Dealing with allegations of workplace bullying is always tricky for an employer because bullying can be hard to recognise and hard to define. Read our article in employment solicitor magazine on the dos and dont’s of handling a bullying grievance.
What does someone mean when they say they are “being bullied”? It’s something which is very much in the eye of the beholder – one person’s robust management style is another’s bullying and the poor employer faces the unenviable task of ruling on where the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour lies.
While most people will agree what constitutes bullying in extreme cases, there is a grey area in the middle which may cause more debate. Some examples of behaviour which might indicate bullying are:
- exclusion from meetings or social events,
- overbearing supervision,
- deliberately undermining a competent worker by constant criticism,
- spreading of malicious rumours about someone,
- insulting someone,
- unrelenting teasing or banter
- other abuse/misuse of power.
Bullying can be hard to recognise because it is often not done obviously and may be insidious, perpetrated over a period of time, or simply a one-off incident. It may be carried out by one person or a group, be either face-to-face, by phone or through written or electronic communications (“cyber-bullying”).
Some dos and don’t for employers:
- Do follow your own grievance procedure (to the letter!)
- Don’t forget to follow the best practice suggestions on dealing with grievances in the Acas Code on disciplinary and grievance procedures
- Don’t ignore a bullying complaint which isn’t made in writing
- Do deal with grievances in a timely manner
- Do understand what bullying is and how your organisation defines it
- Don’t forget that bullying is different from unlawful harassment, even though there may be some overlap
- Do consider whether this individual case points to a wider problem
- Do put in place a bullying policy if your organisation doesn’t already have one
Read Ben Power’s article here for more detail on all these top tips.
How can we help you?
Speak to one of our employment law specialists today if you are an employer and need advice on handling a grievance or drafting a bullying policy for your organisation or, if you are an individual who thinks they may have a bullying complaint.