We are firm believers that everyone deserves to work in an environment where they are respected and treated with dignity. Research shows to the contrary though with 60% of people saying they have either witnessed or experienced bullying in the workplace.

Bullying in the workplace is characterised by ACAS as behaviour which is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. such as;

  • Name calling
  • Physical, social or cyber abuse
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Ridicule
  • Threatening behaviours
  • Unwelcome advances
  • Purposeful disruption and prevention of work

Bullying in the workplace more is more often carried out by people in more powerful positions in the company which makes it harder for the employee who is being bullied to report but bullying can take place by individual or groups of employees. It can often be dismissed as a clash of personalities, character building, a leadership style or having been provoked by the victim. However, this isn’t the case, although it can be hard to prove as accusations tend to result in one person’s word against another.

Bulling can be hard to prove as there is no legal definition of what constitutes bullying as the behaviour isn’t illegal until it crosses the line into harassment as defined by the Equality Act 2010. 

This is when it relates to one of nine protected characteristics; age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

“The difference between a bully and a mistake is with the intent: the bully wants to wound, to have power over, to humiliate and destroy.” – Sherry Benson Podolchuck, Ted Talk 2015

If ignored and left to escalate the emotional wellbeing of the victim will suffer, they may start to dread coming into work, they may suffer with stress. The employee may become demotivated and their productivity will decrease. You may find they start to have more sickness absences or even resign.

Reporting bullying in the workplace isn’t easy and is generally a last resort by the victim to get the issue resolved, especially if an employee is reporting a manager or employee senior to them.

If an employee does make a complaint about bullying it should be taken seriously. Investigate the complaint thoroughly and take into consideration all the findings. Informal conversations may be effective if the instigator is not aware of the effect of their actions. Mediation with an impartial third party can help resolve disputes if both parties are willing make a success of the process.

Should informal or grievance approaches not work, as an employer you may decide to take the route of disciplinary action in line with your company disciplinary policy.

How-ever claims of bullying are dealt with, as an employer you have a ‘duty of care’ to all of your employees. If the mutual trust between employer and employee is broken through bullying and harassment at work – then an employee can resign and claim ‘constructive dismissal’, at an Employment Tribunal on the grounds of breach of contract so we would always recommend that you have a robust Company Bullying and Harassment Policy in place so that any claims of bullying in the workplace can be dealt with efficiently.

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