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Enforcing anti-bullying in the workplace starts with top execs


Taking a corporate stance against bullying is a message that should be communicated from a company's highest echelon, experts say.

Bullying “is about power, and it tends to be individualized and motivated by the makeup of that particular supervisor and manager,” said Tamsen L. Leachman, a shareholder with law firm Littler Mendelson in Portland, Ore.

As a result, making it a priority at the top corporate level, including incorporating anti-bullying language into firms' mission statements, is critical, she said.

Organizations should establish a zero-tolerance policy, as well as identify what bullying is, determine how they will react to incidents of bullying, and create an investigative process to deal with such incidents, said Sean Ahrens, Chicago-based practice leader for Aon Group Consulting.

Susan K. Lessack, a partner with law firm Pepper Hamilton L.L.P. in Berwyn, Pa., said there should be a way for employees who feel they have been treated unfairly or bullied to be heard, but also a way for employers to address employees' concerns “before they escalate.”

“Hold everyone who violates the policy accountable” and do not permit exceptions, said Gary Namie, national director of the Bellingham, Wash.-based Workplace Bullying Institute. “As soon as you start allowing for exceptions, it allows the bullies of the world to flourish.”

“The big picture is to create a dignified work environment,” said David C. Yamada, a professor at Suffolk University Law School and director of the New Workplace Institute, both in Boston.

“Create a work environment in which people can communicate honestly and in which people are treated fairly.”