Last Updated on 19.5.23 by David Rogers
A few years ago, The Employment Team at Gorvins recently hosted a highly successful HR Junction breakfast meeting, delving into the important topics of workplace bullying and banter. Attendees, boasting a wealth of diverse experiences, shared their stories encompassing everything from shop-floor language to boardroom dynamics.
This article highlights the range of bullying behaviours observed in various business environments and draws key conclusions from the collective experiences of the participants.
Recognising the Spectrum of Bullying
The meeting shed light on the fact that bullying can manifest in different forms within any organisation. While familiar forms of bullying are widely recognised, it was intriguing to discover how companies effectively tackled less conventional issues. Examples included bullying of males in predominantly female working environments, directors experiencing bullying from their peers in the boardroom, and line managers facing bullying from their subordinates. Acknowledging this broader spectrum is essential for addressing workplace bullying comprehensively.
Leadership’s Role in Setting the Example
One of the key takeaways emphasised the importance of top-down leadership in combating bullying. Organisations must lead by example, exhibiting zero tolerance for bullying behaviours. When leaders consistently demonstrate respect, fairness, and inclusivity, they establish a culture that discourages bullying and promotes healthy working relationships.
Providing Adequate Training for Managers
Promoting an employee to a managerial position does not automatically equip them with the necessary skills to handle bullying incidents effectively. Training managers to recognise and address bullying is crucial. By investing in comprehensive training programmes, organisations empower their managers to proactively identify and intervene in bullying situations, fostering a safer and more supportive work environment.
Concise and Clear Policies
Effective policies are instrumental in preventing and addressing workplace bullying. Policies should be concise, accessible, and easily understood by all employees. By avoiding lengthy and complex documents, organisations can ensure that employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities regarding bullying. Simplified policies are more likely to be read, internalised, and effectively enforced.
Maintaining Vigilance and Timely Intervention
Remaining vigilant and actively engaging with teams is paramount in addressing bullying issues promptly. Employers should establish open lines of communication with employees, encouraging them to report any concerns or potential issues. By promptly investigating and resolving incidents, organisations can create an atmosphere of trust and demonstrate their commitment to eradicating bullying in the workplace.
The “Banter” Defence
One important red flag identified during the meeting was employees attempting to justify their actions as “just banter.” This defence should raise alarm bells for both employees and employers. Genuine banter is typically lighthearted and consensual, whereas using it as an excuse to mask bullying behaviours is unacceptable. Employers should be aware of this tactic and ensure that any attempt to dismiss bullying as mere banter is thoroughly investigated and appropriately addressed.
Failing to address workplace bullying can have severe consequences, resulting in the departure of valuable employees while enabling toxic behaviours to persist. The HR Junction meeting emphasised the need for leadership commitment, comprehensive manager training, clear policies, ongoing vigilance, and the rejection of the banter defence. By implementing these insights, organisations can cultivate a safe and respectful work environment conducive to employee well-being and productivity.
For further information on HR Junction, please contact Gorvins’ Employment Law Team at 0161 930 5151.
Partner & Head of Employment, Employment