David Yamada, who blogs at Minding the Workplace, is a tireless crusader for anti-bullying legislation. He is the author of the model Healthy Workplace Bill and lately has been working in his home state to see if he can shepherd it through the Massachusetts’ legislature. Last Wednesday there was a hearing on the bill.
In a follow up report, David posts today about a question he received from a state legislator about the connections between bullying in schools and bullying in the workplace. You can see his comments at Workplace bullying and school bullying: Ties and parallels.
Although he has some interesting points about behaviors, he doesn’t even mention the most significant connection in my mind. I have long been of the view that legislation against bullying in the schools is laying the foundation for the ultimate success of anti-bullying legislation in the workplace.
Although there are obvious differences between school and the workplace, and perhaps more importantly between students and employees, once it has become accepted that the appropriate tool for controlling bullying behavior is legislation, I am afraid it is only a matter of time before some state decides if it works for the schools, it will also work on the job. How far are we on the school front? According to Bully Police USA, 41 states already have legislation dealing with bullying in the schools.
As I have said repeatedly, it is not that I in any way condone bullying type behavior. I don’t. It is both wrong and bad business. However, it is my strong belief that litigation is too blunt an instrument to deal with behavior that all concede is measured on a continuum from that which is to be expected when humans are involved to that which should be found unacceptable.
Our legal system is good, but my experience in the workplace is that it will be asking far too much for it to try to deal efficiently with a cause of action for bullying, no matter how well crafted the legislation.