With mediation being the popular first step to handle domestic violence cases, there were arguments as to whether mediation would be a suitable intervention for workplace bullying complaints as well. Both domestic violence and workplace bullying shared similar cycle of repeated events and that they leave the victims somewhat isolated and confused. The main approaches taken by organizations to respond to workplace bullying allegation has been mainly not taking it seriously and hesitant to get involved (Saam, 2010).
However, there continues to be a push on applying mediation as a possible avenue for the alleged aggressor and victims to negotiate and work their conflicts.
When a decision is made to use mediation in a bullying complaint, it is important for a mediator to pay attention toward the contributing factors of bullying in the workplace.
Figure 3 showed the contributing factors of workplace bullying and how they are interrelated in causing and allowing bullying to occur. These include:
1. Organizational Environment.
How the work is organized, the culture of the organization and the nature of the leadership are significantly related towards workplace bullying. Both victims and observers of bullying have reported high levels of role conflict and perceptions of contradictory expectations of the job/task at hand (Zapf, 1999).
2. Social Environment
A group social culture can contribute to predatory bullying when a target is being isolated from the rest of the group because of he/she coming from a different group. Victims of workplace bullying have complained of being stigmatized and find it difficult to connect with the rest of the group when they’re being picked on by one person from the group (Leymann, 1996).
3. Characteristics of Perpetrator and Target
The personality of both the aggressor and the target may contribute to bullying in the workplace. However, the target often does not acknowledge their role of the conflict. The distinction between the aggressor and the target can be tricky to make, with the target being identified as the first one to lodge the complaint (Jenkins, 2011).
In response towards these factors stated above, some of the recommendations for mediators in workplace bullying cases include:
1. Manage the power relationship between the parties
Both parties need to be aware of their rights and are informed on how the mediation process works. Support persons can be brought to help assist the target to not get so intimidated in the process (Jenkins, 2011).
2. Informing both parties that there are other options should mediation fail
Another way to help balance the power differences between the two parties is to inform them that mediation is not final and there is other option s that can be pursued, should mediation failed. In Australia, targets of bullying have the alternative to lodge a formal complaint outside the organization with an external government authority at any time (Jenkins, 2011).
3. Aware of the difference between bullying and other workplace conflicts
Mediators need to work closely with HR professionals, organizational psychologists and other workplace conflict management specialists to deal with bullying within the occupational health, safety and welfare perspective (Jenkins, 2011).
If the determining factors of workplace bullying are not dealt with, there is a strong possibility that the mediation is not going to be successful and there will be no settlement. Figure 3 illustrates a check list that can be used to identify possible systemic problems within the organization that may contribute towards workplace bullying (Jenkins, 2011).
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