Ending workplace bullying

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Ending workplace bullying

A forty-something employee at the headquarters of internet giant Naver taking his own life has again raised public awareness on the seriousness of workplace bullying. The National Assembly had amended the Labor Guideline Act after the so-called nut tantrum against a flight attendant by the heiress of Korean Air Lines. Two years have passed since the enactment of the law prohibiting mistreatment at workplaces, but the reality has not changed much.

The union of Naver suspects the deceased had suffered from hierarchical mistreatment, and is internally investigating the matter. With such incident taking place at a top IT company, we can imagine how serious and prevalent bullying must be at other workplaces. A survey on 1,000 office workers found that 32.5 percent experienced some form of abuse at work over the past year.

Since the police is investigating the case, who is responsible should be uncovered. Those liable for menacing behaviors must answer for their actions. Naver must not regard the matter as the wrongdoings of certain individuals. Experts point to negligence by management for failing to establish a horizontal organizational culture.

Naver plans to refer the case to the risk management committee comprised of outside directors. But it must not let the case pass by with a promise of compliance to a committee finding or recommendation. A petitioner on the Blue House civilian bulletin pointed out that complacency in organizations continues to generate predators in workplaces, calling for a reexamination of the organization and management to prevent aggressive and uncivil behavior.

Workplace bullying has not improved because the amended law lacks in details. Since there is no protection for internal whistle-blowers, employees cannot easily report abuses. The newly revised Labor Guideline Act will go into effect in October. A company can be fined if it does not change the work setting at the request of a worker in distress or punish those responsible for harassment.

The law still cannot prevent wrongdoing from taking place as it mostly centers on punitive measures. Some also point to different reactions depending on the supervisor from the labor authority. The National Assembly must toughen the law so that the Ministry of Employment and Labor or the Labor Commission must be able to take a stronger role to prevent injustice at workplaces.
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