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Wednesday, January 2, 2008
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Was thrilled to see your article/column/Q&A dealing with workplace bullying. It is an issue that needs continued illumination.

Terri Howard provides a great service in training, I'm sure, but [her comments] have not conveyed a complete understanding of workplace bullying.

It is something that truly impacts the bottom line in a company with studies suggesting the cost to business nationally ranges from $10 billion to $300 billion annually. And of course it can simply destroy individuals in the workplace.

As you may know, currently there are 13 states in various stages of the process of writing, deliberating or enacting anti-workplace bullying legislation.

In most of the rest of the western industrialized world countries already have 'status-blind' harassment/discrimination laws in place in comparison to the very narrowly defined EEO regulations in the US. There is speculation on how new laws would be manifest . 

Many are saying that there would be a deluge of frivolous lawsuits -- of course that can't be determined until a law is in place.

(Here is an interesting report from Pepperdine University -- Are Workplace Bullies Sabotaging your Ability to Compete? )

It seems the best way to avoid the need for a law is rock solid commitment from businesses that workplace bullying will not be tolerated by way of policies that stick. The first step may be to get meat-and-potatoes information and education out to HRMs and managers on the real nature, and then train the entire workforce.

That probably would begin with a well defined problem statement which requires defining the issue. The Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute defines workplace bullying as -- repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:

* verbal abuse

* offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating

* work interference -- sabotage -- which prevents work from getting done. 

Workplace Bullying: (a) is driven by perpetrators' need to control the targeted individual(s), (b) is initiated by bullies who choose targets, timing, place and methods, (c) escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily through coercion, and it (d) undermines legitimate business interests when bullies' personal agendas take precedence over work itself.

It was disturbing to find a study that said in 50 percent of the cases HR did nothing on the bully target's behalf, and in more than 30 percent of the cases HR helped or supported the bully. (per )

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In the majority of cases the bully's target simply leaves the company, a multiple cost as studies also indicate that the majority of bully targets are the top performers.

Additionally, it is presumed that a bully has to be a loud tyrant out in the open. In fact there are as many who wish to remain undetected just as a school age bully wishes to go undetected.

Several reports show that workplace bullies are so covert that it simply adds to the stressful turmoil when even the target is unaware of or disoriented by what is happening and the source. (The Bully at WorK Gary and Ruth Namie, PhDx2 -- Sourcebooks, Inc. a fine book for areas of workforce.)

Additionally there have been findings that many fit the profile of or are psychopaths (per the book: Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths go to Work -- Babiak and Hare -- Harper)

So often visibility goes to production or manufacturing segments with innovations or efficiency addressed 'out there.' Here is a case where HR could be all 'round heroes by getting companies into a best practice situation, serving their company with measurable benefits to productivity and the bottom line and serving the workforce. It's simply a matter of people doing their homework.

Thanks again for broaching this issue in your publication with information that will support and benefit your readers. Please consider taking a look at it again in the future.

Lloyd Schultz  
Johnson Creek, Wisc.

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