Letting staff ‘be themselves’: How to prevent bullying and harassment

Allowing employees to be themselves without fear of bullying, harassment or discrimination is crucial for workplace wellbeing, according to a new study.


The Workplace Wellbeing Census by healthcare provider Bupa looked at a range of factors and employer actions that affect the wellbeing of over 4,000 employees across 12 industries.


The study showed that over a quarter of people (28%) in the workplace suffer bullying and/or discrimination on issues such as gender, age or sexual orientation.


Specifically, bullying is the most common factor. Forty-four percent of those employees citied it as a reason for poor wellbeing over the last three years.


Management problems

Worryingly for employers, 48% of employees feel they cannot talk to their manager about wellbeing for fear of being judged.


Fifty percent choose to handle issues on their own, and 43% currently don’t have access to wellbeing support services at work.


This is especially problematic, as just over half (51%) of employees who have discussed a wellbeing issue with their manager reported it was a positive experience.


What is the solution?

Employers need to create an inclusive environment built on trust, where bullying, harassment and discrimination are not tolerated.


If employees cannot bring their whole selves to work, then they will never truly feel comfortable, able to perform to the best of their ability, or able to tell their manager if something is wrong.


How to tackle bullying and harassment

An organisation will need to make a commitment to tackling bullying and harassment. This should be a statement from senior management, to show that the initiative is coming from the top of the hierarchy.


Appropriate policies will have to be put in place too, outlining what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour and what the consequences will be if the guidelines aren’t followed.


According to Acas, a policy on bullying and harassment should also include the following:


  • Clear statement that bullying and harassment is unlawful, will not be tolerated and that decisions should not be taken on the basis or whether someone submitted to or rejected a particular instance of harassment

  • Examples of unacceptable behaviour

  • Statement that bullying and harassment may be treated as disciplinary offences

  • The steps the organisation takes to prevent bullying and harassment

  • Responsibilities of supervisors and managers

  • Confidentiality for any complainant

  • Reference to grievance procedures (formal and informal), including timescales for action

  • Investigation procedures, including timescales for action

  • Reference to disciplinary procedures, including timescales for action counselling and support availability

  • Training for managers

  • Protection from victimisation

  • How the policy is to be implemented, reviewed and monitored

Any organisation should already have disciplinary and grievance procedures in place, as they will need to be used if anyone breaches the bullying and harassment policy.


Building trust

Ideally, employees should have input into what goes into the bullying and harassment policy. By giving examples of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour at work, they should be aware of the policy from the start and be more engaged with it.


Employers and senior managers need to set a good example and follow their own rules. Sometimes, an authoritarian management style can border on bullying, and trying to create a workplace built on communication and respect will be undermined if employees see managers getting away with treating others poorly.


All complaints relating to bullying and harassment should be dealt with promptly, fairly and sensitively. Employees will be less likely to report incidents if they feel nothing will be done about it, or that things will only get worse.


Learn more

For help with creating a bullying and harassment policy for your workplace, call a Deminos advisor on 020 7870 1090.

Author David Ralph

More posts by David Ralph

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