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Just because it feels like bullying, doesn't mean that it is

25 July 2014

 No bullying

Just because it feels like bullying, doesn't mean that it is...

We are investigating an increasing number of complaints made by employees in relation to bullying, that turns out to not be a case of bullying at all, but reasonable management action.

Change is often the catalyst for bullying claims

We find many cases come about after a new manager has entered the business and started to hold long serving staff accountable for their performance or directing them to go about their job differently. To some employees this is uncomfortable and unwanted direction, which they may label 'bullying', when in fact it turns out, it is just the manager trying to achieve legitimate business outcomes through people. Change is often the catalyst for bullying claims. So is a history of an employee not being managed due to their strong personality or perceived high value in the business. They may have got away with you know what for a long period of time, and suddenly a new confident leader enters the business and is driving change and chasing results.

I am not saying that this is always the case. I have firsthand experience in many cases of legitimate bullying, where the manager's behaviour has constituted bullying and been downright despicable. But equally the outcome of many bullying investigations is a finding of reasonable management action, which means the complaint has no merit and the complainant is back to square one.

Can the parties move forward after an allegation of bullying?

From my experience, it is nearly impossible for a complainant to move forward 'business as usual' and work side by side with the manager they have accused of bullying. Often times it ends in someone leaving the  organisation. Sometimes the manager who was caught up in the investigation and sometimes the complainant. Either way, where the outcome of a bullying investigation is found to be reasonable management action on behalf of the manager, nobody wins. The damage has been done, feelings, ego's and reputations all suffer.

My advice is...

To include the definition and some examples of what reasonable management is in your bullying policies. Clearly define what is bullying and what is not bullying so employees make an informed decision before treading down this treacherous path.  

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