Strong Management, or Bullying?

Posted on Jan 3, 2013 in Self Help |

Strong Management, or Bullying?

In difficult economic times, how easy is it to tread the line between strong management, and bullying or harassment?

Line managers are under particular pressure. They are sandwiched between the demands from above to hit productivity targets, and managing their team’s performance, motivation and morale. The workplace has changed, with technology allowing people to be scrutinised on their individual output and quality. Fast and accurate is often what is required, and measured.

Measurement of performance increases both competition and standards, and has its part to play in the success of an organisation. Push an individual too far however, and you get negative results. The employee, unable to cope with the pressure, can raise a grievance for bullying or harassment, or take time off with work related stress.

There is sometimes a fine line between bullying, and strong management, which makes reasonable demands of the employee. The difference is between a fair distribution of work with appropriate feedback, versus undermining an employee with an overload of work, or constant criticism.

There needs to be a reasonable level of monitoring performance, but not overbearing supervision. The line manager must get the right balance between being fair, and being demanding.

This year Anti Bullying Week focused on the theme ‘We’re better without bullying’. Employers have their role to play in assessing the general culture of their organisation. It is easy for strong management, particularly with an authoritarian style, to slip over the line into unacceptable behaviour including bullying or harassment.

So what do you do if you have a grievance made against you, or if you are the one with the grievance? There is good information to be found in the ACAS Guide for Managers and Employers (www.acas.org.uk). Whichever side you are on, it is not a pleasant experience, and sometimes it can be hard to recover. This can be especially difficult if the grievance is not handled very well. Even if a satisfactory resolution is obtained it can disturb the trust and confidence between the employer and the employee. For this reason many employers are using the services of external consultants, and counselling services for both the ‘accused’ and the ‘victim.’ These services are seen as independent and can help in resolving issues quickly and with a good outcome. This leaves everyone free to get on with their job again.

It sometimes isn’t easy to get the balance. Acknowledgement that bullying and harassment occurs, and taking steps to prevent it, is an important start to eliminating it in your organisation.