A recent Blog post regarding Bullying caught my eye. It described the current conditions about how often it happened and how challenging it was for organizations because “Bullying” didn’t typically fall within the definition of “harassment.” The post indicated that most Bullying isn’t about a protected class; it occurs most often because of differences in personality, behavior limitations, and power.
While what the poster said is true, my opinion about the challenge of this differs from him. Employers have every right, and I would say, every responsibility to have established expectations about behavior that is and isn’t permissible in the workplace.
Whether it is in the Workplace Rules, in a Conduct section of the Employee Handbook, or posted conspicuously on the workplace walls, every employer can describe the expected manner of courtesy, interactions, and language allowed.
It ought to be simple…what we learned in Kindergarten is what should apply to our place of employment. Be nice, thoughtful, polite, and mind your language and your manners. Don’t yell or scream at people. Don’t flip them off or curse at them. Don’t throw things, don’t call them names (unless they are nice), and don’t walk away in the middle of a conversation or hang up on them. Don’t use email to do any of those things either!
No one ought to impose their will on someone else from a sense of personal power. There is a hierarchy in organizations that allows those in supervisory roles to delegate and assign work, but that ought to be done in a courteous and respectful manner. There is no need for anger, destructive comments, or belittling someone.
The vast majority of us gets up every day and wants to have a good day at work. If we all remember that everyone else wants the same thing, then we will think twice about misbehaving and causing someone else to have a bad day. And each manager ought to speak up and reinforce the expectations if someone forgets or acts out inappropriately.
If we operate in this manner, we don’t need to worry about whether the inappropriate conduct is harassment. We can simply state that the organization’s policies and expectations are not being met and that the conduct demonstrated is unacceptable. It doesn’t have to violate a law to be a reason for corrective action or termination; it just needs to violate what we have stipulated and our sense of what is right and good in the workplace.