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Free Your Office from Bullies and Intimidators

written by: •edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 6/26/2011

Bullies at work, sexual harassment or discrimination at the office and intimidating co-workers are hot topics for today’s Human Resource managers. Is it possible to make your office environment peaceful, happy and void of turmoil? HR Expert Jean Scheid offers some tips.

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    Happy and Content Workers

    Workplace Bullies No office is free of workplace problems and for those who feel violated, business owners must realize protection from intimidation in the workplace is essential—especially for employees who don’t feel empowered enough to stand up on their own, or those who fear reprisals if they report such incidences.

    The old saying you can’t please everyone is certainly true and you also can’t change a person’s character or workplace habits—at least not overnight or via the attendance of one seminar on bullying or anger management.

    So, what are your options? You must do something or else you’ll end up with a cranky, unproductive, and fearful group of employees who would rather stay at home and hide under their bedcovers and feign illness. Or, if you do nothing and you truly have a problem, expect a visit from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a letter from a labor lawyer informing you of an employee lawsuit.

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    Tired of Workplace Policies?

    Every two or three years, a hot human resource (HR) topic pops up—mostly related to how and what employees think and feel while at work and if the topic doesn’t become a labor law issue, it very well might or as a company owner, you certainly have to address it.

    Most employers are simply tired of addendums to employee handbooks, creating new policies and throw their hands up in the air with moans of “what’s next?” While as employers, we’d like to close our doors and avoid the intimidation beyond, we really can’t and here are guaranteed tools easy to implement into existing policies and must-have reporting and disciplinary actions to sway this new trend.

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    Employee Handbook

    Employee Handbook Hopefully, you have a copy of the employee handbook somewhere—on a disk or on the company network. Instead of rewriting this novella, revise it and include a short statement about workplace intimidation and bullying within your must-have discrimination and sexual harassment verbiage.

    Sure your HR department will have to come up with a longer policy, including incident reports that state whom violated employees should report to and how incidents will be investigated The employee handbook is the first thing new hires receive and needs to include a signed acknowledgment page stating that the employee has received and read the handbook in the event a policy is broken. Mention the possibility of a change in position or termination and reinforce that the company has a no-tolerance policy for bullies or intimidators.

    If you do revise your handbook, don’t forget existing employees—yep—make more copies and hand out the new one with a revised date clearly printed on the handbook and have current employees resign an acknowledgment page to keep in their files—this is a must do!

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    Awareness Training

    Although this type of “be gentle, polite, and understanding” training was a hot fad in the 1980s, it still works today. It especially works if you bring in an expert in employee issues or utilize your HR manager to bring groups together and role-play using harassment and intimidation scenarios as examples. Encourage the shy to participate—it will offer them empowerment and confidence.

    Make sure known bullies participate in the role-playing—give them a chance to see what it is like to be a victim. In a crowd or group atmosphere, this type of training is a reality check.

    Don’t forget to include scenarios where the violator is confronted by management and disciplined—and make it real to get the point across.

    Ask those involved to discuss each scenario—often a bully in a group is really no bully at all but a person with low self-esteem so they probably won’t create a lot of conflict or arguments during this discussions.

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    Uniform Discipline is a Must

    Discipline is a Must Be honest here, and as employers or HR managers—even supervisors, we’ve been all guilty of creating a disciplinary or written warning process, but how many times have you tried to simply temper the situation hoping it will burn out or go away, especially if the violator is a generally a good producer? Come on, admit it, you’re guilty, we all are.

    Now is the time to turn your thinking around and conform if you want real protection from intimidation in the workplace and you must stick to what you say you will do within those policies—no matter who is being disciplined, even if it’s a person in upper management.

    These policies and disciplinary actions can’t be the same as you use for tardiness or absenteeism either, such as a three-time warning and you’re out. Incidents reported must be quickly investigated, and the accused confronted and strict resolution policies must be utilized—across the board.

    You can find a free incident report in our Media Gallery to aid you in this area and as far as discipline, if it requires the offender attend anger management class or even be terminated, stick with your policies no matter what. If you don’t, your business good name may turn sour on the street and fast!

    Find more resources right here on Bright Hub to aid you in this area—great links are in the reference section below.

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    The author holds a degree in HR Management.

    Helpful Bright Hub Links:

    Your Employee Handbook (Includes a free handbook template)

    Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policies (Includes free policy templates)

    How to Terminate an Employee the Legal Way

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