What is bullying?
Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons.
How is bullying in the online workplace possible?
Different to working in person, bullying in the online or remote workplace is often hidden, as other workers are unable to see the bullying take place. It often takes place over 1-1 messaging, video calls or emails.
A 2020 study from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) reported that 10% of online workers have experienced bullying over email, phone or social media.
How does online bullying effect people?
The impact of online bullying is a decline in mental health, decreased productivity and satisfaction at work. In 2021, The Workplace Bullying Institute found that 47% of bullying was done by managers, which makes it difficult for employees to report their experience.
The Equality Act and Bullying
Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include spreading malicious rumours, unfair treatment, picking on or regularly undermining someone or denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities.
Bullying and harassment can happen face-to-face, by letter, by email or by phone.
Bullying itself is not against the law, but harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following:
· gender reassignment
· marriage and civil partnership
· pregnancy and maternity
· religion or belief
· sexual orientation
What should employees do if they are experiencing bullying?
Employees should see if they can sort out the problem informally first. If they cannot, they should talk to their:
· HR department
· trade union representative
If this does not work, they can make a formal complaint using their employer’s grievance procedure. If this does not work and they are still being harassed, they can take legal action at an employment tribunal.
They could also call the ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) helpline for advice.
How can bullying impact your business?
It is not only detrimental to your workplace culture, but this can also result in higher attrition rates of staff and impact talent acquisition and retention. The productivity of your staff who are victims of bullying will decrease, while the chances of lengthy grievance and disciplinary procedures will increase. These procedures can be time consuming, costly and cause great upset and reputational damage to your business and your workplace culture.
Fortunately, there are pro-active actions an organisation can take to address this challenge.
Simple steps, powerful outcomes – what businesses do to make sure bullying in the workplace is being addressed:
1. Create an anti-bullying policy and inform employees
Creating an anti-bullying policy that outlines the definition of bullying and its impact, other unacceptable conduct, expectations of managers and of employees in general, what to do if you are experiencing bullying at the workplace and how to report it.
2. Offer training on how to spot bullying in the online workplace
Provide training on the topic of bullying and how to recognise it, enabling employees to recognise when they are being bullied or harassed or when a colleague is experiencing it.
3. Create an environment where people feel able to discuss their experience
Establish a culture of inclusivity and respect where employees feel safe be it online or at in person events. Make it clear to employees that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace and that all allegations will be investigated and disciplinary action taken when required.
It is important to foster an environment where employees feel able to share their experiences. Often, research shows, managers are responsible for bullying in the workplace, therefore it is important that more than one person is available to speak with and deal with the situation.
For support and to discuss actions that can benefit your workforce, contact one of the FairPlay Employer team of experts at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0300 365 0445.