Organisations urged to curb bullies at work

Aug 16 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A new guide has been published by Britain's Chartered Management Institute to help organisations manage and address the impact of bullying at work.

Launched in association with the conciliation service, Acas and trade union Unison, 'Bullying in the workplace: guidance for managers' calls on organisations to monitor and deal with the problem of bullying because of the negative impact it has on employee health, self-esteem and organisational performance.

It also highlights the need for employers to be aware of the potential legal implications if they fail to identify, and act on, bullying.

The guide outlines the factors that contribute towards an organisational bullying culture and urges managers to be clear on the procedures for dealing with complaints. It also calls on managers to put preventative 'anti-bullying' measures in place.

Recognising that bullying takes many forms, the guide tells managers to look out for signs such as intimidation; the misuse of power or overbearing supervision; undermining by overloading colleagues with too much work; constant criticism; blocking promotion or denying training and development opportunities.

"Bullying is not only morally indefensible, it is an undermining influence on staff morale which, in turn, adversely affects an organisation's performance," said Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute

"It is imperative that managers recognise their duty of care to their employees, both in their own behaviour and by developing the knowledge and policies which reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring in the first place."

To communicate the message that bullying is unacceptable, the guide recommends developing clear and concise policies. Areas to consider including are:

  • a statement of commitment from senior management
  • examples of unacceptable behaviour
  • clear indications that bullying is a disciplinary offence
  • appropriate details about procedures
  • involvement of trade union and HSE representatives
  • assurances that complaints will be dealt with confidentially

"Bullying is less likely to happen in organisations where respect and tolerance for others starts at the top," said Acas Chief Executive John Taylor.

"Organisations need to bear in mind their culture and management style when developing a policy because setting a positive example goes hand-in-hand with formal procedures. "

The guide also outlines what to do if bullying does occur.

"The first priority must be to deal with the bullying and you must have clear transparent procedures that both parties can have confidence in," said Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison.

"Complaints must be treated seriously, but that doesn't always mean a formal investigation, sometimes an informal approach may be more appropriate.

However dealing solely with the consequences of bullying is not good enough - it wrongly focuses attention on individuals rather than the culture that has allowed the bullying to go on."