In recognition of Anti-Bullying week (14-18 November 2022), we are shining a spotlight on workplace bullying and provide guidance on how to best eliminate this destructive behaviour from our workplaces.
What Is Workplace Bullying?
While there is no legal definition of workplace bullying, ACAS defines bullying as: unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either:
- offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting
- an abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates or causes physical or emotional harm to someone
Although this is not an exhaustive list, workplace bullying includes:
- gossiping and spreading rumours
- ignoring or excluding others
- making insulting, offensive and inappropriate comments or ‘jokes’
- setting unrealistic deadlines and unattainable tasks
- withholding information and undermining others
- denying someone promotion or training opportunities
In the event that bullying in the workplace is linked to a protected characteristic (as defined in the Equality Act, i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, disability, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation), it may constitute harassment, and will therefore be protected and addressed in terms of discrimination law.
What Is the Impact of Workplace Bullying?
- Increase in mental health concerns.
- A toxic workplace culture.
- High staff turnover and inability to attract new staff and talent.
- Increase in workplace disputes and litigation costs.
How Can employers Prevent Bullying in the Workplace?
- Implement anti-bullying and harassment policies and procedures, ensuring that the company culture and working environment is regularly assessed in light of these policies.
- Conduct awareness training for staff in respect of bullying and harassment.
- Ensure that all complaints are addressed and taken seriously. This includes conducting proper workplace investigations.
- Ensure that staff follow applicable internal procedures in order to address bullying and harassment at an early stage.
- In appropriate circumstances, consider using alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, such as workplace mediation.
- Focus on creating positive and inclusive working environments that do not enable or foster a culture of workplace bullying and harassment.