If you want a job in which you won’t be subjected to workplace bullying, then perhaps the human resources field isn’t for you.
Pamela Babcock, writing for the Society for Human Resource Management’s Safety and Security blog (link here), reports on Dr. Teresa Daniel’s survey of 102 Kentucky HR professionals:
In an online survey of 102 HR professionals in Kentucky, 31.4 percent reported that they had been bullied at work. Behaviors included work interference or sabotage (42.4 percent), verbal abuse (33.3 percent), and offensive conduct such as threats and humiliation or intimidation (24.2 percent).
HR professionals reported being bullied at the same rates as other employees responding to recent surveys. However, an important finding was that over half (54.1 percent) of the bullied participants reported that they felt that the abuse was related to their role as an HR practitioner.
Why is this so?
Daniel then asked targeted individuals why they believed they were being bullied:
In follow-up interviews, 28 participants offered the following explanations as to why they felt HR is a target for bullying:
- HR must often tell managers “no.”
- The role is not fully appreciated and/or understood.
- HR is perceived by some as lacking business knowledge.
- HR practitioners sometimes lack professional credentials, education or “organizational fit.”
- Insecure managers might see competent HR professionals as a threat.
Babcock’s article closes with useful recommendations from Daniel and survey respondents on how HR professionals can deal with these situations.
Caught in the middle
As this survey confirms, when HR practitioners disagree with the wishes or decisions of senior management, they sometimes pay the consequences.
This especially may be the case when HR disagrees with management on personnel matters, and it can lead to being bullied. In a blog post titled “Can an ethical HR officer survive at a bad company?,” I concluded:
For HR practitioners who see their role solely as an extension of upper-level management, questions of how to treat the rank & file are easy to resolve: Go with what the bosses want, even if it means that someone gets screwed over or unethical behavior is swept under the rug. In cases of workplace bullying or sexual harassment, we know what this usually means.
Conscientious HR practitioners, however, face a dilemma when management philosophy and practice run squarely into the ethical treatment of workers. If they antagonize their bosses by doing the right thing, they, too, may find themselves on the firing line.