Bullying at work is on the rise


Bullying in the workplace is on the rise, according to statistics recently released by Acas, and it is a problem exacerbated by people’s reluctance to speak out about either being victims or simply experiencing bullying at work.

Acas report that they received an estimated 20,000 calls last year dealing with bullying alone, accusing employers of lacking in the necessary skills to deal with the problem appropriately and in a timely fashion. Too often managers prefer to avoid the issue by moving affected staff to different teams, thereby removing them from the problem, rather than tackling the bullying head on through investigation.

Poor mangers are considered the number one cause of bullying at work due to unequal balances of power causing friction between colleagues. When managers feel threatened by colleagues or fixated with control, they set to manipulate the behaviour of others through coercive methods and coded threats, thereby supressing perceived competition.

Dominant managers who send short emails, with zero pleasantries, are often considered intimidating by staff, as are those who send late night emails expecting a quick response. Staff are immediately put on the back foot, as they are when managers show favouritism towards certain employees, excluding others in the process. It is not necessary that managers deliberately soften themselves up, but awareness of behaviour and reactions of those around you may help managers modify their behaviours for the benefit of engagement.

Sweeping bullying under the carpet is not an effective strategy. Instead it should be investigated and dealt with effectively, with those involved aware of expected behaviour, even punishing those employees who go too far.

Employers are encouraged to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and instigate acceptable standards of behaviour that are communicated to all staff, with warnings to those who transgress the good behaviour code – including managers. The importance of role models in establishing good behaviour should not be underestimated and managers should be willing to lead others in setting a good example.