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Bullying at work: A growing issue

The problem of bullying at work has become a hot topic recently. And it is an issue that workplaces all across the country are struggling with. Newspaper reports at the end of 2017 indicated that even our best-established and most high profile institutions have not escaped the workplace bullying phenomenon, as one in five Westminster staff say they have been bullied.

What is bullying at work?

Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work. However, offices and work environments can be stressful and high pressure and sometimes the way that relationships unfold can be difficult for one of the parties involved. Bullying at work can take many different forms – unfortunately, it is not something that we leave behind in the school playground. Bullying could be many things, from name calling to physical abuse or even cyber bullying via social media.

Why is bullying sometimes easy to miss?

Many workplaces have a tendency to just look for ways in which to force everyone to “get on.” Sometimes problems between individuals may be written off as “a clash of personalities” or bullying behaviour attributed to a particular kind of management or leadership style. Victims are often blamed or regarded as provoking the bullying behaviour. Finally, many workplaces are still stuck in the idea that rough treatment is somehow “character building.” The reality is that negative remarks, intimidation, belittling or overly aggressive management don’t have any positive impact on the individual it is directed at – or on the broader workplace, particularly if it is allowed to continue. Where there is bullying at work it is important to have some kind of system in place to help prevent this from escalating or becoming an ingrained part of the business culture.

Taking steps to deal with bullying at work

Although bullying is not illegal, if the behaviour amounts to harassment then this could lead to a claim under the Equality Act 2010. This, plus the negative impact that bullying tends to have on an entire team, even those who are not the target, means that it’s important for every business to ensure that there is a process in place to deal with bullying at work. There are multiple elements to handling workplace bullying, including understanding why bullying happens and what motivates someone to bully. For those businesses looking to get to grips with workplace bullying it is important to look at the following:
  • Defining and dealing with difficult behaviour – being able to identify bullying behaviour is the first step towards dealing with the issue
  • Management and leadership styles – where might these cross the line into bullying?
  • Communication styles – changing communication styles can lead to better understanding between individuals
  • Organisational culture – bullying can become endemic in the business culture, even by accident
  • Organisational policy and strategy – policies are key to ensuring that bullying is dealt with quickly and does not escalate to harassment levels
The PTP Managing Bullying at Work course deals with all of the above, helping organisations to recognise and deal with workplace bullying and find constructive ways to move forward where problems have arisen.