You would have thought, in these enlightened times, that workplace bullying would be a thing of the past – especially when that bullying is targeted against a protected characteristic such as race. But if you read the news today it is clear that it is not – and it is a huge problem for British firms.

Just today it was revealed that more than 25% of Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnicity (BAME) employees in the UK had experienced some form of bullying in the workplace, yet 97% of UK businesses claim to have a “zero tolerance approach”  to it.

So why is bullying still happening within our work communities?

Bullying or harassment often occurs when one person feels they are superior to another due to their race, status or financial situation. It stems from fear, hate or a sense of power.

Victims of bullying are often left feeling depressed, angry, sidelined and helpless. Another recent study which looked at bullying at Universities in the UK was reported on the BBC back in April 2019, and found universities have spent millions of pounds on non-disclosure agreements to settle bullying and sexual misconduct cases.

As one victim described it “if a professor bullies you it is seen as ‘eccentric behaviour’”. But not only deeply damaging to the individual –  it is also illegal.

Another academic described the behaviour of his bullying manager as “normalised”.

While we may think that we have evolved, the prevalence of bullying would indicate that there is still lots of work to do to eradicate bullying. Any feelings of “otherness” or exclusion should be acknowledged and action should taken to actively encourage full participation of all workers regardless of their race, sex, religion or political affiliation. Bizarrely, even cases of “Brexit Bullying”  have also been reported according to HR website Personnel Today, which illustrated 4 possible case studies and what an employer needs to do to mitigate these risks.

With the October 31st deadline fast approaching there seems to be no end in sight for the political and social fallout of Brexit.

As far as bullying of people with different ethnicities is concerned, Sandra Kerr, race campaign director at Business in the Community recently said “Many are recognising the importance of a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment but our results show this needs to be matched with consistent action.”

What form should this action take? Clearly just publishing a policy is not the answer – what is needed is education, training and a culture shift.

A series of training courses covering Bias, Bullying and Harassment should be mandated – to back up the Zero tolerance policies that 97% companies already have in place.

Ideally Bias courses aimed at Managers should differentiate their responsibilities from general awareness training. Courses such as Unconscious Bias for Managers fit the bill perfectly.

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