Despite legislation protecting employees from workplace harassment, at least one-half of leaders are bullies and the overall level of awareness and understanding of what constitutes bullying is low, found new research.
"Far too many organizational leaders condone and encourage bullying in an attempt to increase efficiency," said Andrew Faas, a principal at Iceberg Navigation, a Toronto-based organization that helps workplaces navigate workplace harassment. "With the one year anniversary of Bill 168 fast approaching, it is vital that all employers review and assess their workplace violence, bullying and harassment policies and programs. Workplace violence can result in lawsuits and low employee retention and the ability to attract new talent. In many cases, it can negatively impact the bottom line."
Bill 168 was introduced in June 2010 and requires all employers in Ontario with more than five workers to conduct an annual workplace risk assessment to identify workplace violence, bullying and harassment.
Through interviews with 72 CEOs, 26 executive directors and 40 board chairs from across North America, Faas determined although most leaders want their organizations to be viewed as employers of choice and rate brand and reputation value as a high priority, few view bullying as a business risk in their organization.
In addition, only 52 per cent of the leaders interviewed were aware their organization was subject to workplace violence and anti-bullying legislation. Those who were aware felt their organizations were compliant, but only seven per cent could describe what compliant meant.
"It is important to identify potential cases early because we know that about 10 per cent of these are high risk, meaning there is a strong likelihood they will commit violent acts in the future," said Paul Tepperman, a principal at Iceberg Navigation. “By properly identifying and dealing with situations at an early stage, companies can avoid more severe issues in the future and maintain a healthy workplace.”