Spotting the bullies

A couple of weeks ago it was national Anti-bullying week and children around the country are wearing odd socks and celebrating what makes them, and others, unique and why it’s important to be able to be themselves without fear of bullying. The tagline is ‘All Different, All Equal’ and it’s heartening to see such a progressive attitude towards the prevention of bullying amongst our younger people.

So why then do over 91% of employees report that that their employer did not deal with the consequences of social bullying at work?*

Creating a safe space in the workplace is without doubt a hygiene factor. Employers have a legal duty to promote a safe, healthy and fair environment in which people can work together. And it can directly hit your bottom line too. The consequences of social bullying can cause a direct impact on employee productivity and performance. So surely it’s a false economy to ignore workplace bullying?

Employers may not even be aware that a colleague is feeling alienated or harassed. So along with looking for visible signs of stress, it is important for line managers to pay attention to workplace interactions, working relationships between staff and areas of possible conflict. And if you did identify a bullying situation, do you have a policy for dealing with it?

So, what is social bullying?

Social exclusion or social bullying is a more subtle form of bullying such as

  • being excluded,
  • feeling isolated or ignored by their colleagues
  • unacceptable criticisms or an overbearing management style

In many cases, social exclusion can be tackled with a quiet conversation between both parties, however, employers should always have a structured conflict management strategy in place.

Whilst bullying itself isn’t against the law, harassment certainly is. Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is unwanted behaviour related to either:

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender (including gender reassignment)
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race, religion or belief
  • sexual orientation

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on or regularly undermining someone
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

Bullying and harassment can take many forms; it can be face-to-face, by letter, by email/social media by phone, text or messaging services. Harassment at work can cause enormous distress for all parties concerned and result in costly and protracted legal action as well as lost productivity.

Schools and Headteachers nationwide have embraced a culture of inclusivity because statistics bear out that fact that children who feel safe and supported, thrive, learn and achieve more educational success than those that don’t. It’s a simple and unsurprising fact. Apply that same principle in the workplace, and consider how you can leverage your organisational culture to drive employee satisfaction and productivity. It might just give your business that crucial bit of edge over the competition.

If you would like to discuss organisational culture, need support and guidance on dealing with workplace bullying or if you would like me to draft a policy to deal with bullying and harassment at work, drop me a line or give me a call now on 01280 848415.

*CIPD