Do you know how to deal with bullying in your workplace?

Wednesday November 16, 2022

As yet another minister resigns over allegations of bullying, it probably leaves you believing that the culture in parliament must be toxic.

Most businesses would be rightly horrified if they learned that someone in their team was being accused of bullying. Sadly though, bullying is not the prerogative of the school playground or the corridors of Westminster – it happens all too frequently everywhere.

What behaviour is classed as bullying?

Although there is no legal definition, bullying is behaviour that is intimidating, offensive, malicious or insulting. This behaviour can cause people to feel undermined or humiliated and can sometimes even lead to physical harm.

Examples of workplace bullying could be:

  • Spreading rumours
  • Regularly undermining or picking on someone
  • Denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities
  • Passive-aggressive comments or insults
  • Constant unfair criticism or blame
  • Isolating or exclusion of another employee
  • Making impossible demands or deadlines
  • Aggressive verbal or non-verbal communication

Bullying could be a regular pattern of behaviour or a one-off incident. It is not always obvious or noticed by others.

This behaviour can be face-to-face, or via letter, email or phone.

Technically, bullying isn’t illegal, but harassment is; especially when it’s related to the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010.

What are your responsibilities as an employer?

As an employer you have an obligation to look after the health and well-being of your staff.

Taking a critical look at the behaviours of all your managers may uncover problems that you have not seen before. When does strong management turn into bullying and banter become harassment? Setting a zero tolerance culture backed up by a clear and unequivocal bullying and harassment policy is a start, followed by training for all managers.

Your policy should make clear that any instances must be reported, but to who? If their line manager is the one bullying, there needs to be an alternative so that a full investigation can take place.

How does bullying affect your business?

It is important for SMEs to recognise and deal with bullying accordingly.

Employee mental health can be affected, which can negatively impact them and your business if they are suffering. Anxiety and depression could lead to poor performance and absenteeism.

Unaddressed bullying could affect retention too, because if the problem isn’t dealt with your employees may decide to leave. This in turn could affect your company’s reputation and be an obstacle to attracting new talent.

The HR Dept can help

This week is anti-bullying week which is the perfect time to review your policy and organise training for staff to demonstrate your commitment to a safe workplace.

The HR Dept, as always, is here to help.

Preventing People Problems

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