Strong Management can sometimes be construed by those on the receiving end as bullying. It’s particularly common for people who haven’t been managed well in the past and are now under scrutiny to complain they are being bullied or victimised.
When faced with such allegations, many Managers feel threatened and in some cases powerless to work with the employee to improve their performance. In many cases Managers just do nothing and the underperformance continues.
Whilst bullying and harassment in any form should not be condoned in the workplace, how do we differentiate between bullying and robust management?
The CIPD describes some examples of Bullying and Harassment as follows:-
- Unwanted physical contact
- Unwelcome remarks about a person’s age, dress, appearance, race or marital status, jokes at personal expense, offensive language, gossip, slander, sectarian songs and letters.
- Posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems.
- Isolation or non-co-operation and exclusion from social activities.
- Coercion for sexual favours.
- Pressure to participate in political/religious groups.
- Personal intrusion from pestering, spying and stalking.
- Failure to safeguard confidential information
- Shouting and bawling
- Setting impossible deadlines
- Persistent unwarranted criticism
- Personal insults
Robust Performance Management is not Bullying or Harassment if carried out in the right way.
Make sure you employee has a written job description which sets out your full expectations and requirements. Where necessary, add in some specific statements detailing deadlines and standards of work. Discuss the content fully with your team member, agree the content and make sure you all understand the content.
Should there be any issues with performance, act immediately. Talk to your team member about any issues and discuss any reasons for under-performance. If further training or support is required then put this in place.
When you do tackle any issues, set the scene first. Make sure you are calm, you have a little bit of privacy and are open to in open and honest discussions. Listen carefully to what is being said by your team member and take into account their feelings when talking about issues.
Apply Management actions equally and fairly
Consistency is absolutely paramount in managing staff. Make sure you are managing all your staff and not just focusing unnecessarily on one member of the team. If you are speaking to one member about lateness, make sure you’ve applied the same rule to the whole team.
Stick to the Facts
Make sure that any feedback given is based around facts and avoid generalisation. Make notes of the things that happen and use language that reflects fact and specific incidences of where performance or standards have not met expectations.
Deal with Bullying or Harassment Complaints Seriously
Bullying and Harassment are serious issues and all complaints should be dealt with promptly. Generally this would be internally and informally. Formal procedures should be in place to protect the employee should a complaint be unresolved. Many times, a simple conversation with the person who feels they are being singled out will help to foster understanding and resolve the issue. Where further action or investigation is needed then the formal policy you have in place will guide you.
For smaller employers, the proximity and closeness of working relationships sometimes make it difficult to step back and deal with any complaints. Don’t be afraid to bring in external support to address the issues at an informal stage.
Don’t do nothing!
Bully and Harassment is a very serious issue, however the terms are often banded around in response to disagreement about other matters. If you are faced with an allegation of bullying, deal with it promptly. Mediation at the informal stage, or a thorough investigation at formal stage, can alleviate long drawn out disagreements and misunderstandings.
Doing nothing is rarely the right option.