Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace. If you fail to prevent and/or act on workplace bullying and harassment, you leave your business open to poor morale, loss of respect for management and a decline in performance and productivity, as well as the more obvious absence issues and resignations. There is also a pressing legal side to taking action against mistreating employees, which is the possibility of tribunals, court cases and the damage to your company’s reputation.
What is bullying and harassment?
Bullying and harassment is defined as any unwanted behaviour that makes a person, or group, feel offended, intimidated, degraded and humiliated. The Equality Act 2010 says that harassment is unwanted conduct that is related to the following characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Instances of bullying may not always be obvious to you as an employer, or other people in the business. It may take place insidiously, it may involve two individuals or groups of people; and it may be an isolated incident or persistent actions.
You also need to be aware that bullying and harassment may not occur solely through face-to-face communications, but by writing, phone or online. Bullying or harassing behaviour could include spreading malicious rumours, or insulting someone, exclusion or victimization, misuse of power or position, unwelcome sexual advances, unfair treatment or deliberately undermining a competent worker by constant criticism.
What can I do to prevent bullying or harassment taking place in my organisation?
As described above, bullying and harassment may not be easy to recognise, therefore you need to ensure that any member of staff feels able and confident enough to complain, especially if the situation involves a manager or senior member of staff. All staff need to be aware that complaints of harassment, or anything relating to such complaints, will be dealt with fairly, confidentially and sensitively.
Acas recommends steps you can take to prevent bullying/harassment in the workplace. These include:
- implementing a bullying and harassment policy, with statement of commitment, examples of unacceptable behaviour, the steps your company will take to prevent bullying and harassment, investigation procedures (including timescales and confidentiality) and how the policy is to be implemented, reviewed and monitored.
- maintaining fair procedures for dealing promptly with complaints from employees
- setting standards of behaviour with an organisational statement about the standards of behaviour expected.
- setting a good example: the behaviour of employers and senior managers is as important as any formal policy.
- training for your managers to recognise, prevent and deal with instances of bullying and harrassment.
If you involve your staff in the creation and implementation of the policy, it will gain additional authority and ensure that everyone feels involved. You need to make sure that the policy applies to staff on and off the premises, including those working away from base, as well as visitors.
If you need help prevent bullying and harassment in your workplace, implementing a bullying or harassment policy or working through the impact of a complaint, contact me today to get advice and find out more about my services