Addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace

By: Kirsten Cluer

Date: 21 November 2018

Addressing bullying and harassment in the workplaceAlmost a third of Britain's workforce have admitted to experiencing some form of workplace bullying during their careers, with more than one in three of those leaving their job because of the issue.

It is important, therefore, that employers take appropriate action to create an open culture within the workplace, where staff can feel comfortable and safe.

Here's how to tackle bullying and harassment in your business.

Bullying - your legal responsibilities

Under the Equality Act 2010, businesses and organisations in the UK are legally required not to discriminate against employees or potential employees based on their race, gender, age or disability, among other factors.

It is important to note that employers are also responsible for preventing any form of harassment in the workplace that occurs for these reasons, and may, therefore, be legally liable for any bullying suffered by an employee.

By creating a clear workplace code of conduct, an environment of respect and open communication is developed and nurtured. It will also help to encourage a sense of camaraderie between employees, meaning that if an employee does exhibit unacceptable behaviour, more people are likely to speak out against it.

The organisation's code of conduct should be introduced to employees at induction, and reiterated throughout the term of employment.

Creating an anti-bullying culture in your business

As with any workplace culture, it is important that anti-bullying principles start from the top. Establishing a strong corporate vision which encompasses internal values and staff engagement, as well as external ones, will help create a culture to which everyone is attuned.

Communication should be a key component of an effective culture. Employees should feel able to freely open up and discuss any issues they may have within the workplace, no matter how serious in nature.

There should be zero tolerance of bad behaviour within an organisation, and whistle-blowing should be encouraged, helping employees feel able to report bullying behaviour whether they have experienced it or witnessed it.

Not only should employees feel free and comfortable to talk about such instances, it should also be clear to them who they should be talking to. By opening clear communication channels, employees will feel they can share anything they believe needs to be tackled.

Dealing with bullying behaviour

It is also important to develop procedures to deal with unacceptable behaviour. Managers and leaders should be well equipped to not only be able to identify such behaviour, but also handle possible complaints.

Line managers are usually the first port of call for many employees, so they should feel capable of dealing with complaints, and confident in the next steps to take. If they need to seek advice, they should know who this is with. Many larger companies have in-house HR departments, but if you do not, you must make sure employees know where to pursue such advice.

It's important that managers, like staff, know your disciplinary and grievance procedures for dealing with bad behaviour and formal complaints. It can be tempting to rush through procedures and skip steps in an attempt to get a quick, and desired, result, but it is important to do things correctly.

Not only will this reassure the employee that their manager is taking their complaint seriously, but as already mentioned, as the employer you are legally responsible for preventing harassment in the workplace, and so the proper procedures must be documented and upheld.

Brushing off incidents could be also seen to condone them, which will do little to prevent future incidents. Ensure that incidents are dealt with appropriately - don't create a culture of fear, but employees should know that there are consequences for bad behaviour.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Kirsten Cluer, HR consultant and owner of Cluer HR