Bullying in the workplace occurs when someone tries to intimidate a colleague, it is subjective so each person may see it differently. Bullying may be obvious or subtle and can be one-on-one or involve a group of people. Employers need to be aware that bullying can take many forms like verbal, cyber or physical abuse.
It is important to be clear on the difference between bullying and harassment. Harassment can be a singular occurrence or prolonged and is classed as discrimination against protected characteristics. Bullying is similar but tends to involve frequent occurrences and is negative behaviour not relating to a specific characteristic.
How does bullying affect the employee
Bullying in the workplace may humiliate and make an employee feel demeaned. Everyone has a different limit to what may be seen as demeaning behaviour so employers have a duty of care to ensure employees feel safe. Examples of how bullying can affect employees:
- Lack of motivation
- Increased absence
All of which could result in resignation and may give rise to constructive dismissal claims.
These issues cost time, money and resources so protecting staff from workplace bullying is in everyone’s best interest.
Examples of bullying that employers should be vigilant of:
- Rumours being spread
- Employees being excluded
- Over the top supervision – micro managing inconsistent with the wider team or business objectives
- Using social media to insult others
Employers may be found liable for bullying in the workplace if they do not have an official bullying and harassment policy. The policy should inform employees of the procedure they should follow if they become the recipient of bullying or harassment.
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