Bullying in the Workplace

This week (15th – 19th November) is Anti-Bullying Week, and the theme for this year is ‘One Kind Word’. Therefore, PACT HR want to raise awareness on how managers can mitigate the risk of bullying in the workplace and encourage a more positive work culture.

How Can Managers Mitigate The Risk Of Bullying In The Workplace

Author: Samantha Stokes, HR Business Partner for PACT HR

Published: 15th November 2021

CIPD research shows that 15% of employees had experienced bullying over the past three years, with 8% reporting harassment and 4% sexual harassment. The findings show how bullying and harassment often overlap and one thing that managers need to know is that although bullying isn’t illegal, harassment is.

Acas guidance defines bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”.

The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment similarly as “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.”

When an employer does not address poor attitude and behaviour amongst their employees they can inadvertently foster a culture of bullying within the organisation. An employer should look out for ‘red flags’ that can often be dismissed as ‘banter’, as an employee on the receiving end of such behaviour can find it extremely difficult to deal with resulting in absences and poor performance.

This type of culture also brings a negative atmosphere which will directly impact on the wider workforce. Not only are there legal risks, but staff morale, business productivity, and employee engagement are also affected.

It is impossible for an employer to guarantee a work environment where bullying or harassment does not happen in the first place. An employer can however, put themselves in a good position by having certain policies and procedures in place to deal with these situations. It is important to note though that this is a reactive action and that the employer should also be proactive in their attempt to influence positive interaction amongst their employees. Keeping with the theme of ‘One Kind Word’, an example of proactive engagement to mitigate the risks of bullying could be the introduction of a ‘peer recognition scheme’. This is low cost but has proven to improve staff morale, productivity, and employee engagement.

What you can do:

  • Be proactive and influence positive behaviour through employee engagement programmes.
  • Foster a workplace culture which is clear to all staff that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated, and that staff making complaints about bullying will be taken seriously.
  • Having robust performance management processes – it is not uncommon for bullying allegations to be made when an employee’s performance is being negatively criticised.
  • Provide adequate training to line managers.
  • Make it clear to employees how to complain if they experience workplace bullying.

What PACT HR can do for you:

  • Provide a range of suitable policies, procedures and guidance.
  • Offer specific and timely advice on the various options available to you.
  • Support with cultural transformation.
  • Provide support with investigations and hearings.
  • Direct you to support by working in partnership with Employee Health and Wellbeing.
  • Provide restorative services such as mediation and conflict resolution via their fully qualified Mediator.
  • Offer a variety of learning and development sessions including bespoke training to support you in addressing the workplace culture.

With all this in mind, over the past year we have experienced isolation at an unprecedented level, and following on from this it is more important than ever to be kind to one another.

Should you require advice/support in relation to any of the above please contact your PACT HR Business Partner for support with help supporting your staff.

For more info on how we can support your colleagues and teams, please contact the PACT HR helpdesk on 01274 436644 or email us at info@pact-hr.co.uk for more details.

Last Updated: 15th November 2021