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Addressing bullying, incivility at workplace

By Gloria Nwafor 
22 March 2022   |   4:20 am
Interpersonal conflicts and uncivil behaviour, such as bullying and harassment, are remarkably common in the workplace. The persistence of such serious incidents highlights that ‘workplace incivility...

Interpersonal conflicts and uncivil behaviour, such as bullying and harassment, are remarkably common in the workplace. The persistence of such serious incidents highlights that ‘workplace incivility’ is a major Human Resource (HR) issue.
Incivility in the workplace has negative consequences for employees, teams and organisations. It negatively impacts the attitudes, behaviour and health of employees, notably leading to higher levels of anxiety and depression, reduced self-esteem and performance, and increased absenteeism and turnover. 
Experts are of the view that bullying does not only happen in schools but even in offices and in the workplace. They argued that in any workplace, employees will have different experiences and perspectives; after all, people see the world in a different way, but during times of heightened tension, it could sometimes lead to misunderstandings and disputes.
They recommended that employers be equipped to understand where such behaviour stems from and how to prevent it. They also recommended that line managers and HR professionals, have the confidence to tackle these workplace issues and provide essential wellbeing support for their employees.

A senior HR manager at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Kristian Adams, said managers and HR professionals can reduce bullying and workplace incivility by focusing on employees and their working lives. He urged that they should be aware of the stressors faced by their employees. 
According to him, those who are overloaded in their role are likely to experience more negative emotions and subsequently display aggression and bullying. He said employers should prioritise jobs in ways that ensure employees are clear about actions to take to fulfil their role.
He urged leaders and HR professionals to also prioritise values and attitudes when recruiting or promoting managers, especially looking for constructive and ethical behaviour.
He noted that organisation-wide factors, such as shared expectations and agreed social norms are an important influence on the likelihood of bullying and workplace incivility.
To mitigate the impact, he said organisations should develop understanding of the components and dynamics of fairness. 
According to him, insights into this area come from psychology and other research insights, but also from collecting organisational data and personal accounts from the workforce.
He further urged employers to focus on what makes interventions effective by ensuring employees are confident and prepared to approach workplace incivility by providing them with the capability and resources needed to do so.
He said they should involve employees in the design and implementation to make interventions effective, adding that employers should keep interventions wide-ranging, so that they target both individual development and organisational processes. 
In her submission, another HR expert, Sheila Strider, who noted that the business environment is complex and multi-dimensional, said the complexity is enhanced because the work environment consists of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures that may not be sensitive to the idiosyncrasies perceived by their actions.
She defined bullying as repeated acts and practices that are directed at one or more workers, which are unwanted by the victim(s), which may be done deliberately or unconsciously, but clearly cause humiliation, offense and distress, and may interfere with job performance and/or cause an unpleasant working environment.

In an effort to not make waves, she said employees may downplay or ignore bullying or the uncivil conduct of their co-workers, supervisors or managers, and may have found a way to deal with the stress it brings, at least in the short run.

On how to prevent workplace bullying and incivility, she said: “Most organisations have an anti-harassment policy. This policy should be in writing and posted. Most anti-harassment policies require that the affected employee first tell the offender that their behaviour is offensive. Having been duly warned, the next incident should be reported following the company’s complaint procedure. The policy and process for reporting abuse needs to be clearly communicated to all employees, supervisors as well as managers.”
She urged companies to initiate training programmes on preventing harassment in the workplace for all staff. Additionally, the grievance process, according to her, must be free from fear of reprisal and should include an investigation into the allegation. 
“Management must provide clear evidence that this behaviour is not part of the workplace culture, will not be tolerated, complaints are taken seriously and corrective action will be levied against the offender if the allegation is found to be true. False claims should have an equally severe consequence.
“These steps may help dissuade co-workers, supervisors and managers from bullying or committing acts of incivility toward others in the workplace or, at minimum, give employees a mechanism for redress when they are victims of abuse,” she said.

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