One of my em­ploy­ees says she’s be­ing bul­lied by her manager – what should I do?

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Caro­line Mcenery

of my em­ploy­ees says she is be­ing bul­lied by her manager. I un­der­stand that the com­pany dig­nity and re­spect pol­icy should be fol­lowed and I want to en­sure the process is un­der­taken cor­rectly. How should I pro­ceed?

pur­pose of such a pol­icy is to en­sure a work­ing en­vi­ron­ment free from bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment. It should ap­ply both at work and at work-re­lated events such as meet­ings, con­fer­ences and of­fice par­ties, whether on or off the premises. The pol­icy should also ap­ply to cus­tomers or other busi­ness con­tacts.

Bul­ly­ing is a sen­si­tive area and can be daunt­ing and some­times dif­fi­cult to han­dle. You should lis­ten pa­tiently, be sup­port­ive and dis­cuss the op­tions open to the em­ployee. As­sure her the pol­icy is in place for her pro­tec­tion and the com­pany takes such al­le­ga­tions very se­ri­ously. It is im­por­tant that you re­main im­par­tial, be­cause at this stage there is only an al­le­ga­tion, and both par­ties are en­ti­tled to a fair hear­ing.

The pol­icy should have in­for­mal and for­mal pro­ce­dures to deal with such is­sues. Any em­ployee who com­plains about bul­ly­ing or ha­rass­ment should have the op­tion of which pro­ce­dure they wish to fol­low. In this case your first step is to speak with the em­ployee, to out­line both pro­ce­dures.

It is of­ten prefer­able for all con­cerned that com­plaints are dealt with in­for­mally when­ever pos­si­ble, as an in­for­mal ap­proach can of­ten re­solve mat­ters quickly and ef­fec­tively with the min­i­mum of con­flict and stress.

Me­di­a­tion could also be an op­tion un­der the in­for­mal pro­ce­dure, when a trained me­di­a­tor ar­ranges a meet­ing with both par­ties, if they agree. This op­tion is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive where per­son­al­ity con­flicts are the core of the prob­lem.

If an in­for­mal ap­proach is in­ap­pro­pri­ate or if af­ter the in­for­mal stage the is­sue per­sists, the em­ployee may re­quest that the for­mal pro­ce­dure be in­voked. There can be slight vari­a­tions to the for­mal pro­ce­dure from com­pany to com­pany, but all pro­ce­dures need to en­sure that: › The em­ployee should make a for­mal com­plaint, in writ­ing; › The manager (who is the sub­ject of the com­plaint here) should be no­ti­fied in writ­ing that an al­le­ga­tion of bul­ly­ing has been made against them and what the process in­volves; › Both par­ties must have the right to be ac­com­pa­nied by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive at all meet­ings; › The com­plainant should meet the in­ves­ti­ga­tor nom­i­nated by the com­pany to carry out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­le­ga­tions; › No as­sump­tions should be made by the com­pany about the guilt or oth­er­wise of the manager or the mo­ti­va­tion or in­tent of the em­ployee; › Though pro­ce­dures will vary slightly be­tween or­gan­i­sa­tions, the im­por­tant thing is to en­sure your com­pany pro­ce­dure is fol­lowed and both par­ties af­forded nat­u­ral jus­tice and fair­ness; › This pro­ce­dure must be open and trans­par­ent, with con­fi­den­tial­ity a key fac­tor.

The Labour Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion Code of Prac­tice on bul­ly­ing in the work­place de­fines bul­ly­ing as “Re­peated in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour, di­rect or in­di­rect, whether ver­bal, phys­i­cal or oth­er­wise, con­ducted by one or more per­sons against an­other or oth­ers, at the place of work and/or in the course of em­ploy­ment, which could rea­son­ably be re­garded as un­der­min­ing the in­di­vid­ual’s right to dig­nity at work. An iso­lated in­ci­dent of the be­hav­iour de­scribed in this def­i­ni­tion may be an af­front to dig­nity at work but, as a one-off in­ci­dent, is not con­sid­ered to be bul­ly­ing”.

En­sur­ing pos­i­tive moral and em­ployee re­la­tions af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is im­por­tant, to en­sure both par­ties can work to­gether as the busi­ness re­quires. Open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pos­si­ble me­di­a­tion at this stage is key in that re­gard.

We all want to work in an en­vi­ron­ment that re­spects the dig­nity and work of all. Fos­ter­ing a cul­ture in which un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour is nipped in the bud im­me­di­ately by all stake­hold­ers is a key in­gre­di­ent in pro­mot­ing this cul­ture. Caro­line Mcenery is manag­ing direc­tor of The HR Suite, which of­fers Ire­land-wide spe­cial­ist hu­man re­sources and busi­ness so­lu­tions; a mem­ber of the Low Pay Com­mis­sion and an ad­ju­di­ca­tor in the Work Place Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion. She is also the au­thor of

a team manager’s tool­kit of Hr-re­lated tips

Bul­ly­ing is a sen­si­tive area and can be daunt­ing and some­times dif­fi­cult to han­dle

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