Workplace bullying is a continuous pattern of mistreatment that causes mental or physical hurt to a fellow employee in a workplace situation. It can sometimes involve negative physical contact. Where bullying takes the form of intimidation, it’s usually a perpetrator instilling some fear into a victim who then lives on borrowed time for fear of losing their job. Such mental disturbance then provides a platform where bullying will thrive even getting to the level of sexual abuse as an assertion of one’s power over someone.
It has often been debated whether bullying really takes place in workplace because sometimes the practice is so hidden and well crafted such that it becomes hard to know whether it is bullying or victimisation. These are two sides of one-coin Individuals in organisations respond to these bullying acts differently, some are shocked, others become angry, frustrated, helpless, lose confidence, suffer headaches and lose sleep. What are some of the common acts of bullying observed in the work place?
Bullying in organisations may involve deliberate undermining, intimidation, impeding a person’s work, removing areas of responsibility without cause, establishing impossible deadlines, offensive jokes at work, yelling or using profane language, constant criticism, dubious relocations, blocking one’s training opportunities or leave ... The list is endless.
It is factual that in one way or another every employee has fallen prey to bullying. While it the duty of every employer to protect employees from acts of bullying at work, most employers have not done so. Simply because our country has not developed specific policies and resources related to workplace bullying. While within the Labour Act in Zimbabwe, allegations of bullying can be handled but the mammoth tasks of proving such cases usually results in parties to a bullying act losing because they would not have documented enough the prerequisite evidence. The legal process requires that one documents clearly such incidents communicating openly with the perpetrator.
One school of thought says that bullying has been acculturated in a number of institutions. For example, my attention was recently drawn to the case of a Lawyer who claimed that she was a victim of bullying at her workplace in a professional practice. The Lawyer claimed that every time she worked on a case and brought an opinion to the boss this would be dismissed with such remarks: “Ah, that legal position of yours keep it to yourself,” The boss would then contract another Law firm to seek an opinion on the same matter. This belittling of the junior Lawyer occurred particularly in those cases where the Junior employee had an opinion which was at variance with the boss’s thinking or intended course of action
It has been argued that similar bullying acts take place every minute in organisations. What is surprising perhaps is that despite this bullying, employees continue working for the institution. Are these people not aware of the mistreatment or it’s our environment that has normalised bullying? One school of thought says people have been “taught” to live with it. It has also been alleged that when the institution has bullied the person enough, he or she is often fired.
I have also encountered cases where it has been argued that relocation is another very rampant form of bullying. When you question or refuse you are fired. According to this school of thought even high performing Managing Directors are relocated in the name of turning around ailing organisations only to realise it was a bullying ploy to fire them. Internationally, countries like Canada, the United States of America and some European countries have developed policies to curb workplace bullying some of which have direct local relevance.
Think of how yelling is practised in organisations! It’s a mode of bullying. Colleagues even know who yells but very often no action has been taken on the majority of these people. Their power base is fear, not respect.
As in the cited examples, bullying is often used strategically to rid the workplace of good employees and to avoid legal obligations. It is pertinent to note as leaders that when bullying happens at the highest levels, its effects are far reaching and those that take place in the Boardrooms actually threaten the productivity of the entire organisation. The typical reactions to workplace related bullying is the survival instinct of ‘flight or fight’ and flight in most cases is the very legitimate and valid response by the victims.
I feel that we need a chemotherapy treatment to this deadly disease in organisations. The continual parcelling of bullying acts under the current labour laws allows the spreading of this cancer as it is often difficult for one to confront a perpetrator head on when still in the job.
Employee Wellness Programs (EWP’s) can be described as employer sponsored services designed to promote and maintain the good health of employees though such programs may differ widely in scope. Although the concept of employee wellness programs may sound like a new phenomenon in organisations a large volume of literature on EWP heralded its development and implementation. In the first world, EWPs came into being because organisations were realising steep increases in health costs.
However, in our own context, EWP’s have taken a different approach. Medical insurance has always been a condition of employment negotiated by employment councils in the Collective Bargaining Agreements. The implementation of these wellness programs was more in line with the W.H.O 1946 requirements which called for a holistic approach to wellness as going beyond absence of diseases to include individuals physical, psychological, social and spiritual health. It is a commonly held notion that wellbeing programs are vital for sustained high performance, productivity and engagement. Organisations offering these programs in Zimbabwe do content that intangible assets such as culture, skills competence motivation and social interaction between people and teams are increasingly being seen as sources of strength and enhancing performance, while culture and environment are viewed as having a powerful influence on behaviour. Therefore, adopting the usage of wellness programs helps employee to adopt healthier life styles. Although initially limited to company Executives as a way of increasing their wellbeing, self-image and self-esteem, EWP’s have now become rampant companywide practices.
According to our research, Organisations have come to increasingly realise that they need to create leisure time to allow employees to recharge themselves psychologically and emotionally which may lead to improved job performance. It is perceived that once talent is there, a high level of wellness also allows employees to perform at their peak. Wellness programs become enablers or drivers of performance which allow employees to also cope with normal stress of life and make the contribution they want to both the work and home. Not only are these limited to reducing illness, but such programs have made employers the employers of choice thereby reducing staff turnover and attracting the best talent. Resultantly we have seen a mushrooming of these entertainment and sports clubs in organisations some even owning Sports clubs the likes of many banks in Zimbabwe.
Another consideration is that Wellness programs are also perceived as team building strategies that increase staff retention and identity. In the NGO sector for example such wellness programs have taken a multipronged approach where employees from the various NGOs come together periodically to compete on a number of games or activities. They usually take place on a particular Friday afternoon with organisations competing against each other. In addition to allowing for networking in the sector, these games are seen as serving both the social, physical and psychological purposes. In this modern environment people have become conscious of the need to keep fit and also the need to break from office work and do other things seen as refreshing. Although there are costs involved like venue hire, start-up costs like uniforms and refreshments for the day, studies done elsewhere have shown that benefits outweigh costs involved.
However, other international studies have shown that no substantive perspectives on the effectiveness of wellness programs exist. In Zimbabwe, the concept has been interchangeably used with social welfare and some organisations have limited these to the prevention, control and management of HIV/AIDS related diseases. These programs have been broadly implemented under the Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Departments which focus on other safety and health issues of employees as well as assessing environmental impacts of organisational operations.
Evidently, there appears to be a shortage of skilled wellness program custodians in organisations some of which have not realised any significant benefits from the wellness programs. In order for wellness programs to impact on organisational success, it has been argued that there is need for a strategic and integrated approach to wellness. Organisations need to ensure that maximum value is added through investing in employee wellness programs which should address identified organisational objectives. There is need for analysis by experts to identify and prioritise issues and the related interventions. Not only should organisations implement these but need to monitor and measure the effectiveness of the implemented programs. The strategy for such programs should be based on a clear and thorough understanding of the health and wellness profile of the organisation.
In conclusion, our view is that organisations have a role to drive the behavioural change critical to the success of wellness programs. Just like in any other change management process, communication, measuring and monitoring of wellness programs impacts should be an integral part of the programs so that such programs can be viewed as value adding otherwise they remain social clubs.
Most leaders know that the ability to effectively match an employee’s skills and personality to a specific job function is a very critical function. More often than not, we have seen that organisations hammer square pegs into round holes which has proved to be very costly to them. Yet, effective deployment of employees is the first step toward realisation of a return on investment especially in this knowledge economy where labour is becoming the fastest growing expense. Employees’ talent is being likened to inventory and having too much or too little of this talent is costly for organisations.
The success of today’s corporates comes from their intellectual and systems capabilities than in their physical assets. The capacity to manage the human intellect and converting it into useful products and service is fast becoming the critical Executive skill of the age. In response to the growing importance of having to link an employee’s skills to the job, some corporate leaders have consistently found themselves failing to answer questions like “What skills do we want for a particular job and relatedly, how do we develop and leverage on it?”
Skills that reside in a person are at four levels, the know what, know how, know why and care why levels. The know what are those skills attained through training, they are essential yes, but on their own are far from being sufficient. The know how move a step further where an employee has to demonstrate ability to translate book learning into effective execution. The know why goes further by wanting to analyse the causal relationships and solve more complex problems and finally the care-why bundle looks at ones will, motivation and adaptability for success. It is important for leaders in corporates to note that it is this jigsaw that determines your organisation’s profitability levels.
The question often posed by many leaders is, “how we do that?” The obvious answer for most corporates seems to lie in recruiting the best. Not really! It is time for corporates to move away from the notion that employees in the workplace will have all the job skills required over the course of their career. This is unrealistic. Employers need to have a stronger involvement in and ownership of skills, and ensure workers are helped to develop and grow their skills by fully utilising them. There are strategic interventions like training needs analysis, which corporates can undertake to identify what skills employees have and also what skills they need. It is also crucial to note that most people do not stay in the same job until they retire. The normal situation is to expose the employee to several jobs in their working life. By so doing, an employee will be able to find a career that is right for them.
However, not only should skills be the determining factor to match one to the job at hand. There are other considerations like cultural fit, job fit, job content and personality which have to be considered together with one’s education, experience and training. In most cases as leaders we are only paying attention to the skills and experience one brings to the interview table. We need to also assess how the employee will fit into these other elements of the organisation. Considerations like job content will also help to determine whether the job at hand will utilise the candidate’s strengths. Without job fit, an employee will never experience much happiness and success as they deserve at work and will never achieve their true potential. Employees who experience job fit are productive, happy and contributing.
We recommend that organizations should always consider the following traits when interviewing to help determine whether candidates have got what it takes to be productive members of your teams. Communication skills: these include a combination of other abilities like listening, writing and speaking. An employee needs to be able to understand where peers, colleagues and strategic partners are coming from and going. Multi skilling: that ability to juggle in all projects of the employer is a highly valued skill. Tomorrow’s workers must be well equipped to juggle in multiple tasks. Employees need to demonstrate enthusiasm and decision-making capabilities. Problem solving is a skill at the centre of creativity and workers with this skill are not just strategic thinkers but stay on tasks. Probe on Integrity: that ability to be true and honest to oneself and others. If one knows their strengths and weaknesses, they are not afraid of making mistakes and accepting responsibility. When recruiting, identify employees who are likely to stand by the old adage ‘honest is the best policy’. Likability is also a critical attribute. Is one warm, friendly and easy going. Assess employees on their ability to bolster any winning line up and as well as their readiness and willingness to become a meaningful part of your organisation.
With this increasing need to match employee’s skills to the job, the role of recruiters in organisations is getting harder and short listing potential candidates for a job does not just end there. There are indeed those other aspects to consider before the final decision is made.
“Manage things…lead people” Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
When one becomes a Manager, do they automatically become a Leader? What does it take for one to become a Manager or a Leader? Can both Management and Leadership be successfully embraced in one person?
In any organization, “Management” and “Leadership” are two terms that are used almost on a daily basis. Our experience suggests that more often than not, the two concepts are used interchangeably and distinction can become somewhat blurred. There is a general misconception amongst many that one can be the other and there seems to be a lack of clarity of the distinction between the two. Although these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, it is important to note that they are distinct. Sustainable organizational success requires a healthy balance between the two concepts.
Management has been defined by many scholars including Henri Fayol, Newman and Summer as well as Peter Drucker as ultimately the formal act of achieving an organization’s objectives through planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling of various resources of the organization including material, financial, time and human resources. A Manager controls systems, resources and standards in an organization in order for the organization to achieve its primary objectives. The focus of management is getting the work done. It also involves adapting the organization to its environment in order to exploit opportunities in the environment. On the other hand John Maxwell defines leadership as the ability to influence others to achieve a common objective. Whereas management is about controlling and directing resources according to established policies and procedures, leadership is about inspiration and influencing people where they voluntarily subscribe to a vision and are intrinsically motivated to achieving it. Although it is desirous that every manager has the ability to influence subordinates, this ability to influence may not necessarily reside in every Manager.
In organizations, being in a position of authority is mistakenly construed as leadership. In any organization a “Manager” is a structural authority role – authority is derived from the structure. Managers are such because they occupy positions of authority. This structural authority emphasizes subordinates, command, control, instruction and compliance to policies and procedures. The focus is on ensuring that the organization’s work and tasks are completed as necessary. However, these tasks are undertaken by employees – people who think and act in their own way.
It is important for any Manager to realize that the way the human resources are managed is totally different from all other resources. Employees require leadership – a competence that Managers should have over and above their primary technical competencies. Leadership is not about commanding, instructions, controlling – it is about followers voluntarily believing and committing to the vision of the leader. It is about the Leader’s ability to sell a concept and getting others to be excited and motivated about it – this creates the relevant team energy that spurs everyone to superior performance. A good Leader has the ability to break down such psychological barriers as “fear” that are brought about by structural authority. This enables employees to relate to the Leader at a level of comfort, ensuring that the necessary trust and confidence is built into the relationship.
We have observed that many Managers, by virtue of occupying positions of authority in an organization, want to think that they are “Leaders”. However a closer analysis shows that there is a lot more to be done in order to transform Managers into Leaders. Being in a position of authority is a good starting point – however that does not automatically define one as a Leader. In many organizations, succession systems primarily focus on technical competence without equipping these Managers with leadership skills which are critical for success in the managerial roles. This has resulted in Managers who “manage things” but fail to lead people. Organizations should do more in terms of developing robust systems for capacitating Managers with leadership skills. For effectiveness, leadership skills should be nurtured way before the person is appointed into the managerial. The ability to influence and inspire cannot entirely be achieved through attending leadership seminars but more importantly through practice in the workplace.
Because management is about authority, control and coordination, it is relatively easy to perform as it is derived from the organization structure. Leadership is however more complex as it requires the Manager to be able to sell a vision to staff, build energy through motivation and be able to continually inspire people to explore their full potential. It inspires people to do more than just the narrow focus of their jobs. Effective leadership enables the integration of individual employees’ aspirations into organizational goals and ensuring achievement of both.
Management is important in terms of achieving the basic objectives of the organization in a disciplined manner but effective leadership drives sustainable superior performance. A balance of the two dimensions is critical for organizational sustainability. What truly distinguishes leadership from management is the ability influence and inspire and not structural power and control.
“Job design is not intuitive, it is a strategic process requiring the leadership to make strategic choices”
How are jobs created in your organization? Does every job in the organization speak to any real business need? Does every job on the organization structure add any real value to the business?
Job design is a process of structuring work and designating specific tasks to individual jobs in a manner that ensures the achievement of organizational objectives. It is a process that seeks to integrate the job responsibilities (actual work to be done), job requirements (competencies required) and rewards (compensation).Job design is a meticulous process that ensures that every job in the organization is ultimately serving to achieve the same vision and mission in a way that meets the needs of the organization and the job holder. This shows that job design cannot be done intuitively where functional heads just decide to create positions without thorough justifications.
There are some fundamental dimensions that underpin the job design process, viz:
1. Organizational need:
3. Job satisfaction:
Addressing these three dimensions is critical before creating any new positions in the organization
Unfortunately in many organizations job design is not meeting these objectives mainly because the creation of jobs is done intuitively. There is rarely any due process that is followed – there is no thorough interrogation and justification of the business need, productivity and job satisfaction dimensions of the job. When Heads of Functions feel work pressure, or there are new functions to be done in the department, the general feeling is that the department is understaffed and the temptation is to create new positions for most. There is rarely a conscious discussion and drive towards work reorganization to account for the changes. Coupled with good lobbying skills, these new positions that are created can quickly be approved by the Managing Director without much interrogation, and recruitment subsequently follows. Our experience shows that in many of these organizations there are a number of jobs that are not “full jobs” – jobs where people are not fully employed in terms of application of their competencies (knowledge, skills and attributes). In these jobs, motivation is usually low because there is no challenge for the employee in terms of capacity and capability – job holders do not have a full day’s work. The employee does not grow in the job because the job is not challenging. The organization is also not optimizing on the capacity and capabilities of its people. Many managers and executives complain about carrying “dead wood” in their departments – it is a result of such practices where jobs are not put to the full design test in order to justify their existence.
When designing jobs in an organization, it should be done in a holistic manner – it should consider the context within which the job will be done as well as the relationships between the new jobs and other jobs existing in the department – how is the creation of a new role going to impact current jobs? These factors are important as they directly impact on performance in the job. The arrangement of tasks in a job has to be done in such a way that optimum performance can be achieved, not only in the job but also in all jobs closely related to the new job. Related tasks have to be combined in order to achieve operational efficiency in the role and in the work process.
It is also important to note that jobs are not static – they need continual review and redesign. As the business operating environment changes and as organizational strategy adapts to these changes, this should also be reflected in jobs within the organization. It is imperative that jobs reflect organizational strategy otherwise the organization will not be able to achieve its objectives.
Such a process ensures that all jobs, at all times, are relevant to the business, they add real value and are motivating and challenging to the individual job holders.