Bullying in the workforce is any repeated form of aggression whether verbal, psychological or physical which is conducted by an individual or group of individuals against another person or group of people at a place of work or in the course of employment. It is behaviour which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the recipient’s right to dignity in the workplace.
Bullying in the workforce can take many different forms. Physical violence is one of the more obvious examples of bullying, but it can also take more subtle forms in the workforce. Such examples include humiliation, intimidation and verbal abuse, victimisation, exclusion and isolation, intrusion or pestering, spying and stalking and repeated requests for impossible deadlines or impossible tasks.
Bullying behaviour can have a devastating impact on an individual and on their immediate family. This may involve physical, psychological and behavioural effects on individuals and families and even on organisations and communities. In some cases, these effects may even be life-threatening. The effects of bullying in the workforce don’t end there. The effects on the workplace where staff are bullied may include increased absenteeism, low employee morale, loss of job satisfaction, reduced productivity, negative publicity for the employer and diversion of management time and energy into seeking settlements of bullying cases.
Bullying in the workforce is an extremely sensitive issue and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Not only is it a difficult matter to raise by the employee but it is also a difficult matter to deal with by management due to the inherent sensitivities. Therefore, it is essential that clear procedures be adopted and followed by a business from the beginning. If you don’t have the necessary expertise to draw up such a code of practice, then you should seek professional help to do so which is readily available to all businesses. You should also ensure that any procedures that you put in place be in accordance with the necessary laws and legislation on workforce bullying.
When dealing with reports of bullying in the workforce, it is imperative that each report is dealt with carefully and on a confidential basis. You should listen to both the complainant and the individual accused of bullying and assess both reports. In some cases, it may be possible for the matter to be resolved informally by informing the individual accused of bullying of the effect of their behaviour and requesting it to stop. If a formal approach is required, then ensure each step of the formal procedures are followed and documented as your records may be requested at a later date if your attempts to resolve the complaint are unsatisfactory.
If a complaint is resolved without the need to be taken to an outside party, you should bring closure to the complaint. Communicate regularly with the parties involved and ensure a proper system is in place for future monitoring and management of that relationship. Where an allegation has been upheld, you should consider retraining and monitoring the perpetrator so that the bullying behaviour is not repeated.
It is in the best interest of employers to take action to minimise the likelihood of bullying in their workplace. If left unmanaged, the result can severely affect your business. It is important, therefore, that employers promote a clear message that bullying is unacceptable in the workforce. Employers should also ensure that all the employees are aware that the workplace has anti-bullying procedures in place, know the process for the reporting of it and have an understanding that their reports will be dealt with in a proper manner.
This article was written on behalf of Adare HRM. Adare HRM provide practical Human Resource and Employment Law Support Services to companies throughout Ireland.