It seems that many organisations are still experiencing workplace behavioural problems and trying to solve them internally, especially in the public sector. There is still a strong belief that such behaviour can a) be contained, with the protagonists not taking formal action or b) that any such problems can and should be dealt with by 'the system'.
Whilst many cases may just 'go away', we have found that internally activated investigations really are not as unbiased as the organisations would have those involved believe.
Working with http://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/ we find that many aggrieved parties find no consolation or conclusion when internal 'solutions' are applied.
So, what is the problem. Well each case has its own circumstances but in many instances the problem lies at the level of First Line Management. Why is this? We feel that first line managers, especially where they are in technical or specialist areas, for example, Nurses, are well trained in those areas but not trained to look for the symptoms of behavioural issues.
As examples we believe managers should be taught to:
a) Just look at the history in the department of those that have strong personalities and those that are more introverted and to keep a weather eye out for abnormal interactions.
b) Where voices are being raised to quickly step in and take action and 'nip in the bud' small issues before they have a chance to fester and become major time consuming and costly problems.
Easy to say from this distance perhaps but the problem for the manager is 'How do you step in and What do you say?' Simply something as soft as 'Susie could I have a word please' in a quite normal tone of voice is effective. It breaks the conversation, and the issue breaks down. It takes Susie away from Bill. Both think the interruption is over normal work issues. The manager then says to Susie out of earshot of Bill, 'What was all that about?' and finds out one side of the issue. The manager then repeats the action with Bill out of Susie's earshot to find out the other side of the problem.
The manager then has to decide what to do. Either s/he can implement a solution from his/her own experience in which case s/he does so, or needs HR support if the issue is not straightforward. At this point the first line manager has either cleared up the issue or passed it to HR to clear it up and s/he can return to running his/her department.
Very easy solutions like this can be implemented by short training sessions for the line manager which would reduce the chance of costly and time consuming litigation.