Workplace Bullying; A View from Human Resources

Kevin Hauss, the executive director of Human Resources at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, reflects on the issue of bullying and complaints:

Bullying in general is a hot topic at the moment beyond the workplace, and yet H.R. offices in all types of organizations have worked for years with employees on issues that could and do fit into this category. Overall, it’s important for an H.R. office to take all issues it receives seriously and to work with the employee, management, or whatever individual or group is involved to help address, correct, and resolve an issue.

Organizations have tools in place, such as performance feedback mechanisms, training and development (across all levels), surveys, and disciplinary and grievance procedures, all of which, if utilized properly, facilitate communication on performance issues. That said, having alternative avenues for employees to raise bullying issues, such as H.R. offices and possibly other designated departments, is important. I believe that it is the job of an H.R. office to create an atmosphere where all employees feel welcome when they have questions or issues. I am also an advocate of having training and development opportunities for all employees, including management development.

I believe that organizational culture is also important, and it applies to academic institutions as well as the business world. Many workplaces do not spend enough time improving their organizational culture, especially within the past few years with the economy and the job market the way it has been and continues to be. Yet this is the perfect time for organizations to invest in this area. Part of our task is to increase and support employee engagement – to value our employees. It’s not always the obvious; thus we do it with some programs we currently have in place, and yet we charge ourselves with the task to look for and do even more.

Finally, individuals have issues within the workplace, but also outside of the workplace, and sometimes these external issues come into the workplace and impact working relationships and performance. Having support, such as from an H.R. Office or Employee Assistance Program, can help employees avoid issues or help avoid having issues potentially escalate. We need to ensure that employees know of their options for such support.

So while we could focus on bullying alone, there is that issue as well as many others. In addition to utilizing the various internal tools that organizations have at their disposal, they must have a commitment to work with individuals and the community to address and correct underlying issues. I believe we have a good opportunity to create and maintain a really good work environment for all. In addition to the initiatives that individual colleges have in place, the CUNY system is there to provide more guidance and support.