In a survey conducted by BUPA earlier this year 26 per cent of workers said they had experienced bullying in the last three years – a rise of 12 percentage points compared to the number of cases reported in the three years up to 2019. This increase highlights the importance of employers being alert to the issue of bullying.
The survey found that factors behind the increase in bullying included:
- Changes in work levels caused by organisations being forced to adapt to pandemic regulations could be placing employees under pressure, leading to an increase in bullying.
- A lack of clarity over who to turn to when not in a physical office space could allow cases of bullying to go undetected.
- Heightened isolation caused by remote working could lead to exclusion – intentionally or not – as video meetings or instant messages may occur only among certain groups.
With this in mind what steps can employers take to reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring in their organisation? Here’s three top tips:
Tip 1: Ensure employees and managers know what bullying is
Bullying can generally be described as the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another, or others and it can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Unlike other areas such as harassment and discrimination, there is no statutory definition of bullying. This can mean that employees may find it more difficult to recognise when they are engaging in bullying behaviour and managers may not recognise it for what it is when they see it or it is reported to them. It is therefore important that everyone in the organisation is clear about what bullying is and that it is not acceptable.
Having a clear anti-bullying policy in place and providing training to employees and managers can help to reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring and put the organisation in a more robust position to deal with it should it arise. If an organisation has remote workers providing guidance on matters such as the use of video-conferencing platforms, emails and messaging can also be beneficial as can thinking about how the team as a whole can remain connected.
Tip 2: Provide appropriate support to employees
One of the factors identified as contributing to an increase in bullying in the survey was employees being under pressure. It could be that employees in that situation may not realise that in an attempt to ‘get the job done’ they are acting in a bullying way in their dealings with a colleague or it could be that they are taking out their workplace frustrations on someone else.
Ensuring that workloads are kept at a manageable level and providing appropriate support to employees can help to reduce the pressure on employees and the risk of bullying occurring.
Tip 3: Ensure employees know how to report concerns
It’s important that all employees, including those working remotely, know how to report concerns regarding bullying so that they can be addressed at an early stage. If the situation is left because employees are unsure who to turn to it’s likely that the situation will escalate making it more difficult for organisations to deal with. If bullies think they can ‘get away with it’ its also more likely that such behaviour will occur so it’s important that employees feel able to speak up.
If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.