man pointing at woman

Bullying in the workplace is an issue that we are hearing more and more about especially as it gets more media coverage.  In some cases managers dismiss accusations around bullying as simply personality or management-style clashes, whilst others may recognise the problem but lack the confidence or skills to deal with it.  Often managers just move staff around, rather than investigating and dealing with the problem behaviour. Worryingly presumptions are being made without thorough investigation and allegations of bullying or harassment ignored in the hope that the issue will die down or go away in time.

Doing nothing is not the answer!  Although there is currently no automatic channel through the employment tribunals to claim specifically for bullying or harassment, there is nothing to prevent an employee making a civil claim through the courts.  In any case, in-action or poor action could lead to a resignation which could ultimately end up as a tribunal claim for constructive unfair dismissal.  In addition if an employee were to assert bullying or harassment as a result of a protected characteristic (ie on the grounds of age, race, colour, religion, disability, pregnancy/maternity, asserting a statutory right, etc etc) this may give them a valid discrimination claim.

The conciliation service, ACAS has said businesses need to take the issue much more seriously and to improve anti-bullying policies following a consultation paper. This is where Alcumus can help you not only draft new policies and guidelines but also to review what you currently have in place and to provide training/support for your line managers on how to tackle these problems and to try to nip issues in the bud before they escalate.

Bullying is on the rise in the UK and ACAS announced it has received around 20,000 calls about harassment and bullying at work over the last year, with some horrific incidents of humiliation, ostracism, verbal and physical abuse leading to some callers  even considering committing suicide.

Bullying is traditionally recognised as overt shouting or intimidatory behaviour but it can be very insidious and discreet, taking many forms. And be aware that it does include behaviour that takes place out of work if it impacts on work or the employment.  Analysis shows that bullying is more common in certain categories ie downwards from senior to more junior members of staff; towards women in traditionally male-dominated occupations; towards workers with disabilities and health problems and towards lesbian, gay and transgender employees.  Some behaviours to look out for are:-

  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Insulting someone by word or behaviour
  • Copying memos that are critical about someone to others who do not need to know
  • Ridiculing or demeaning someone
  • Picking on someone
  • Setting someone up to fail
  • Exclusion, ignoring someone
  • Victimisation
  • Overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position
  • Unwelcome sexual advances (touching, standing too close)
  • Display of offensive material
  • Making threats or comments about job security without foundation
  • Deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism
  • Preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities

Yes it’s a minefield but our team are dealing with these sorts of challenges every day and have built up a wealth of experience in trying to resolve the challenges that cause our clients the biggest headaches.  Contact your consultant or the Alcumus HR Consultancy team on 01484 439930 to discuss any concerns you may have or any training needs – we will be happy to help.