employees so lightly that they copy, borrow or plagarize policies from others. Care enough to sit down and collaboratively create your own.

We offer a DVD guiding Policy Writing Groups through the process. It’s the least you can do for those suffering while you wait for a law to pass that compels action.


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 at 1:41 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education. 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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