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Zero tolerance best anti-bullying approach

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New research from Portsmouth Business School has revealed that those employers who take a zero tolerance approach to bullying in the workplace have the most success.

The research was commissioned jointly by the Department of Trade and Industry and trade union Amicus and forms the world’s larges anti-bullying research project.

Charlotte Rayner, professor of human resource management at the University of Portsmouth, says there are ways to tackle bullying and harassment at work.

“None are easy, all require careful attention to detail and consistency to make a believably safe environment in which people can speak up when they encounter difficulty – which is the first priority for action to enable the organisation to tackle bullying and harassment,” she says.

Key to the findings is that policies alone will not secure a harassment-free working environment. Employees need to be involved in creating and implementing initiatives, which lead to ownership both of the problem and the solution.

The research gives a contemporary view of good practice in dealing with bullying and harassment and how the problem is dealt within the workplace.

The recommendations of the findings include:


  • The adoption of a zero-tolerance approach

  • In partnership with unions, where recognised, organisations must encourage consultation with employees on early intervention strategies

  • Recognition that bullying is an organisation issue rather than simply a problem between individuals

  • All anti-bullying and harassment policies should be clearly set out and communicated along with the business case for doing so

  • Organisations should use the term bullying to describe negative behaviours

  • All managers should be trained in mediation and conflict resolution skills.

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