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Bullying And Harassment In The Workplace

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Question:

What is the reason Bullying and harassment in the workplace?

 

Answer:

Introduction

Bullying and harassment in the workplace

Bullying and harassment are the most common unwanted behaviors in the workplace that causes the victim to feel degraded, offended or intimidated (Einarsen et al., p. 11). Bullying is reported to be perpetrated by either management to subordinate employees or an employee to fellow co-worker. However, most workplace harassment are conducted both in private and public organizations without employer’s awareness. This behavior occurs through various means including face-to-face communication, through phone, email or physically and in most cases the harassment is between two individuals, however in some cases it may involve groups of people (Zapf et al., p. 82).  Salin and Hoel (p. 229) reported that most of insidious and isolated cases of workplace harassment and bullying goes either unpunished or unreported in organizations and the trend is worrying especially in the those having workforce diversity. Most harassments are directed to either minority groups or the female employees (Hogh, Mikkelsen and Hansen, p. 121).

The common forms of bullying and harassment include spreading malicious rumors, exclusion, unfair treatment, constant criticism of competent employee, insulting someone and victimization. The Australian constitution prohibits any form of harassment whether in workplace or home that is related to age, race, sex, disability, religion, gender, nationality or sexual orientation (Forell, p. 13). It is therefore illegal to perpetrate harassment and bullying and one is liable to legal action that may lead to fine penalty or imprisonment. The rising cases of harassment in the workplace is attributed to fear of losing a job especially if perpetrator is a manager or senior staff in organization and thus employee may opt to remain silent or resign (Lippel, p. 13). It is therefore recommended that all staff and including employer and employee be empowered about options of dealing with potential bullying and harassment in order to reduce the menace (Smit and Du Plessis, p. 174).

The employer should develop policies that protect employees against any form of harassment since such behavior is associated with poor morale, lack of respect for supervisors, absenteeism, high employee turnover, court cases and associated penalties, poor employee relations and poor performance of the victims (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf and Cooper, p. 22). These negative effects lower competitiveness of an organization in the current market structure characterized by rapidly changing customers’ expectations due to globalization. ACACAS reported that about 7% of employees had experienced at least one grievance event in 2004 that is related to bullying and harassment (ACACAS, 2017).

It is important to note that many countries have laws adopted that guarantees everyone right not to be harassed or bullied at work. Furthermore, there are many state and nongovernmental organizations that are sensitizing the public against harassment and helping the victims. This is because bullying and harassment poses great risk to health and safety of an individual particularly when threatened, teased or exposed to unreasonable work demands. The Australian Fair Work Commission is playing critical role in ensuring adherence to anti-bullying laws in organizations to protect students in internships or industrial attachments, outworkers, contractors and volunteers (Pocock et al., p. 478). The Fair Work Act of 2009 recognizes the need of employee to lounge complain of bullying to either human resource department, a manager or the trade union representative to take appropriate instructions. Legal actions in Australia can be instituted work related complaints at an employment tribunal.

 

Case study: Walmart

Walmart is an online based business that offers customers one-stop shopping. The company sells range of products ranging from grocery, clothing, electronics, entertainment to sporting goods. The company focuses on prices and have developed everyday low price strategy that offers customers unbeatable prices. The business organization has embraced technology to improve shopping experience for its customers, one can shop online at Walmart.com, shopping in a store or through mobile apps. The company not only cares for customers but also employees, the staff are given opportunity to build their career by engaging in jobs with more responsibilities while earning higher pay.  Walmart distribution operation is the cornerstone for the business with more than 100 distribution centers. The organization distribute goods directly to the customer within the US using its fleet of trucks (Walmart, 2017). This organization has thousands of employees who work collaboratively to achieve company’s objectives.

Walmart has been struggling to promote fair labor practices by creating favorable working condition for its workers. The organization offers health insurance to more than half of its employees. However, there has been public concerns that Walmart should provide affordable healthcare for all of its employees. There has been reports of unfair labor practice in Walmart, a sad record of worker abuse was evident when forced overtime and child labor was reported in the organization. Child labor is against international business practices as it is regarded as child abuse. Law suit has also been filed against Walmart for discriminating against women, over a million female employees claimed that they were being paid and promoted at significantly lower rates than their male co-workers. The America is fighting to eliminate employee abuse and discriminations in order to uphold worker’s rights (Schein, p. 11). Walmart is further exhibiting predatory approach whereby it opens supercenter that lead to closure of small businesses and supermarkets thus negatively affecting young American entrepreneurs and local businesses. By avoiding to pay health insurance to more than half of its employees and continuing to pay lower wages, Walmart is demonstrating violation of employees’ rights and is violating international best practices.

The Walmart store incorporation may face risk of negative publicity due to its questionable practices particularly increased cases of bullying and harassment in the workplace. It is reported that workers in Bentonville and Arkansas gathered at a media conference to voice their concerns against Walmart’s low wages and hostility to labor unions (Chen, 2016). Many employees report cases of harassments perpetrated by top management forcing them to work for long hours. This is causing negative publicity to the organization due to bad comments about organization by striking labors. The stakeholders and consumers may feel that Walmart has corporate creed and does not care about its employees and may divert their attention to other firms for investment and purchases. This may in turn reduce the sales affecting financial ability of the organization.

One case of workplace harassment was reported in one of the Walmart’s branches in Canada where a woman employee named Boucher was bullied by another employee called Pinnock. The court found out that Walmart was aware of Pinnock’s rough behavior against Boucher yet it did not take any action and so the court penalized Walmart to offer finances to Boucher for unfair dismissal and damages suffered (Rishi, 2014).

Objectives of the plan

This social plans aim at helping Walmart to:

  1. Enlightening all employees of Walmart concerning guidelines and legislation governing harassment and bullying.
  2. Adopt organization policies that define workplace bullying and harassment.
  3. Stop bullying in an organization

Proposed actions

 

Enlightening employees

The first objective of enlightening staff concerning various laws will be achieved through training in regards to workplace bullying. Various laws will be taught during the conference both local and international that guides acts of bullying and discrimination in the workplace. Some of materials for teaching will be sourced form Australian Human Right Commission since it is tasked with promoting good business practices and fairness among employees and employers. The Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC) mentions that it is the responsibility of employer to ensure that all applicant of a given job in an organization must be treated fairly (Syed, p. 26). This is because the federal and state law prohibits any form of discrimination during hiring, promotion or firing. The Fair Work Act (2009) describes all forms of behaviors that are against the Australian laws of fair work practices.

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act of 1986 protect people from any form of discrimination based on political opinion, nationality, medical records, trade union activity, religion, social origin and criminal record (AHRC, 2017). Furthermore, federal discrimination laws protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, inter sex status, age, sex, marital status, race, nationality, immigration status, gender identity, disability, pregnancy, breastfeeding, color or ethnic origin (Ronalds and Raper, p.21).

The law attribute the following behaviors as from of harassment that is insulting jokes about particular race, suggestive emails and text messages constitute sexual harassment, asking intrusive questions about personal life particularly sex life, displaying offensive poster or screen savers that could be pornographic or making derogatory comments about someone’s disability. All these acts are illegal according to Australian laws (Ronalds, C. and Raper, p. 439). The sex discrimination act of 1984 define sexual harassment as unwelcomed sexual conduct that offend or humiliate a person and the Act prohibits harassment in work place from organizational stakeholders including employees, partners, contract workers, co-workers and commission agents (Newburn, p. 49).

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) prohibits offensive behavior based on person’s disability and racial hatred respectively. The Fair Work Act (2013) defines workplace bullying that pose risk to health and safety of an employee. The physical and verbal abuse including yelling and offensive language, deliberate changing work roster to inconvenience staff and psychological harassment are prohibited under the Act.

Organizational policies

Brainstorming with employees and legal experts on various practices and behaviors that constitute bullying and harassment. It is important for the organization to give a clear definition of what constitutes bullying and raise an alarm that everyone in the organization can be a target of bullying. There are several misconceptions underlying the issue and some employees may assume that bullying is only directed towards employee by a supervisor. However, this is not always the case, Sanders, Pattison and Bible (p. 1) reported that majority of harassment occurs on a lateral level in an organization where employees bully their coworkers.

The organization need to develop formal policy that allows all staff to lounge complaints against any form of harassment from their managers, Co-workers, supervisor or senior employee of the organization. The written policy I developed through consultation of management and all company employees and after incorporation of wide views of staffs, the policy can then be approved and implemented.  The policy is then communicated to all organizational staff through various channels including meeting, newsletters or publishing on company website. Creation of formal policy is known to enlighten employees on various available options for dealing with bullying and harassment as reported by Yagil (p. 146).

The major component of bullying is the statement that the bullying and harassment cannot be tolerated and that the organization’s management is committed to promoting fairness to everyone within the firm including managers, employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. All unacceptable behaviors are listed in the policy and include a clear statement that violation of the policy will lead to disciplinary actions. The policy will benefit organization a lot as it seeks to protect dignity of all Walmart’s employees. The policy ensures that business operations are in consistent with the principle of fairness, respect and justice. The policy further serves to provide information, support and advice members of the Walmart to protect the dignity of its employees

 

Stopping bullying and harassment

There are several actions proposed for the managers, supervisors or employees to stop bullying and harassment with in Walmart organization. The first step is to initiate effective communication channels for reporting bullying and any other form of incivility. This involve setting up of toll-free hotline that allows staff report any inappropriate cases or behaviors that constitute bullying and harassment. The second action is to set up a disciplinary committee within the organization that investigates unwanted behaviors and guarantee fair judgement of complaints. To ensure transparency in the process, a standard investigation process must be set up and should outline various disciplinary action for those found guilty of bullying. The third and most important tool, of lowering bullying and harassment is through implementation of training programs. The employees need to be equipped with skills to identify, prevent and respond appropriately to any acts of incivility. The employees are further informed of consequences of not adhering to national and international employment policies. 

The organization need to promote safe, health, and fair work environment that recognizes rights of every individual. This is achieved by providing clear guidance on implementation of created policy. The management must actively deal with any reported cases provided that complaint had been lounged necessitating investigation to determine next course of actions. furthermore, training to managers and employees with regard to policy and dealing with harassment and bullying helps in minimizing such cases. This is achieved by constant training that focuses on the knowledge, skills and awareness of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Other action to minimize bullying and harassment is by building workplace culture that promotes respect and dignity for everyone irrespective of social or economic status. It is reported that appropriate corporate culture is best in minimizing company problems (Kotter, p. 22). The organization culture must take complaints seriously, responding promptly and conducting investigation objectively and exploring different solution for the issue. Importantly, resources should be allocated for counselling and mediation services to the victims. 

Anticipated outcomes

  1. Employees are expected to adhere fully to organizational policies and laws regarding bullying and harassment.
  2. Best organizational practices that constitute corporate culture free of harassment and discrimination
  3. Minimal cases of any form of bullying especially those directed towards women

Timeline and resources required

Enlightening employees will take a period of two months between June and August, 2017. This will be carried out through conference that will be conducted within the organization. Legal experts will be sourced from outside the company and be provided with relevant materials including projector, pens and writing materials. The organizational conference room will be utilized to minimize expenses.

The development of organizational policies will take a bit longer that is a period of four moths between August and November, 2017. During this time, constant meetings will be conducted to get views from various company stakeholders including proprietors, employees, management and representative from govern agencies. Financial resources are critical for hiring experts to offer consultation in developing appropriate company policy. Materials having laws governing employment will be useful in this process thus Australian constitution and other several acts will be utilized for references. Writing materials, pens, projector and laptop will be used during presentations. 

The last course of action is seeming to be continuous starting from June after establishment of disciplinary committee. Constant communication will be critical for establishment of corporate culture that respect dignity of individuals. Human capital is the main resource required for this process.

Risks

There is various risk associated with action plans for the organization. The employees may not be able to grasp all information regarding laws governing workplace practices. The time allocated is short, however, to maximize successful implementation of this project, then information will be published and made available for employees. Adoption of organization culture may not encompass views of all employees. Furthermore, the policy adopted might suffer effective implementation if there is no support from the top management particularly if the perpetrator of the vice is the senior employee or the manager. They might want to protect self-interest to prevent legal action, disciplinary action or worse losing their jobs. The ineffective communication channels and lack of privacy or job security may deter employee from reporting cases harassment or bullying. Fearing repercussions prompt them to remain silent thus suffering emotional stress.

Evaluation method

 The most appropriate evaluation method will be through conducting a survey to measure effectives of the implementation of proposed actions and the realized outcomes. The questionnaire is designed to assess the problems related to bullying and harassment such as increased grievances, sickness absence and poor working relationships and increased conflicts among the colleagues. This allows management to conduct risk assessment and initiate steps to control risks and protect employees against bullying and harassment. The questionnaire is designed to incorporate relevant information related to bullying and harassment and is administered to study participants comprising of management and employees every after 3 months.

The questionnaires to individual staffs will be appropriate for identifying risks of bullying and harassment and provides more accurate information that helps organization to tackle the underlying issue.

 

Conclusion

There are huge impacts of bullying harassment to the victims and organization, the victim of harassment and bullying suffers from stress and loss of self-esteem that absenteeism and resignation from work. The organization suffers from high cost of recruiting and retaining and in most case the job performance for workforce is reduced resulting in poor productivity and competitiveness of the business. A successful case against employer related to discrimination, harassment and bullying in workplace result in tainted image and financial losses due to reimbursement of the victim. It is therefore important to educate everyone in the organization to be aware of all laws and regulation and even internal policies related to bullying and harassment to reduce occurrences. This will in turn lead to motivation of workforce enhancing creativity and innovation that benefits organization a lot by increasing competitive advantage.

 

References

ACACAS., 2017, Bullying and harassment. Retrieved on May 15, 2017 from https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1864.

AHRC, 2017., Workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying. Retrieved on May 16, 2017 from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/employers/good-practice-good-business-factsheets/workplace-discrimination-harassment-and-bullying.

Caponecchia, C. and Wyatt, A., 2009. Distinguishing between workplace bullying, harassment and violence: a risk management approach. Journal of Occupational Health and Safety, Australia and New Zealand, 25(6), p.439.

Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D. and Cooper, C.L., 2011. The concept of bullying and harassment at work: The European tradition. Bullying and harassment in the workplace: Developments in theory, research, and practice, 2, pp.3-40.

Forell, C.A., 2010. The meaning of equality: sexual harassment, stalking, and provocation in Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Hogh, A., Mikkelsen, E.G. and Hansen, A.M., 2011. Individual consequences of workplace bullying/mobbing. Bullying and harassment in the workplace: Developments in theory, research, and practice, pp.107-128.

Kotter, J.P., 2008. Corporate culture and performance. Simon and Schuster.

Lippel, K., 2011. The law of workplace bullying: An international overview.

Newburn, T. ed., 2012. Handbook of policing. Routledge.

Pocock, B., Elton, J., Preston, A., Charlesworth, S., MacDonald, F., Baird, M., Cooper, R. and Ellem, B., 2008. The Impact ofWork Choices' on Women in Low Paid Eployment in Australia: A Qualitative Analysis. Journal of Industrial Relations, 50(3), pp.475-488.

Rishi., 2014, Court of Appeal Confirms Significant Damages for Workplace Bullying and Harassment. Retrieved on May 15, 2017 from Bandhulaw: https://bandhulaw.com/court-of-appeal-confirms-significant-damages-for-workplace-bullying-and-harassment/.

Ronalds, C. and Raper, E., 2012. Discrimination law and practice. Federation Press.

Salin, D. and Hoel, H., 2011. Organisational causes of workplace bullying. Bullying and harassment in the workplace: Developments in theory, research, and practice, 2, pp.227-243.

Sanders, D.F., Pattison, P. and Bible, J.D., 2012. Legislating" nice": Analysis and assessment of proposed workplace bullying prohibitions. Southern Law Journal, 22(1), p.1.

Schein, V.E., 2007. Women in management: reflections and projections. Women in management review, 22(1), pp.6-18.

Smit, D. and Du Plessis, V., 2011. Sexual harassment in the education sector. PER: Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad, 14(6), pp.172-217.

Syed, J., 2008. Employment prospects for skilled migrants: A relational perspective. Human Resource Management Review, 18(1), pp.28-45.

Wamart. (2017). Our business. Retrieded on May 15, 2017 from https://corporate.walmart.com/our-story/our-business.

Yagil, D., 2008. When the customer is wrong: A review of research on aggression and sexual harassment in service encounters. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 13(2), pp.141-152.

Zapf, D., Escartín, J., Einarsen, S., Hoel, H. and Vartia, M., 2011. Empirical findings on prevalence and risk groups of bullying in the workplace. Bullying and harassment in the workplace: Developments in theory, research, and practice, 2, pp.75-106.

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