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Reducing Bullying in British Businesses

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In our series of Guest Blogs, with this being Anti-Bullying Week (13th-17th November), The HR Dept gives advice on how to protect your workplace from bullying.

Workplace bullying can have a devastating effect on individuals and an equally horrible and pervasive impact on the culture, happiness and well-being of the wider workplace.

It has no place in our businesses and business owners must work hard to ensure the right standards and conditions are set so that any bullying is called out and dealt with quickly.

So during #AntiBullyingWeek, we look at ways that businesses can reduce bullying in the workplace and stamp out intolerance.  Anti-bullying policies are widespread, but the problem is becoming worse, not better. In 1998, managers in 7% of workplaces reported grievances raised concerning bullying. This rose to 8% in 2004, and to 11% in 2011.

What is bullying?

It’s important to take into account that bullying is distinctly different from harassment. There’s no universally accepted definition of what an act of bullying is. However, Acas provides a broad description of it as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

Bullying can involve conflict and rudeness, but can also be more subtle, such as excluding and ignoring people, making unacceptable criticisms and overloading people with work.

Why should employers take action to combat bullying?

Bullying is unacceptable in the workplace and can cause real issues such as:

  • Poor morale and employee relations.
  • Loss of respect for managers and supervisors.
  • Reduced performance and productivity.
  • Increase in absenteeism.
  • Higher staff turnover.
  • Damage to company’s reputation.

For the individual, it is even more damaging and is a major cause of stress and low esteem.

Aside from the cost to people’s wellbeing and your company culture there is a financial impact too! Bullying is estimated by ACAS to cost employers £18bn per year.

What can businesses do about bullying and harassment?

Bullying is most common in organisations with poor workplace cultures. An anti-bullying policy works best as part of a company-wide strategy to build a positive workplace culture.

Make sure everyone knows and understands the anti-bullying policy so it becomes part of the way your workplace functions. This is then supported with clear procedures for dealing with grievance and disciplinary matters, making it known to everyone what the consequences are and that may be dismissal.

Provide managers with training so that not only is their management style improved but they learn to recognise the signs and can step in quickly. Managers that are good role models can go a long way.

Make sure you aren’t the bullying boss! Keep your eyes and ears open, your staff might not always raise a grievance, listen to conversations, rumours and pay attention and look into to any trends i.e. if a manager has higher sickness or turnover in their team than others.

How can I protect my business?

Grievances and disciplinary meetings can often be a difficult and overwhelming task for any manager. Making sure you get the process right can avoid a costly and protracted employment tribunal through the courts. With our monthly retained Advice Line service, you get a local HR professional and the market-leading insurance against all legal costs and any award. Get in touch to find out more.


The HR Dept can help you focus on your business by taking care of all your human resources needs.  If you would like more information, visit www.hrdept.co.uk or call 0345 208 1120.

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