The latest edition of Lawyers Weekly includes an article ostensibly about managing bullies in the legal profession written by psychologist, Dr Chris Day. The article provides some general tips, though, that are useful to any of us who need to make decisions refreshingly she reflects two options that I offer to my OHS clients on safety matters that do not include bullying. Dr Day says that any problem can be solved by these actions
- Change the situation…
- Accept the situation…
- Do nothing….”
Leave and change are included in the OHS Hierarchy of Control under different terminology. Doing nothing is advice that few OHS consultants will give but is a strategy that many small businesses apply. Their risk management strategy is to press their luck and in some cases this can work. There are companies that say there has never been an incident in the workplace. This tyranny of probability is the consultant’s worst enemy as the reality may not be contestable. It is like meeting the lifelong cigarette smoker who doesn’t contract lung cancer The exception that breaks the rule.
Dr Day discusses the second strategy in relation to workplace bullying and recommends that one must decide what the changes will head to, “focus on how you think things should look…” This is an important element in any change management but particularly with bullying. Do you want to return to what existed before? Was there a “before”? These questions lead to the culture realm and reinforce the need to know the culture of a workplace and the culture one wants for the workplace. In other words know where you are and where you want to go.
An important part of Dr Day’s advice is to focus on issues one can control or affect. I learnt this a long time ago when arguing politics with housemates. In between the election cycle, politics is in a lull. If one lives in a “safe seat” it is possible to let oneself become divorced from the entire political cycle, at least in a suburban and local context.
Too many OHS consultants try to service the client rather than trying to achieve improvements for the client. Consultants of all trades and achiever of none.
On the issue of bullying specifically, Dr Day provides the following suggestions:
- Avoid counterattacking
- Try to listen to what they say without having a defensive reaction…
- Choose whether it is appropriate to make a fuss….
- Choose one’s words carefully to illicit information
- Be clear about the options that are available