Beating the bullies

By: Chris Walker

Date: 2 March 2010

The issue of workplace bullying has hit the headlines again with allegations about the Prime Minister. As is so often the case, people's reactions tend to be shaped by their own views. Labour loyalists are quick to describe Gordon Brown as passionate - but not a bully - while political opponents try to stir things up. That's not an unusual response.

If an employee at work complains of bullying, there's a tendency to make a judgement based on what we think of the individuals involved. Unfortunately, that's completely the wrong approach. Even if you are absolutely certain that someone is not a bully, you must investigate any allegations. Doing so helps show the employee that you take their concerns seriously. It also gives you a chance to identify where things have gone wrong and smooth over any misunderstandings.

Perhaps more importantly, failing to investigate properly lays you open to the risk that the employee makes a claim to the Employment Tribunal. The Prime Minister's case also raises the question of how you handle things if you too are a 'passionate' boss. What are employees expected to do if they think you are bullying them - and at the same time, you are the person they are expected to take their grievance to?

Make sure your business has proper disciplinary and grievance procedures. They could save everyone involved a lot of aggravation.

Chris Walker

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