WINN takes the view that people come to organizations as whole beings. People do not leave their problems at the doorsteps of the workplace. Employers get to take an employee as they get them filled with the good, bad and the ugly. WINN’s theory is that virtually every socially traumatic experience can affect an employee’s performance.
School-yard bullying is one experience that parents would prefer not to have. Many parents are traumatized upon learning that her or his child is the victim of school-yard bullying. School yard bullying has become a hot and protracted social issue.
In this article, WINN examines the productivity impact upon parents’ who learn that their child is a victim of school-yard bullying. WINN recently caught with LA, a long-time human resource professional who works in Birmingham, England, and talked to her about this subject. The interview with LA is reproduced in its entirety below.
- For how long have you been involved in Human Resources?
- I have been involved in Human Resources for 22 years in the workplace as a manager. My involvement in Human Resources started as an office manager. Since then I have played various roles in HR across a variety of industries. I have been fortunate enough to have managed several HR-related matters and processes.
- Do you have children?
- I have 1 child, a boy. He is age 5. He is bi-racial and a real cutie.
- Has you child ever experienced school-yard bullying?
- Yes. My child has already been bullied. He is at such a young age. Yet he has already been bullied. Some of the bullying that he has experienced have been related to his race. It is awful the kinds of things that have happened
- I understand that your boy has been bullied by girls who find him attractive, is that true?
- Yes. A common misconception is that boys can’t be bullied by girls. My boy has been the victim of bullying by a young girl who thinks he is attractive. She insists that he should want to be around to play with her and like her. She smacked him in the face a few times. I have taught him how to be gentle and so he does not defend himself with her. He does not retaliate.
- How has your child’s bullying affected you at work?
- The bullying has really affected me because we all want to protect our children and teach them the right balance in sticking up for themselves too. I am constantly fielding calls from the schools during working hours. I am sometimes required to take time off work to go deal with this issue at the school. Then school’s response to the issue is often quite disgusting. School officials tend not to take it seriously because the complaint is about a girl victimizing a boy. I have found it very upsetting and have felt very angered by it. I am sometimes distracted at work and sometimes I do drift off as I worry about my son and how his day is going at school. I am constantly wondering if any more bullying is happening and whether he is reporting it. I am pre-occupied with it because I want him to be listened to. On a positive note, these experiences make you more aware of my colleagues’ behaviour in the workplace and some of their bullying tactics too and how it could be affecting the person(s) they are bullying. My son’s experiences as a victim of bullying have helped me become more aware of similar behaviour in the workplace by co-workers.
- Does the bullying of your child impacts on your productivity at work?
- Absolutely, it has. I am frequently distracted. In the midst of a bullying episode, it is difficult to concentrate. My mind is sometimes absent from work because I am always worried about my child’s well-being. I am so worked up sometimes because I have to fight with school officials who seek to minimize the events and are often biased in the way they view and interpret the events. Getting back to normal after one of these episodes is difficult. Of course, these types of incidents are quite emotional.
- In the establishments in which you have worked in the HR function, how has the organization attempted to deal with the work-related effect of school-yard bullyingl?
- It is often very difficult to talk about this type of issue in the workplace. Some managers do not understand the emotional dimension of this issue. Of course, there is a gender dimension to the issue because women are often the ones responsible for child rearing. Women are also seen to be more emotional. So, I can see how in some workplaces it may be difficult for women to be open with their supervisors about what is going on in their families. It is particularly difficult for single parents to raise these issues in the workplace because there is the constant fear that they may lose their jobs. Having said that, I do not think HR needs to get involved unless the matter leads to investigatory meetings, unless the parent of a bullied child chooses to approach HR and seek help. I think the individual’s line manager should be the first point of call in the process and try and deal with the matter having meetings, if necessary, with all concerned and the meetings noted and signed for and then depending of the outcome of those meetings, whether it needs to progress further through the company’s HR process.
- How do you think HR professionals should respond when they become aware that school-yard bullying of a child is affecting the parent’s performance at work?
HR professionals, line supervisors and managers can and should remain observant about changes in people’s behaviour. After becoming aware that a child of an employee is being bullied there are a range of activities that can be undertaken. Ask the affected staff member to identify the ways in which the organization can maximize its support. It is important that parent of bullied children receive organizational and line managers’ support. At the very least organizations should have a confidential process for employees to disclose their struggles and have some form of a coach to help get through any productivity issues that may arise. While smaller organizations may not have the luxury of a coach to work with an affected parent, managers nevertheless should be responsive and be prepared to have frank discussions about productivity and other work-related spin off associated with school-yard bullying. Line managers and others should work through strategies to help the employee cope. I also think that HR professionals should advise all staff, management and non-management that school-yard bullying can have traumatic consequences on parents of the victims as well as those of the perpetrators.