Does Your Organisation Properly Tackle Workplace Bullying?

BlogHR Advice Posted: Tuesday 11th October 2016 by

A recent poll by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development found that 91% of workers felt their organisation did not deal with bullying at work adequately. Combined with statistics from TUC who report that nearly one third of people have been bullied at work, and more than one in three of those subsequently leave their job, it paints a worrying picture about the inability of organisations to properly tackle bullying.

The effects on an organisation of workplace bullying are wide and varied – the threat of legal action, damage to company reputation and potential unlimited compensation costs is first and foremost in most employers’ minds. Add to this poor employee engagement and relations, declining performance and productivity, absences, and resignation.

How can you protect your workers and your organisation from workplace bullying?

Acas defines bullying as characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. It can happen face-to-face, by letter, email, or phone, and whilst it is often obvious, may take the form of more insidious interactions.

It’s important to remember that bullying itself isn’t against the law, but harassment is. This is when unwanted behaviour is related to age, sex, disability, gender, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation. Remember, the complainant doesn’t need to possess the relevant characteristic themselves, but may be wrongly perceived to have one, or associate with an individual with one.

Workplace Policy & Procedures

A strong policy and workable procedures are key to managing workplace bullying and harassment issues. The policy should include a statement of commitment from senior management, making clear that it is unlawful, will not be tolerated and may be treated as a disciplinary offence. It should provide examples of unacceptable behaviour, outline prevention steps the organisation takes, and responsibilities of supervisory staff.

It should define formal and informal grievance procedures, with clear processes for reporting bullying and harassment, information on investigation procedures and timelines, disciplinary procedures, and the rights of the employee under the Employee Relations Act 1999, including confidentiality and the right to be accompanied at grievance hearings.

Workplace Culture

Workplace behaviour, attitudes and knowledge are as important as policies and procedures. Managers should be trained in all aspects of the organisation’s policies as well as the company’s expectations, as it is often the behaviour of supervisory employees that drive the culture of an organisation.

Additionally, all staff should be aware of the company’s standards of behaviour. An organisational statement is helpful in ensuring individuals are fully aware of their responsibilities, and what constitutes bullying and harassment. Guidance booklets and training sessions are also useful ways of increasing awareness of the damage bullying and harassment can do to an organisation and individual.

Dealing with Complaints

Employers must take reasonable and proportionate action upon receipt of a complaint of bullying and / or harassment. It should be investigated promptly and objectively with evidence gathered from all relevant sources before a decision is made. Acas recommends asking ‘could what has taken place be reasonably considered to have caused offence?’

Informal Resolution: In some cases, matters may be rectified informally through discussions with the individual about their behaviour and agreement that it will cease. You can offer support from another staff member, a manager, an employee representative or a counsellor, either in-house or via a counselling service.

Mediation: Mediation is a voluntary process where an independent third person finds a solution to the issue that both parties can both agree to. Mediators may be employees trained to act as internal mediators, or from an external mediation provider.

Disciplinary Procedures: If you decide that the matter is a disciplinary issue, it needs to be managed formally according to the organisation’s disciplinary procedure, with a focus on fairness to both the complainant and accused. The Acas Code of Practice sets out principles for handling disciplinary and grievance situations, and employment tribunals are legally required to take the Code into account when considering cases.

Human Results offer expert HR services on retainer, or on a one-off basis to help guide you through the daily challenges of managing your business from a people perspective, including employee engagement, dispute resolution and resolving workplace conflict. We also provide expert leadership development coaching programmes to secure long-term capability within your organisation, and a critical support structure for your leaders.

For more information, call Human Results on 01952 288361 for a no obligation, confidential discussion.


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