Tough Management, or Harassment?
‘There’s a very thin line between tough management and straight up harassment.’
Last year, The Courts of British Columbia awarded a manager $180,000 in pay and damages for illegitimate termination after she was fired for her harsh management style. The manager had an exemplary 30 years of employment record before she was fired for bullying and intimidation when one of her employees filed a written complaint.
The Judge ruled that the manager was a strict and tough boss to deal with, but had an excellent employment record right before her dismissal from the organization in 2010. He also pointed out that it was a male-dominated working environment and that the manager was never given a fair chance to correct any faults in her behavior(if any).
For every case that is dismissed for being too minor to be qualified as harassment, there’s another case where the court rules slightly more pervasive behavior as harassment. The question becomes: Where to Draw the Line between Tough Management and Harassment?
Employees are required to be pushed harder now and then, in order to achieve their best. A good manager will always know where that line is, when he needs to influence people and where he needs to show support.
When that influence becomes a general rule of thumb rather than an exception, then we have a problem.
This is certainly not an alternative to a legal advice. There’s not much you can do to tackle a bully, but these measures can help you soften the impact:
1. Establish a clear-cut anti-harassment policy
File a written ‘official’ complaint with the HR Department and work closely to identify any behavior that resembles bullying. Establish a proper channel for someone to go through when they experience bullying and harassment in the workplace. Make it very clear to everyone that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in your company.
2. Establish an Anonymous Reporting Channel
When employees feel like they have no way to report these issues without facing negative consequences, they won’t report it. This will result in stress, absenteeism, depression and deteriorate their performance. They will keep enduring such behavior until they decide to quit the company. Implement Your Safe Hub in your organization, a special communication channel that protects such employees with the power of anonymity.
3. Confront the bully
The longer you let the behavior continue, the worse it will get. Gather all the evidence and confront the bully once and for all. You need to let him/her know the consequences of their actions. Even if the behavior continues, you have much more evidence to make an official case.
4. Give them a chance
“To err is human”. Nobody is born a bully and every one of us takes a wrong turn now and then. Believe it or not, most of them aren’t even aware of their impact on their surroundings. The most common response from their victims is to ignore them or talk behind their back. Make sure you have given them a chance to correct their behavior. Most lawsuits are rejected in the court of law if you haven’t (if it goes that far).
5. Go public
Once the action plan is in place, let everyone (including the bully) know about it. Make sure everybody know that there’s going to be an improvement and how it makes a change if you take an action. Ask anyone with similar experiences to come out and support the action plan. By showing everyone the consequences of bullying and harassment, you will also encourage them to take a stand.
- Confronting a bully is not easy, but it must be done in order to ensure a safe and sound working environment for everyone.
- The cost of bullying to a company in terms of stress, anxiety, absenteeism, and turnover is huge. As an employee of the company it is your right to demand a safe environment and as a part of it--- it’s your job to establish it.
- Implement Your Safe Hub in your organization, a special communication channel that protects employees with the power of anonymity.