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INSIGHT

Whatever you call it, negative workplace behavior is expensive

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

Whether you call it harassment, bullying or something else, negative workplace behavior can be expensive for any business.

Unhappy employees today are also more likely to seek legal recourse against their employers, a fact that even medical office managers should keep in mind. Although the medical field is highly professional, it’s also staffed with human beings who sometimes use bad judgment, have questionable intentions or are even just misunderstand. Combine that with the expanding exposure many organizations face from regulations, legislation or lawsuits, and it’s not an issue I recommend my clients overlook.

In every business setting, bullying and harassment directed at employees by employers has been a courtroom staple for years. Bullying directed at employees by other employees, often ignored as office drama by employers, is also an issue. In fact, the government, the courts and the media are increasingly focused on these issues.

The government and the courts’ position is that employers cannot do too much to protect employees. They can do too little—they can underreact—and that will get them in trouble. But they can’t do too much to protect employees on the job. The government’s expectation is that employers will take a comprehensive approach to providing a completely safe environment for their employees. If the employers cannot or will not do this, they face the wrath and ire of federal and state governments.

If sexuality is involved, it’s called sexual harassment. If sexuality is not involved, it’s just called harassment, but it can be equally serious. The existence of bullying or harassment in the workplace could clearly be labeled a hostile work environment. If it is perpetrated from management to employee, it could even be labeled disparate impact, which is the belief that an employee is subject to greater on the job scrutiny than other employees. In any event, harassment will usually attract the attention of the government, and it’s not the attention management ever wants or needs.

So, how do you prevent it in your workplace?

I suggest starting with a policy forbidding bullying behavior. Reminders, both ongoing and intermittent, follow up that policy. This is followed by mandatory training for all existing and future employees and is capped off by management’s zero tolerance response if it does happen in the workplace.

Part of the response is values based. A values statement could include: “It is not a part of the values of this organization to allow anyone to bully our employees. If it is discovered to exist, it will be dealt with quickly and definitively. Our values are that employees are to be treated with dignity, courtesy, and respect. At our practice, we will hold all employees at all levels accountable to treat all other employees thusly.”

If allegations of violations are found to exist, management must investigate or cause an investigation to occur in a thorough and timely manner. If the allegations are substantiated, then harsh penalties, including written warnings or even terminations, should occur. If the practice does not handle the matter internally, it should expect the matter to be handled externally. And, if these external forces find that the practice underreacted or otherwise allowed the harassment to occur, the practice can expect fines and right to sue letters issued. Trust me, at that point it is not pretty.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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