Archives for March 2009

Bullying in the Workplace: Doing Nothing Is Not a Neutral Act

When it comes to psychological harassment and bullying in the workplace, targets report that HR departments often make a bad situation much worse, says Jana Raver, Queen’s School of Business Assistant Professor and E. Marie Shantz Research Fellow in Organizational Behaviour.

An active researcher in the field, Raver gave an overview of harassment and bullying in the workplace in a special lecture to the School of Policy Studies.

She said recent surveys indicate that five to 15 percent of workers experience bullying. Such anti-social behaviour can come in the form of withholding key information, sabotage, and outright ostracism. It is hard to prove and difficult to fight.

Women are somewhat more likely than men to be targets, Raver said, as are above average performers. But bullies are not necessarily only supervisors. In fact, 51 percent of all targets report being bullied by both supervisors and peers; only eight percent reported being bullied exclusively by their boss.

Raver said organizations are not yet responding well to the challenge posed by psychological harassment and bullying. When asked about the result of reporting a bullying act, 42 percent of targets said it only made matters worse, 40 percent said nothing changed, and only 18 percent said it proved helpful. “The typical advice is to get out as fast as you can because it is not worth harming your health,” she said. “Unfortunately, making an official complaint in an organization without an anti-bullying policy will often make it worse and invite retribution.”

When reporting a bully to the organization’s HR department, 32 percent of targets said HR made the situation worse, 51 percent said HR did nothing, and 17 percent said HR had a positive impact. When it comes to bullying, however, “Doing nothing is not a neutral act.”

To deal effectively with harassment or bullying, Raver said there needs to be an robust enforcement process and progressive discipline. But she would prefer that organizations create environments that discourage bullying in the first place. She suggested the following measures: an explicit policy for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour; assessing interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence when hiring; conflict management skills for all employees; performance management with transparent procedures; and high-performance work practices such an empowerment and information sharing.

Psychological harassment is an area of growing legislative concern. In 2004, Quebec became the first jurisdiction in North America to include protection against psychological harassment of employees in its Labour Standards legislation.

SwitchPoints: Culture Change on the Fast Track to Business Success

When it comes to leading organizational change, Peter Edwards and his team at the Canadian National Railway walk their talk. In their publication SwitchPoints, Edwards and co-authors Les Dakens of CN, and Judy Johnson and Ned Morse of the Continuous Learning Group (CLG), describe how CN advanced from good to great in a few short years, becoming North America’s top performing railroad with both corporate customers and investors.

With a highly accessible and down-to-earth approach, the authors share their journey through applying behavioural science to the culture change at CN, and offer leadership principles and practices that are applicable to any organization seeking to enhance productivity, change attitudes, and ultimately, improve culture.

In 2009, Hilary Sirman of Queen’s IRC spoke with Peter about critical switch points in engaging employees at CN. This publication provides a synopsis of the conversation, including the challenges and opportunities of implementing and sustaining cultural change.

Download PDF: SwitchPoints: Culture Change on the Fast Track to Business Success

Downsizing Your Organization? Lessons from the Trenches

In this current difficult economic climate, many organizations are facing the unfortunate necessity to downsize and streamline. Astute executives and HR managers, many of whom have been through previous rounds of downsizing, realize that they must approach it carefully because both research and experience have shown that there are many negative consequences to this process. The big question for these managers is: “Can we avoid the pitfalls of downsizing and create the best possible outcome for our organization?” The answer is a qualified ‘yes.’ The emotional trauma of downsizing cannot be eliminated totally but the long-term damage to your organization can be minimized. This article will summarize the best practices of organizations and managers who have faced this daunting challenge and the lessons they have learned.

Download PDF: Downsizing Your Organization? Lessons from the Trenches

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