Riddle for the day: how does the untimely death of a pop superstar somehow turn into a blog about ethics reporting? Allow me to explain. A week after the passing of Whitney Houston, my wife and I are watching “The Bodyguard,” the 1992 film starring Kevin Costner in the title role and Houston as the endangered entertainer reluctantly needing protection. A good movie. I like the quiet hero-type who carries a big sword. Fast forward a few days, and I come across a FOXBusiness article called “Bully Adults in the Workplace: What to Do.” It’s a story based on a survey done last year by CareerBuilder that says that 27% of U.S. workers have experienced bullying in the workplace, and most have not done anything about it, presumably because of fear of reprisal or retaliation, lack of confidence in the system, or a belief that reports will not result in a better situation.
Employers are a bit like the Costner’s character of Frank Farmer, the bodyguard in the movie – they’ve seen it all before, they know and understand how the workplace works, and they feel it’s their responsibility to protect their employees – even if the employees are a bit hesitant to accept the protection. When employers set up anonymous hotlines, they don’t do so hoping to catch the bad guy, but more to protect the innocent, and to empower them with a confidential way to speak up when they see or experience misconduct.
Bullying can even be seen as another form of workplace violence and harassment, sometimes taking the form of a tough-as-nails manager or co-worker who operates strictly by the books. It becomes bullying when there is humiliation, unnecessary criticism, or verbal and strategic assaults that affect the person’s ability to do their work. And it can damage your organization’s effectiveness as well as your employee relations.
Here are a few scary facts from that CareerBuilder survey: only slightly more than one in four employees reported bullying to their HR department. Only slightly more than a third of those employees felt that the matter was sufficiently investigated and resolved. That means that only one out of 10 employees who experienced bullying gained any sense of closure. As the leader of an anti-bullying consultant quoted in the article put it, “Without protocols or consequential actions in place, HR becomes complicit and unaccountable for bad behavior.”
Another bullying stat: 37% claim standards and policies applied to them were not used on others. That’s an issue on many levels, including awareness, training, policy management and executive commitment.
When I see facts and figures like this, I’m reminded why we need bodyguards in the first place, and why the need to create and sustain an ethical workplace—an environment where everyone feels comfortable, respected, productive and worthy—is so important to the good standing of your business.