How to Prevent and Tackle Workplace Bullying

Published November 17 2020

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Workplace bullying can have a detrimental and long-lasting effect on those who experience it as well as impacting the organisation itself. Where bullying occurs, organisations may experience higher staff turnover, increased levels of absence, and reduced productivity due to negative workplace culture.

We deliver information and advice on all forms of workplace bullying and harassment

But the good news is that employers can take steps to prevent and tackle workplace bullying, whether employees are physically attending the workplace or are working remotely.

Your management team could benefit by following the steps outlined below.


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What is workplace bullying?

Make sure managers and employees know what bullying is so they can avoid bullying behaviour and recognise it when it does occur.

This is important as unlike harassment and discrimination there is no statutory definition of what bullying is. What your organisation and others may consider to be bullying may not be recognised as such by the person engaging in the conduct.

Whilst bullying can be deliberate it can on occasion be due to someone not recognising their own behaviour, for example seeing repeatedly making someone the unwanted butt of jokes as being just a bit of fun.

Bullying can generally be described as the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others. It’s important that employees and managers are aware that it can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct.

Have a clear anti-bullying policy in place

Have a clear anti-bullying policy in place and make sure this is communicated to all employees and managers.

It’s a good idea to include it as part of a new employee’s induction along with other important workplace policies such as equal opportunities, this ensures that everyone is clear about bullying and the organisation’s stance on it from the outset.

To keep it fresh in employees’ minds, you may wish to remind them of your anti-bullying policy at appropriate intervals.

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Do you need anti-bullying training?

Ensure employees have anti-bullying training and that records are kept of this. Anti-bullying training is often given alongside anti-harassment and equal opportunities training.

Anti-bullying training can help to reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring in the first place, but if it does it can put your organisation in a more robust position when dealing with the conduct.


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Deal with bullying complaints promptly

Make sure any complaints about bullying are dealt with promptly and appropriately.

Generally speaking, this will often involve addressing the matter through a formal grievance procedure and, if there is sufficient evidence to warrant it, following a disciplinary process to take disciplinary action in relation to the ‘bully’.

If a complaint of bullying is raised in your organisation it is always important to seek specific advice on the facts of your situation before taking any action.

It’s important that all those involved are treated fairly and appropriately. Employers should bear in mind that there can be cases where a bullied employee who has two years of service or more is able to argue that they have been constructively unfairly dismissed because of how they were treated.

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