January 14, 2015
The majority (91 percent) of staff polled on bullying at work say their employers do not deal adequately with the problem and over three quarters (78 percent) are reluctant to complain for fear of their job. According to charity Family Lives, the anxiety associated with workplace bullying greatly affects emotional health and wellbeing. Of the 1,500 workers it polled, 73 percent said the bullying was verbal, including threats, whereas 60 percent felt the bullying was social, including being excluded, ignored and isolated. Two thirds (66 percent) of respondents witnessed bullying at work with 43 percent stating they were bullied by their line manager, 38 percent bullied by a colleague and 20 percent bullied by SMT or CEO.
The charity urges employees to establish an organisational culture dedicated to tackling bullying and offers tips on how to address the issue for both employers and employees. Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive said: “The workplace should be an environment of professionalism, respect and courtesy and whilst many employers are committed to establishing a bullying-free zone, it is clear that work still needs to be done”
Respondents to the survey reported that 35 per cent of bullying went on for more than a year, but 78 per cent of respondents feel the financial climate and shortage of jobs is preventing individuals from standing up to workplace bullying, with 48 per cent feeling that they need to continue to just put up with the bullying and 20 per cent being signed off work with stress.
Family Lives’ offers a range of tips for employers who wish to tackle bullying in the workplace:
- Establishing an organisational culture dedicated to tackling bullying must be embedded in the Vision, Values and Aims of your organisation and be readily available via any existing staff handbook or HR resource. A bullying and harassment policy must be implemented and awareness of it widely disseminated via internal communication channels, making it clear that bullying behaviour will not be tolerated and those found guilty face disciplinary procedures.
- Educate employees via induction or awareness days on how to make a formal grievance, who they need to speak to (normally their manager) and what will happen after the incident has been reported.
- Provide examples of ‘bullying behaviour’ via any relevant staff handbook so that all staff are aware of their own behaviour and can take responsibility for it and are able to acknowledge that bullying can be verbal, non-verbal, written or physical.
- Anti-Bullying policies must not be a ‘tick box exercise’ but reflect a real commitment to engendering a positive employee environment that is impartial towards all employees
- Practical next steps include: Training managers to recognise the traits and early signs of potential bullying and harassing behaviour. Encourage them to reflect on their management style as well as that of more forthright, dominant employers.
- Employers and Employees should be encouraged to address issues concerning colleagues displaying possible signs of embryonic bullying behaviour before a situation escalates and becomes difficult for all parties to manage or achieve a workable resolution. While employers should encourage employees who feel they are being bullied to initially inform the offender that their tone or behaviour is unwelcome (by words or by conduct), this is not always possible.
- Ensure employees that all allegations of harassment or bullying will be taken seriously, confidentially and that grievances or complaints of harassment will not be ignored or treated lightly and will be investigated impartially and by external independent mediators if necessary.
The charity also clarifies the legal position for employees experiencing bullying and provides tips on how to deal with the problem. For more details click here.