Bullying and Harassment creates an unhappy and unproductive workplace which can result in poor morale and poor performance. A recent survey sponsored by the TUC found that 1 in 3 employees felt they had been bullied at work and 30% have witnessed bullying in the workplace. Bullying currently causes the loss of 18 million working days every year at a cost of £13.75 billion a year to the UK economy, from sickness related absences, staff turnover and the reduction of productivity. Of course, there’s much more to bullying than just the financial implications, with costs to people’s well-being and mental health being high.
Yet, bullying still isn’t considered a major risk to businesses. How do we get people to listen? How can we get people to fully understand the damage this destructive behaviour does and recognise bullying for the serious problem it is?
There are many different reasons that cause a person to bully another and while we might like to think that no identifiable characteristic would bring unwanted attention, anyone can be bullied at work.
But what about workplace hierarchy? In responding to a CIPD study, 43% of those bullied at work reported that harassment stemmed from a line manager, with 38% saying that it came from colleagues. One in five had suffered bullying from a senior manager or chief executive. With more authority, comes great responsibility, but it can also lessen accountability. Those at the top may feel that they’re simply too indispensable to be reprimanded, or their position means that people may not report the abuse.
Bullying affects the overall “health” of an organisation and there is a need for change. A company’s people are its most important asset and bullying is an issue that not only affects the individual being bullied. It also affects the manager that is dealing with the issue and the entire staff team and working environment. It is important to challenge unacceptable behaviour in the workplace as an “unhealthy” workplace can have many detrimental effects, including:
In unhealthy work environments that allow bullying behaviour to happen, the problem can be inherent in the work culture. If intimidation or harassment becomes part of the culture, it sets a dangerous example. In the workplace so many excuses are made for this unacceptable behaviour ranging from ‘it’s just his robust management style’ to ‘it’s just a bit of banter’.
Fostering a culture that is free from bullying behaviour is vital and needs to come from the top down. Management commitment is the most important component of preventing bullying in the workplace and is best demonstrated through a robust policy structure which is communicated to all staff.
Bullying and harassment can be verbal, non verbal, written, or physical so your policy should be comprehensive and one that covers a range of incidents, from bullying and harassment to physical violence. Bullying and harassment are not only unacceptable on moral grounds but may, if ignored or badly handled, create serious problems for an organisation. Your policy needs to make it clear that this type of behaviour is considered a gross misconduct and those found guilty will be dismissed.
It is important that Boards, Directors and Senior Management are vigilant and put in place constant monitoring procedures to ensure their employees are protected. They need to ask themselves what steps are being taken to ensure a caring, respectful culture is embedded within their organisation. Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment and they’re liable for any harassment suffered by their employees.
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Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. Of course, bullying is a form of harassment. Bullying and harassment means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others and may happen in the workplace without an employer’s awareness.
Bullying or harassment can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It can often be hard to recognise – symptoms may not be obvious to others and may be insidious. It can also occur in written communications, by phone or through email, not just face-to-face.
Bullying itself isn’t against the law, but harassment is. Examples of bullying / harassing behaviour could include:
Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is unwanted conduct which is related to one of the following: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation and is therefore unlawful.
People do not always feel able or confident enough to complain, particularly if the harasser is a manager or senior member of staff. Sometimes they will simply resign. It is therefore very important for employers to ensure that staff are aware of options available to them to deal with potential bullying or harassment, and that these remain confidential.
Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment and they are liable for any harassment suffered by their employees.
Anti-bullying and harassment policies and training can help prevent problems and help create a happy, friendly and respectful working environment. Please click here to view our training.