Long gone are the days when we might have jumped to the assumption that an incident of bullying was the preserve of the playground.
Recent years have seen a huge rise in the number of allegations of bullying in a professional setting, and as we well know from the current news commentary, the matter of bullying can rear its head in landscapes as diverse as the corridors of political power, to none other than the royal household.
While no manager would ever want to find themselves witnessing allegations of this nature ‘on their watch’, it’s worth acknowledging that whether a company is large or small, has staff working alongside each other or remotely, or has an exemplary record for historic employee retention, situations can, and do, arise.
Bullying means different things to different people, so managers should be continually mindful that their employee might feel they have grounds to cite an issue if, for example:
- They feel disrespected;
- They consider themselves to have been humiliated; and /or
- They have been made to feel fearful or sad.
The range of specific allegations could be as broad as being given excessive workloads with unattainable deadlines, to being repeatedly ridiculed, shamed or overlooked.
As a top priority, a manager alerted to a scenario of bullying should immediately jump to thoughts of establishing facts, while remaining fair to all parties.
The goal is to discover whether there is indeed a case to answer, and then following a clear procedure to make sure the matter is documented and fully resolved (in whatever direction).
Speed is absolutely of the essence in the case of any allegation.
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For all concerned, it is right and appropriate that the individuals and organisation will all wish to see matters explored and concluded without delay. The manager will therefore want to ensure that resources allow for this to happen.
Of course, allegations and human behaviour are complex, so it’s fair to say that one of the biggest issues for a business is where a bullying accusation is made, but there appears to be little outright ‘proof’.
It should be made plain, therefore, that it is NOT actually upon the person complaining to 100% prove that they were bullied, and in what way.
Instead, it is on the business to be able to evidence whether the bullying was indeed probable or otherwise.
It’s for exactly these reasons that leaders of business should always pay due attention to having appropriate policies and procedures in place, which set out the commitment to a culture free of bullying or harassment in any form.
At the same time, it helps for a company to have a clear system for reporting concerns or specific allegations.
We would always recommend a conversation with our highly experienced team about putting such policies in place, or indeed, looking at the likes of ACAS for further information.
Here, in the meantime, are five key points with regards bullying and the workplace:
- Having an anti-bullying policy and a clear whistleblowing process are important preventative and safeguarding steps for any organisation;
- Allegations should be handled with speed, and maintaining complete fairness throughout;
- Bullying means different things to different people, however ultimately relates to someone feeling uncomfortable with their treatment by an individual or culture;
- Never underestimate the importance of thorough HR and legal advice. This is not an area to ‘guess’ your way through; and
- Remember it is not necessary for the complainant to 100% prove they have been bullied.
For more advice or support from our team, or to arrange a bespoke webinar session to build the confidence and capability of your management team, contact us on 01473 360160.