At a recent workshop with about two-hundred and fifty attendees, representing approximately one-hundred and ninety organizations, I performed an informal survey. I asked for a show of hands from those whose workplace had a written Anti-Bullying policy. Less than half of those in attendance raised their hands. I did the same for a Workplace Violence policy. The response was better than half, but less than two-thirds.
Supervisors work under a very wide variety of organizational conditions. Some may have the authority to set policy in their department, and others will not. Some will have the ability to establish written policies concerning Bullying and Violence, and others must advocate for those policies from those to whom they answer in the organizational flow of authority.
If you are among those who must appeal to those higher in your organization in order to set policy, take heart. American corporate culture is waking up to the necessity and importance of having these and other policies in place. You could be underestimating the amount of influence you have at your disposal, simply by inquiring or offering suggestions concerning some of the policies mentioned elsewhere in this book.
Policies to Advocate
I dedicated Chapter Four to demonstrating the critical relationship between bullying and violence. I also devoted a significant amount of attention to providing a list of elements that should be included in an effective anti-bullying policy. If you are among those supervisors who must appeal to those higher in the flow of authority in order to change or establish policy, this would certainly be a great place to start.
It is suggested by some that having both an Anti-Bullying policy and an Anti-Violence policy is unnecessary and redundant. This is not true. There will be some overlap between the two, especially on the issue of threatening behaviors, but there are fundamental differences that cannot be rolled into a single comprehensive policy. For instance, not all bullying involves threatening behaviors, and not all threats can be defined as simply bullying. In organizations that adopt both types of policies, care should be taken to insure consistency between the two at points of overlap, especially in the area of threatening behaviors.
Effective Anti-Violence policies will include these elements:
1. It should acknowledge violence as an occupational safety and health hazard.
2. It should contain clear definitions. The policy should include descriptions of what behaviors will be regarded as threatening violence and what behaviors will be considered as workplace violence. This will include all unwanted physical contact, fighting, pushing etc.
3. It should outline a reporting procedure. In the absence of a specific means of reporting violations, no policy can be effective.
4. It should describe consequences. In many cases this will include dismissal.
5. It should outline an action plan for educating employees concerning the policy.
6. It should establish an Assessment Team, whose job it is to investigate reports of violent incidents or threats of violence in the workplace.
7. It should contain provision for employees who are victims of violence to have access to Critical Incident Stress Debriefing resources.
An Anti-violence policy that identifies and prohibits violence can make employees aware of their own behaviors that might be considered in violation of the policy. It also provides a specific framework for responding to violent incidents.