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Annie Hayes

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Employers fail to handle bullies

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A report out today published to coincide with anti-bullying at work day (27 October) organised by Amicus reveals that employers are failing to embrace the root causes of bullying despite having impressive policies in place.

With the costs of bullying on the increase, the problem cannot be ignored. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) estimate that 450 management days are spent a year on the issue a figure that does not take into account the loss of productivity, key staff or the costs of sickness absence.

Eighty-three per cent of employers have a clear anti-bullying policy in place but says the report when bullying incidents do occur the focus is almost exclusively on supporting the victim, with little support, advice and guidance being offered to those accused of harassment.

The findings also suggest that employers implement their bullying policies for the wrong reasons. Just under half of respondents said their policy fulfilled the need to tackle discrimination at work and this was mainly to meet with legal requirements.

On top of this, the report, ‘Managing conflict at work’ by the CIPD says that while human resources professionals are being trained to tackle the problems, line managers are left to their own devices despite being in a better position to spot the problems at first-hand.

Only 55% of respondents said they train their line managers compared to 75% of HR professionals who receive guidance on how to handle bullying in the workplace.

Imogene Haslam, CIPD Professional adviser commented:

“It is great that employers are supporting victims, and employers with anti-bullying policies have taken a step in the right direction. But there is no hope that the problem will be reduced and the alleged perpetrators of bullying will not change if employers simply isolate them.

“If employers are serious about tackling the problem they should be training line managers to recognise the signs and take action to encourage people to recognise and change their behaviour before situations escalate.”

Haslam encourages employers to clearly define and communicate the behaviour they expect from all staff. This will help identify unacceptable behaviour making it easier to deal with a problem when it arises.

“There is a very fine line between firm autocratic management styles and bullying. Employers should raise awareness of alternative, more effective, styles concentrating on motivating staff through engaging their commitment and trust.”

Spotting bullies

The report breaks down the bullies into the following types:

  • Line managers make up 38%

  • Peers of victim make up 37%

  • Department managers make up 22%

  • Subordinates of the victims of bullying make up 13%

“With more than 10% of bullies being subordinates it is clear they are not simply managers or those at the top, but they are made up from a much wider pool – for example, secretaries keeping information from their boss and teams colluding in making a manager seem unprofessional.

“Employers should ensure they are aware of the different types of bullying which can be subtle as well as obvious and put measures in place to help deal with these problems as they arise,” says Haslam.


Other key findings:

  • 91% of organisations have a diversity/equal opportunity policy

  • 39% of organisations believe line managers behaviour is the most important factor affecting success in tackling bullying and harassment.

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Annie Hayes

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