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Is bullying common in your workplace?
Bullying is normally an action that you associate with children and schools. Interestingly, a report from law firm Slater and Gordon has shown that almost 6 people in 10 have witnessed or suffered bullying at work.
Astonishingly, more than a third of respondents admitted that they had been bullied themselves. The survey of 2,000 British workers continues to show that more than half of those individuals that either witnessed or experienced bullying did nothing about the treatment they had received.
The report goes on to reveal disturbing information about the various bullying behaviours in the workplace, ranging from spreading malicious rumours to verbal abuse and, unfortunately, leading to physical violence in the workplace with an astounding 1 in 20, witnessing physical violence.
At present, the law doesn’t see bullying as unlawful but, under the Equality Act, it does see harassment as being so if the unwanted behaviour is related to a protected characteristic. Furthermore allowing bullying could result in a claim for constructive dismissal.
Employers frequently refer to “workplace banter” as a defence, asserting it to be harmless. However, Employment Tribunals may see reference to “banter” as evidence of bullying or harassment.
What should you do if an employee makes you aware they are being bullied?
- Ensure you have a Bullying & Harassment policy and ensure it’s up to date – QCS provide a Harassment Policy and Procedure and an Anti-Bullying Policy and Procedure
- Speak to the employee to make them aware of the informal and formal approaches to dealing with such matters
- Ask the employee if they wish to deal with the perpetrator directly and informally – as this is often the best approach
- Ask the employee what they want to see as a resolution
- Try to establish how the employee wishes the matter to be dealt with:
a) Things to be left alone
b) To deal with the perpetrator themselves
c) To involve their manager
d) To raise the matter formally
- Provide the employee with some moral support
- Hopefully matters won’t be escalated to the formal approach but if that is what the employee requests, they should be advised to follow the appropriate procedure
Unfortunately, bullying can bring with it additional troubles for employers, higher staff turnover, high absenteeism and poor morale. But worse still, a workplace where bullying is rife can rapidly become a dysfunctional workplace for which the employer can, irrespective of any legal risks, pay a high price.
So take complaints of bullying seriously; the complainant is doing you a favour.
Anita Manfredi of Employer Solutions – QCS Expert HR Contributor