Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying in the Workplace

It goes without saying that we spend a significant amount of our time in the workplace, and whilst we don’t have to love it, we do deserve to feel comfortable. Bullying in the workplace is a very serious issue. A productive work environment should be a place where you feel supported, and employees can work together to achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, bullying is an issue which exists across all ages and spaces and is more common than most people are willing to admit. The free service ACAS has around 200,000 calls about bullying and harassment at work per year. Did you also know…

  • Over a half of people claim to have experienced workplace bullying at some point
  • Around 37% of employees in the UK have suffered bullying
  • 68% of people who witnessed bullying said it was ‘subtle’ (I.e. excluding colleagues from activities)

In this Wurkplace blog we’re going to give you come handy tips and advice on how to deal with this kind of situation and what steps you can take you ensure your work environment is a safe and productive one.


Is It Illegal?

Bullying isn’t illegal; However, some negative behaviours could be harassment. This is an important distinction to make as it could make it illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

According to this act:

“Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”

The protected characteristics are:

  • Age,
  • Sex/ Gender reassignment
  • Sexuality
  • Relationship/Marital status,
  • Pregnancy, maternity/paternity
  • Race
  • Religion, or beliefs
  • Disability

Typically, harassment is usually never a single event but a series of incidents which take place over time; However, it will be very difficult to make a formal complaint, unless you’re being harassed. It will be extremely difficult to make a complaint to an official body.


Employer’s Responsibilities

So, what can you do if this isn’t possible? One thing to consider is that all employers have a duty of care for employees, and this will be explicitly laid out in the company’s policies. Employers should always be taking steps to tackle issues like bullying before they even occur.


If You Are an Employee

  • Revise the company’s policy on workplace behaviour. This will detail the processes on informing supervisors and the actions they can be required to take.
  • Try an informal approach by talking to the person who is bullying you, these things can sometimes be unintentional, and the person might not be aware of the effects of their behavior.
  • Talk to an HR professional, they’ll be able to take steps on your behalf to investigate and resolve the issue.
  • Collect evidence of the occurrences as well as the names of any witnesses. This could prove invaluable if you need to substantiate your claims.
  • Sometimes it might be helpful to find someone to talk to, having a trusted colleague of friend to share your feelings may help minimize the impact bullying can have on your life.
  • Consult your employee handbook for ways you can make an official complaint via the company’s grievance procedures.


If You Are an Employer

As mentioned before, all employers have a duty of care for the wellbeing of employees. If you’re an employer who is concerned about bullying in the workplace, a good policy on accepted behaviour can be a vital tool in helping to deal with this issue. Here are our tips for things every workplace behaviour policy should include:

  • Acknowledgement that bullying & harassment are problems that will not be tolerated
  • Examples of unacceptable behaviour in the workplace
  • A warning that bullying & harassment can lead to disciplinary procedures
  • Steps that will be taken investigate and resolve bullying & harassment
  • Responsibilities of supervisors and managers for employees
  • An assurance of confidentiality
  • The company’s grievance procedures, as well as timescales for action
  • The company’s investigation procedures, including timescales for action
  • The company’s disciplinary procedures, including timescales for action and availability of support
  • Include details on how you’ll implement, review, and monitor the policies.


Consult an HR professional

Regardless of what steps you take, whether you’re the employee or the employer, bullying is not acceptable in any workplace. Talk with an HR representative about the issue regardless of whether it amounts to harassment or not. Consulting with an HR professional is a vital step in dealing with and investigating complaints regarding harassment and bullying.

Not every manager has the specialist set of skills to deal with this kind of situation, and therefore an HR department can be extremely helpful. The definition of bullying can vary greatly depending on who you ask. HR professionals are trained to deal with these situations objectively and sensitively.

If you need any advice, or help putting these policies in place – Contact us on 0330 400 5490, or via our quick contact form. We also provide a great number of training courses for staff development, including in employee relations, communication, anti-harassment, teamworking, and effective delegation.

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