Bullying and Harassment; No place in the Workplace

According to the UK Government, bullying and harassment is “behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended”. Each person has the right to decide what behaviour is either acceptable or unacceptable; if an individual finds certain behaviour unacceptable and they feel damaged by it, then that individual has every right to say so, and their right to do so will be respected. It is irrelevant whether the person who perpetrated the behaviour intended to cause offence.

Bullying and harassment has no place in the workplace. Not only does a hostile environment leads to poor performance, high staff turnover and a damaged professional reputation, but the psychological damage it can cause to your employees can have lasting effects. Therefore employers must ensure that it is not evident and the best place to start is a strong bullying and harassment policy.

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on or regularly undermining someone
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

Bullying and harassment is not only to face-to-face, it can happen also by letter, by email or by phone. It is important to be clear that bullying itself is not against the law, however as already indicated, behaviour which constitutes as bullying may lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal if it is committed:

  • in a work situation
  • during any situation related to work such as at a social event with colleagues
  • against a colleague or other person connected to the employer outside of a work situation, including on social media
  • against anyone outside of a work situation where the incident is relevant to their suitability to carry out the role.

Examples of bullying in workplace situations can range from a wide variety within a workplace, from false rumours being spread to being excluded from team social events or any type of behaviour that makes an individual feel frightened, less respected, made fun of or upset.

Harassment on the other hand, is unlawful and harassment legislation covers the victim suffering intimidating or offensive behaviour in relation to protected characteristics, which include: age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation.

The most likely example of harassment is verbal/written harassment.  It can involve the sharing of offensive jokes or graphics about a protected characteristic—by email, group chat or social media. It can also include repeatedly asking an individual for dates or sexual favours through text. Imitating someone’s foreign accent behind their back is another example of this kind of harassment.

To put it simply, it is good practice for organisations to implement a bullying and harassment policy. Not only does it make a statement of intent to create a safe workspace for your employees, having such a procedure in place can help improve the company culture, reduce staff turnover and generate a positive professional reputation.  

 

 

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