The recession has led to a big increase in bullying in the workplace, with the number of cases doubling from a decade ago, according to a new survey.
A poll conducted by the union Unison indicated that more than a third of workers experienced bullying in the last six months – twice the figure of 10 years ago – while the conciliation service Acas said that one in ten staff suffered from such harassment.
Fraser Younson, head of employment at the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, told the Guardian newspaper, that managers have become more “demanding” of their employees over the last year or so as they come under increasing amounts of pressure themselves.
“Managers are chasing things up, being more critical. If they are not trained to deal with increased levels of stress, then we are seeing them do this in a way that makes staff feel bullied,” he said.
Although ‘bullying’ is not a legal term, such activity comes under the category of harassment under the law and is also covered in employment and health and safety legislation. It relates to the impact of behaviour on an individual rather than the underlying intention of the perpetrator.
Lyn Witheridge, who ran the Andrea Adams Trust bullying helpline until last year, also told the Guardian that support groups were struggling to cope with the rise in cases. “We have been overwhelmed by a huge rise in complaints over the last two years. We had to close the charity and the helpline because we couldn’t cope with the number of calls – they more than doubled to 70 a day,” she said.
Witheridge added that the recession had become a ‘playground’ for bullies who felt they could get away with it. “Managers are bullying people as a way of forcing them out and getting costs down,” she said.
Research indicates that bullying contributes to 13.7 million working days being lost in the UK each year to stress and depression.