Fireworks in the Office!

Workplace bullying and toxic work environments

Workplace bullying is the second most pervasive workplace issue in the UK, after stress, according to the TUC. A quarter of workers had been bullied in the last five years, a University of Manchester survey showed, while almost half had witnessed bullying at work.

Repeated reports focusing on different sectors have highlighted that, despite a lot of talk and posturing, far more needs to be done to effectively tackle this problem. Two released at the start of July showed the extent of bullying and harassment in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, with one in five peers accused of behaving inappropriately or in a rude or high-handed manner.

The month before, the In Plain Sight report looking at the charity sector found just three per cent of charity workers who complained about bullying felt it was dealt with satisfactorily and 68 per cent of bullying cases were not resolved.

Where senior business leaders are those accused of bullying and harassment, we can expect such behaviour to trickle down from the top, creating a toxic working culture throughout the organisation. This is where a strong HR team with robust policies is vital.

The highly pressured and performance-driven nature of many modern workplaces has helped to blur the line between exacting standards and strong leadership, on the one hand, and plain bullying, on the other.

This not only has a hugely damaging effect on the mental and physical wellbeing and performance of the individual staff members who are victims, but also their colleagues. It results in talented and otherwise engaged and productive employees underperforming, taking more sick leave and leaving the business. If it becomes public, it will make investors think twice about where to place their money.

An unhappy and stressed workforce is a less productive workforce, so, besides the human cost, it will ultimately depress the success and reputation of the business.

  • Eight in 10 workers admit they’ve cried on the job, a new survey from reveals.
  • Around 14% of employees say they break down in tears at least once a week, or every day. Most blamed their bosses or colleagues, while others said their workloads or personal issues at home were the source of their weeping.
  • The majority of the workers—around 45 percent—said that it was their bosses or colleagues that brought them to tears.
  • About 20% said they wept in the office due to problems at home or outside of work.

What proactive steps can businesses take to combat harassment and bullying within the workplace?

Raise awareness and educate all staff on the issues

Clear expectations should be written clearly in policies regarding what constitutes appropriate behaviour. Inappropriate behaviour should be clearly defined within the company’s HR policy with examples to aid understanding and recognition eg. Offensive jokes, slurs, intimidation and interference with work.

Robust policies and procedures

Workplaces must have robust guidelines and complaints procedures in place to enable staff to speak out and defend themselves.

Foster positive company values

To create a truly happy and productive workplace, HR must work closely with company bosses to create a culture of respect, based on positive shared values, where those in charge act as role models.

Should you have any questions feel free to reach out to our help line. DLP advisors are available to answer any questions you may have at 0330 400 4495.


Additional Reading