A House Divided

©2012 Gail Pursell Elliott

Lately there have been more incidents of school shootings, so it was a difficult choice for me to write about something other than the educational workplace. However the topic of my article this month involves something that exists in any workplace as well as among our youth and in other social environments.  This is called factionalism. During a fever pitched political year there are opportunities to see this in many environments.  In fact, some of the Founding Fathers of our country addressed factions in the Federalist Papers, warning that this could result in the dismantling of the government.  Factionalism also can result in the dismantling of an organization. 

When I gave my first presentation on Mobbing to a group of health care human resources professionals in March of 1999, the key question they asked was about how this would impact them.  Specifically the statement was that the impact on the individual was sad but how would this impact the organization.  As mobbing is an organizational dynamic rather than an isolated conflict, I thought it might be helpful to write about just what this human resources director asked me so long ago.  There are of course many financial issues that result from mobbing and bullying in the workplace.  High turnover and the costs of recruiting and hiring new staff to say nothing of overtime associated with filling the gaps as well as the loss of morale during this single process is one obvious cost.  When an organization has in good faith canvassed employees to determine the mobbing/bullying climate using a tool such as the sample questions I provided in a previous article, what is the next step once the results are in? What is the investment in doing something about data other than tabulating and becoming more cognizant of certain behaviors?

Since an organization is made up of people rather than processes and equipment, it takes more than just human resources or risk management or even upper management to resolve the organizational situation.  These professionals certainly must lead the way but cannot fix situations alone.  Often factionalism has already occurred within the employee base and possibly the management level. This must be addressed in order to bring everyone on board and to create a sense of ownership and personal responsibility on the part of each staff member.  When mobbing has infected an organization and has been successful it fosters both a sense of arrogance and anarchy among those who have participated and begins to migrate from one area to another.  If you determine that perhaps only one department really seems to have an issue and you address and resolve the situation, do not be surprised if it appears in a completely different department later.  People watch and learn. 

Here is an outline I have used with my clients that has proven to be effective.  It is important that everyone in management is on board with this as they are to set the example for others.

  1.  A policy stating that people, whether employees, clients or the public, should all be treated with dignity and respect. 
  2. An addendum to the sexual harassment policy addressing general harassment.
  3. Introducing the policies to staff through educational training sessions that emphasize the benefits of these policies to them rather than the prohibitions.
  4. Having clear lines of communication and recourse for those who may observe or experience mobbing or bullying.
  5. Determining a course of action for intercept and correction based on education rather than punishment.

When factions are present as a result of mobbing, they have sprung up either as protection against another faction or as an aggressive mobbing faction.  When the situation has been recognized, named and addressed it will take some time for these factions to trust organizational leadership to follow through with the plan on a consistent basis.  Understand that these factions have formed their own powerbase and may be reluctant to relinquish what they have built.  Ultimately the health of the organization, the ability for departmental areas and groups of employees to work together toward the goals of the organization rather than focusing on counterproductive issues, is at stake.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Gail Pursell Elliott, “The Dignity and Respect Lady”, has over 20 years experience in middle and upper management, founded Innovations “Training With A Can-Do Attitude” in 1998, and is author of several books including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse and co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace.  Her weekly Food for Thought is read by people around the world.  Gail trains employees for corporations, associations and universities, designs sessions upon request to address specific needs and timely issues, and is a featured speaker at conferences as well as a sought after media expert on workplace and school violence.  Gail has been a guest on such programs as MSNBC’s Deborah Norville Tonight, ABC World News NOW television programs and the Workplace Violence Today program on talk radio. 

Contact Gail through her website:  http://www.innovations-training.com


4 comments on “A House Divided

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