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Bullying in the workplace has been a huge challenge that most organizational leaders have been struggling to contain. A common feature in most organizations is a workforce where members lack mutual respect for each other, fail to cooperate, intimidate each other, and constantly looking down upon weaker members.
Workplace bullying refers an unswerving pattern of bodily, psychological, or collective behavior subjected to an employee, which has the ability to compromise their dignity, cause harm or any form of threat. Promotion of ethical practices is very crucial for success in any organization, as people learn to respect each other, cooperate, and remain faithful to their duties and responsibilities.
Bullying within the workplace has many effects on the overall performance of an organization, such as poor employee retention rates and high cost of operation.
Everyone has the responsibility of stopping this culture of bullying within the workplace. Organizational leaders have an ethical obligation to ensure that they deal with cases of bullying within the workplace in a professional manner that demonstrates equality, honesty, and high sensitivity to the needs of others.
One of the greatest challenges that organizational leaders have today, is the need to create an ethical and cohesive workforce. The human resource department in an organization plays an important role in promoting ethical behavior within a workforce (Thompson, 2012).
Recruitment and selection is one of the crucial processes in every organization, because it determines the nature and character of people that form the workforce team. A common feature in most organizations is a workforce where members lack mutual respect for each other, fail to cooperate, intimidate each other, and constantly looking down upon weaker members.
One of the unethical practices common in most workplaces is bullying. Bullying refers to the act of intimidating a weaker person to make them do something (Needham, 2003). Bullying is a behavior that many people associate with a playing field. However, the unethical practice is slowly elbowing its way into the comfort of various workplaces.
This character trait compromises the objective of the ethical principle of the common good. This principle argues that in order to achieve the benefits of the common good, everyone has to play their part and ensure they look out for the welfare of others.
Workplace bullying refers an unswerving pattern of bodily, psychological, or collective behavior subjected to an employee, which has the ability to compromise their dignity, cause harm or any form of threat (Thompson, 2012).
The tactics applied in workplace bullying can be either verbal or non-verbal depending on nature of messages sent, the recipient, the sender, and the environment under which it happens. Bullying in the workplace is unethical and unacceptable.
A culture of workplace bullying
Bullying is a culture that has slowly developed among various workplaces, as the organizational leaders struggle to develop effective strategies for human resource planning and management. Bullying within the workplace has a close link to the behavior of culprits during their school days, where such unethical habits develop among many people (Chekwa & Thomas, 2013).
Both organizational culture and societal culture have a lot of influence on the emergence and growth of bullying within the workplace. The corporate values promoted by an organization through its workforce dictate the kind of behavior exhibited by employees.
Promotion of ethical practices is very crucial for success in any organization, as people learn to respect each other, cooperate, and remain faithful to their duties and responsibilities. According to a study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, close to 35% of all workers in the United States of America experience bullying at one point in their careers (Walter, 2013).
The study also established that most victims of workplace bullying suffer a lot because of the confusion, shame, and fear associated with the unethical behavior. Many of the victims fail to report their experiences for the fear of either losing their jobs, or being viewed as weak and defenseless.
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They often feel the burden of carrying a psychological tag of defeat. This often influences on their morale to work, productivity, confidence, and eventually their desire to continue being associated with the workplace (Chekwa & Thomas, 2013).
Bullying within the workplace has many effects on the overall performance of an organization, such as poor employee retention rates and high cost of operation. Organizations with high rates of workplace bullying are likely to have a higher wage bill because of expenses associated with compensations for crimes against employees and work related disabilities.
People in a workplace endure numerous forms of intimidation and violence (Walter, 2013). Bullying happens in all types of workplaces and does not choose specific people because it can happen to anybody including the employer, management team, junior staff, interns, or attaches. Colleagues in a workplace also subject each other to intimidation, especially if they feel the pressure of competition.
Some of the common forms of bullying experienced in workplaces include hateful comments that disregard an individual or their work, sexual harassment, mind games, setups, being excluded from workplace activities, physical violence, and being overworked (Needham, 2003).
Other forms of bullying include forcing someone to do a humiliating ritual, as well as withholding crucial information in order for the target to fail. Although the American constitution does not have any current legal statues governing the challenge of bullying in the workplace, the United States Supreme Court provides protection to victims as long as they file a complaint.
In understanding bullying within the workplace, it is important to understand that not all actions that appear negative qualify as bullying (Richards & Freeman, 2003). Certain activities that people within a workplace consider negative include demotion, disciplinary action, retrenchment, transfers, or reduced remuneration.
These activities do not qualify as bullying because they involve the workplace rules and regulations that guide employee conduct and decision-making by the management team. Bullying in the workplace is a huge concern for organizational and societal leaders (Walter, 2013). Organizational leaders ought to eliminate this vice because it has huge effects on employee productivity and job satisfaction.
Bullying in the workplace is hard to notice and deal with. Most cases of bullying happen away from the watchful eyes of managers and supervisors within the workplace. Studies have established that bullying within the workplace can even happen outside the workplace, as long as it involves colleagues about an element related to the work they do (Walter, 2013).
Everyone has the responsibility of stopping this culture of bullying within the workplace. However, organizational leaders hold the highest responsibility of ensuring that they provide everyone with an inclusive, ethical, and safe workplace. Employers follow the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Lavan & Martin, 2008).
According to the act, any form of violence within the workplace qualifies as an occupational hazard that employers ought to protect their workers against it. A safe workplace motivates all employees to achieve high productivity and improve their skills without fear of intimidation.
Organizational leaders understand that stopping this culture of intimidation within the workplace helps to improve an organization’s reputation and good record with the law. Bullying within the workplace can qualify as illegal under certain circumstances. Bullying associated with discrimination because of one’s age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or skin color is illegal (Walter, 2013).
According to the employment laws in the United States of America, it is illegal for anyone within a workplace to discriminate the other based on these factors. Everyone deserves equal treatment within the workplace. It is also illegal to bully an employee under the age of 16 in the United States (Walter, 2013).
Any form of violence or threats towards anyone is illegal in the United States of America regardless of where they happen. Other countries also have their own legislation that protects employees against harassment within the workplace. For example, employers in Ireland ought to follow the guidelines and provisions in the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 (Lavan & Martin, 2008).
Bullying in the workplace and its ethical connection
Bullying in the workplace is an ethical challenge that lies solely in the human resource department. Human resource management and ethics have some relations, because they highly depend on each other despite their differing orientations. Ethics covers the examination and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and accountability (Chekwa & Thomas, 2013).
Standards, values, morals and ethics have become increasingly complex in an organizational context (Richards & Freeman, 2003). Organizational leaders have an ethical obligation to ensure that they deal with cases of bullying within the workplace in a professional manner that demonstrates equality, honesty, and high sensitivity to the needs of others (Oladapo, 2013).
Maintaining ethical behavior in an organization may become challenging at times due to lack of a solid culture that emphasizes on ethical values in the corporate culture. The price of unethical activities such as bullying in the workplace is huge.
The effects of this unethical behavior include a drop in employee morale, low retention rates in the workforce, decreased customer loyalty, as well as low productivity.
It is important to appreciate the fact that all human resource practices have an ethical basis, as they deal with sensible consequences of individual performance (Sidle, 2010). It is also important to understand that the entire concept of human resource management lacks integrity.
The ethical nature of human resource management requires all employers to respect the rights and needs of all employees, and according them any assistance to the best of their ability. The unfortunate fact about bullying in the workplace is that many employees are ignorant of the existence this unprofessional behavior.
This means that most people within the workplace are bullied often, but their ignorance denies them a chance to notice and take the necessary action. Ethics in human resource management has attracted attention from various individuals and groups (Oladapo, 2013). An ethical working environment is essential for an effective human resource planning and management, as well as achieving organizational goals.
Hiring of competent and ethical personnel should be the driving force for human resource managers. A concern for standards is an essential element in modern human resource management strategies because of the diverse nature of people.
The strategic focus of human resource management is the attainment of organizational goals in an ethical conscious environment, capable of supporting the needs of employees, customers and the employer (Sidle, 2010).
Organizational leaders have an ethical obligation to add value to their workforce by promoting ethical conduct for success. Although many organizational leaders know about bullying in the workplace, there is a tendency of letting it grow and prosper within the workforce (Onorato, 2013).
They also need to take full responsibility for their actions and the decisions they make regarding employees in their organizations. Human resource managers should play the role of an advocate by conducting themselves in a manner that promotes the credibility and value of their profession.
Most cases of bullying within the workplace involve the top management and heads of departments, who use their juniors to achieve their personal goals within and without the workplace (Sidle, 2010). Organizational leaders often try to protect each other against the junior staff, which is very unethical and unprofessional.
Workplace bullying reduces the ability of an employee to protect him or herself against other forms of victimization that can come from their colleagues. Ethical behavior within a workforce is one of the elements that ought to be integrated into an organization’s strategic plan.
People, especially investors like to be associated with businesses and organizations with a value-based culture that is capable of meeting their needs as well as boosting their reputation (Oladapo, 2013).
Laws of leadership and bullying in the workplace
Effective leadership is an essential element for success in every organization. Organizational leaders and the leadership styles they choose to apply have a lot of influence on the adoption and promotion of ethical practices within the workplace. Leaders ought to guide their people towards embracing ethical values that help to curb workplace vices such as bullying (Thompson, 2012).
Certain laws define the kind of leadership an individual chooses to use in various situations, as well as accessing its effectiveness. According to various laws of leadership, effective leaders are those who command respect from their juniors, not because of what they have done but for who they are in terms of ability to influence decisions. Two of the leadership laws that have great influence on the management of bullying within the workplace are the law of respect and the law of influence (Thompson, 2012).
The law of Respect
According to the law of respect, organizational leaders earn the respect of everyone in the workplace based on the things they do, how they do them, how they treat people involved in those things, as well as the influence that those things have on them. Such leaders are likely to command a lot of respect from the people they lead because they display their abilities in an effective manner (Needham, 2003).
People often follow leaders who demonstrate their ability to do something special and unique above everyone else. It is important for employees within a workplace to follow leaders who earn their respect naturally and in return respect their followers. Employees will also follow leaders who are courageous, successful, loyal, and add value to their lives.
Therefore, organizational leaders need to understand their role in promoting ethical practices, and eliminating vices within the workplace (Walter, 2013). Organizational leaders have an ethical responsibility of guiding employees towards creating a workplace culture of mutual respect, cooperation, and increasing cohesiveness.
All employees in a workplace should respect each other, in order to reduce cases of bullying and other forms of victimization. Respect in a workplace goes beyond admiring leaders, but also includes the value that everyone has on his or her colleagues. Leaders need to develop effective strategies for dealing with such problems in case they develop within the workplace.
The most important thing about leadership and respect is the need to maintain it once acquired (Field, 2009). Leaders need to evaluate the respect they command and determine whether people admire them for the things they do or for the workplace position, they hold.
The Law of Influence
According to the law of influence, the true measure of effective leadership is the ability to influence one’s followers. In leadership, influence goes hand-in-hand with persuasion. It is hard to persuade someone to do something, if he or she does not recognize one’s ability to influence him or her towards making the decision (Chekwa & Thomas, 2013).
A true leader ought to have the ability to influence people into choosing one thing over another, and being content with their choice. Influential leaders are very important in creating an ethical workplace that allows all employees to achieve maximum productivity and improve their skills without the fear of intimidation or violation.
Influential leaders ought to have three crucial competencies in order to be successful. First, they need to have good interpersonal aptitude that will allow them to form strong and reliable relationships with their followers and key decision makers (Richards & Freeman, 2003).
Good interpersonal skills also allow for effective communication, which is essential when influencing people. The second competency is integrity that helps leaders to fulfill their duties and responsibilities in a competent manner. Leaders who demonstrate integrity in their work easily win the trust of the people they lead (Onorato, 2013).
The third competency is vividness, which gives a leader enough energy and intensity to influence people towards a desired result. Influential leaders often command respect and authority over those people they lead. Organizational leaders should use their strong influence to eliminate workplace vices such as bullying.
Bullying in the workplace is an occupational hazard that organizational leaders need to prevent from developing within an organization’s culture. All people within a workplace need to be influenced into adopting ethical practices that will ensure the creation of an inclusive work environment (Field, 2009).
Bullying in the workplace is unethical and it is the responsibility of organizational leaders to ensure that all workers learn to respect each other regardless of their numerous diversities.
Bullying within the workplace is a huge enemy of success at both individual and organizational levels. There is a need for employers to create an ethical working environment that is free of any vices. Employers ought to develop a policy of zero tolerance on bullying within the workplace. It is also important for employers to initiate a culture change program within their organization by applying a top to bottom approach.
Change management is very sensitive and the top management team should influence change within the workplace by embracing it first. The best that organizational leaders can do is to ensure that bullies within the workplace do not receive any protection regardless of their position in the organization. Promoting ethical practices within the workplace will help to eliminate vices such as bullying.
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Field, T. (2009). Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge, and Combat Workplace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lavan, H., & Martin, W. (2008). Bullying in the U.S. workplace: Normative and process- oriented ethical approaches. Journal of Business Ethics, 83, 147-165.
Needham, A. (2003). Workplace Bullying: The Costly Business Secret. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Oladapo, V. (2013). Management bullies: The effect on employees. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 4(4), 107-122.
Onorato, M. (2013). An empirical study of unethical leadership and workplace bullying in industry segments. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 3, 4-18.
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Walter, L. (2013). Beyond the playground: When bullying elbows its way into the workplace. EHS Today, 4, 32-36.