Posted on December 7, 2017 in Workplace Harassment
One of the roles of an HR department is to provide support to employees, which may involve investigating claims of workplace bullying (or workplace harassment), and taking action to protect workers from such behavior. If you feel unable or unwilling to talk to your immediate boss about a workplace bully, contacting the HR department should be your next step.
In this post, we will look at the role that a company’s HR department should play in resolving workplace bullying, and how your HR department should respond if you report a bully – as well as what to do next if the HR department doesn’t take appropriate action.
The HR department is there to protect the interests of the company itself, and ensure that everything pertaining to hiring and firing, working policies and practices, employee privacy, and records keeping are all above board and legal. But the HR department is also there for employees themselves, to provide advice, advocacy, and support if a problem arises.
If you are being bullied at work and are considering your options, it is also important to remember that you need to give the company (in the form of the HR department) the chance to resolve the issue, before you can take steps in law to make an external complaint or case against your employer regarding the bullying.
Workplace bullying is repeated, harmful mistreatment by one or more parties that is designed to intimidate, humiliate, threaten, or affect your ability to perform your work. The full scope and remit of bullying behavior can be wide and variable, but may include any or all of the following:
If you are being targeted for such treatment by another individual, and the behavior is having a negative impact on your own health, wellness or ability to work effectively – and the behavior is ongoing or escalating – you are being bullied at work.
The HR department should be empathic, helpful and supportive, and prepared to work with you rather than simply recording your comments and promising some form of unknown action – or taking action without your input.
A qualified person from the HR department should meet with you in confidence, listen to your concerns, and discuss your options in terms of how to proceed and what you would like to happen next. This may mean actioning a formal complaint, or providing advice on coping strategies and dealing with the bully, and potentially, confronting the bully to discuss their treatment of you directly.
You may also wish to request that the HR department enables a supervised meeting with an observer or mediator to allow you to discuss issues with your bully in a controlled environment with a witness present.
Another option is to ask the HR department to investigate and speak to the bully directly, outlining the issues with their behavior and what they need to change. This may include recommending or mandating that the bully undergo formal coaching or retraining on appropriate workplace behavior, or instigating a formal disciplinary procedure.
However, if the HR department is concerned that the nature of the bullying crosses the line into harassment, they may be obligated to act in a certain manner and take some of the choice out of your hands, due to their legal responsibility to prevent harassment and protect the company against the liability in law that follows if they fail to do so.
If you are not happy with the way that the HR department deals with your complaint – perhaps they fail to act, exacerbate the problem, or penalize you instead of the bully by moving you to a different working area or shift pattern – you don’t simply have to put up with it.