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How can bullying and harassment be more effectively tackled?

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

As I recollect it it started in New York as a radical approach to crime and crime prevention. The idea was to divert resources and time to tackling petty crime, vandalism and graffiti in the belief that if pride could be returned to a neighbourhood crime including serious crime, robbery, assault and even murder would be reduced.

So if a building was unoccupied it should not be allowed to become vandalised, graffiti should be removed as soon as it appeared, broken widows fixed the next day,  litter patrols increased, street lighting improved.  This it was claimed was more effective in poor neighbourhoods that deploying more police officers or investing more to improve detection rates. It worked. The idea was copied and influenced  policing in  inner city neighbourhoods here in the UK and world wide.

They called it zero tolerance. The idea that you didn’t let any thing go because once you did then a climate of anti social behaviour, thoughtlessness and disrespect grew in which other types of more serious and damaging criminal behaviour became if not the norm then more common.

I was thinking about zero tolerance in relation to organisation tackling bullying and harassment. The idea that if rudeness and discourtesy went unchallenged, if unprofessional behaviour was ignored, if managers lack respect and compassion for their staff then a climate of disrespect could all to easily lead to management bullying , sexual harassment, homophobic bullying and Islamophobia. Within  an organisation with such a  culture, combined with high workloads and poor leadership, whistleblowing policies, grievance procedures and training are unlikely to be effective.

Victims of bully and harassment can’t and must not be left to speak out. Leaders and colleagues must establish a zero tolerance of rudeness and disrespect. To continue the crime prevention analogy the workplace must adopt a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in which colleagues look out for each other. They must be willing to challenge informally at first and if necessary formerly. Otherwise bullying and harassment will become /remain part of the organisations culture.

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