Despite greater public awareness, workplace harassment and bullying remain prevalent. Employees can be subjected to aggressive behaviours such as verbal abuse or physical contact, resulting in profound psychological effects like anxiety and decreased self-esteem. Employers must take necessary steps to create a safe working environment for all staff members.
Navigating workplace harassment can be complicated, but this guide is here to help. It takes a deep dive into the legal issues surrounding bullying and harassment in the office – you’ll learn about employer and; employee roles as well as how to properly file complaints. Get informed for an empowering work experience!
Learn more about our stance on bullying and harassment, plus actionable items for governments and advice for employers.
What is the definition of harassment and bullying?
Unwanted conduct that causes an individual to feel violated is considered harassment under the Equality Act 2010. This behaviour, while similar in nature to bullying, involves more serious implications and requires attention from employers and organisations alike.
Types of workplace rudeness
Workplace incivility is a serious issue, with rude behaviours such as bullying and harassment having the intention to damage somebody’s reputation or undermine social relationships. These issues can be detrimental for any business environment; it’s important that professionals take steps towards understanding how to address them.
As an employer, it is essential to ensure that the workplace reflects a sense of respect and fairness for all employees. Managers should strive to create an atmosphere free from any type of bullying or harassment. People experts must work earnestly towards creating a culture where each team member feels safe in voicing their thoughts and opinion without fear of ridicule or repercussion.
What are examples of harassment and bullying?
Bullying is a pervasive issue plaguing both online and in-person interactions, ranging from extreme violence to more insidious forms of intimidation. Any kind of harassment should not be tolerated – let us all stand together against bullying! Examples include:
- Unwanted physical contact.
- Unkind comments about someone’s age, clothing, looks, ethnicity, or relationship status, demeaning jokes, vulgar language, tales of intrigue, defamation of character, and hostile tunes and written statements.
- Posters, graffiti, signs, flags, banners and symbols.
- Social isolation is the act of refraining from participating in social activities.
- Coercion for sexual favours.
- Peer pressure to join political/religious organisations.
- Unwanted and invasive behaviour, such as harassment, surveillance, and following someone.
- Neglecting to protect sensitive data
- Shouting and bawling.
- Setting impossible deadlines.
- Persistent unwarranted criticism.
- Personal insults.
Sexual harassment has been dominating the headlines recently, and with good reason. A shocking 2016 study found that more than half of all women (and up to two-thirds among those aged 18-24) reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. In response to this pervasive issue, the Women and Equalities Select Committee conducted an in-depth investigation which resulted in concrete recommendations for improvement.
Our research uncovered a concerning trend in the workplace: employees are twice as likely to experience bullying than any form of non-sexual harassment. While only 4% faced sexual misconduct, 24% reported that their organisation was turning away from important issues such acknowledged reports of intimidation and abuse.
Our study uncovered a newfound confidence among employees to proactively curtail an ever-present problem: sexual harassment. To help create and sustain accepting workplaces, CIPD members are privy to our extensive resource package that leads employers in the right direction when it comes to addressing such issues.
Employer and employee duties
Workplace bullying and harassment are still prevalent issues.
Companies must demonstrate their dedication to fostering a respectful and dignified workplace by having crystal-clear policies in place. Whether it’s an office holiday party or any other event related to the workplace, employers should take necessary steps towards preventing potential issues – otherwise they may be held accountable for occurrences that happen during these occasions.
Employers should be vigilant in monitoring cyberbullying within their organisation. Unfavourable communications via cell devices, or photographs of co-workers shared on the internet after work gatherings, can have major implications for any business.
As a unified collective, it’s imperative for us to cultivate an inclusive and respectful work atmosphere. It falls in everyone’s hands—whether individuals or employers—to bring the organisation’s policy into fruition by taking appropriate action when necessary.
Discrimination-based harassment carries severe consequences; those liable may face unlimited compensation and even have to pay restitution for the affected party’s emotional trauma. Both criminal law suits and civil cases can be pursued against wrongdoers.
Creating an atmosphere of respect
It is essential for organisations to create a workplace setting that promotes respect and dignity among all staff members. Proactivity ensures any rogue behaviour does not have an opportunity to arise, while it also allows leaders the chance to articulate their vision of propriety throughout the whole organisation. By fostering such values from top-down, employees can share in a unified understanding on what constitutes acceptable conduct at work.
A healthy workplace requires all members to be aware of what leads to negative behaviour such as bullying and aggression. Recently, an in-depth review into incivility revealed the underlying drivers behind inappropriate conduct – a vital step for creating friendly corporate atmospheres.
It’s essential that employers select leaders and managers with nurturing aptitudes, rather than just technical knowledge. Qualified personnel must have a certain set of values conducive to developing an environment where respect is deeply embedded in the workplace culture.
Employers should be cognisant of the mental state they cultivate within their workplace. Providing personnel with an element of autonomy, such as allowing them to choose when and where tasks are best completed for them, can act as a buffer against feelings of pressure or overwhelm that often accompany meeting job expectations.
To create an efficient workplace environment, it is essential to establish a culture of fairness and justice. Encouraging staff members to believe that their decisions are treated fairly can add tremendous value in creating positive behaviours throughout the organisation.
Policies, communication and training
A successful anti-bullying or harassment strategy must be implemented. Proactive measures, such as policies and protocols with widespread acceptance from employees to trade unions should form the basis of implementation. Taking steps like communicating expectations for behaviour clarity will ensure everyone is aware of regulations in place – guaranteeing a safe workplace environment free from bullying and hostility.
- Harassment, bullying and intimidation can take many forms – from cyberbullying to hostile workplaces, or even harassers outside of the workplace. It’s important for employers and co-workers alike to be aware that these issues exist in order to create safe spaces where everyone feels respected.
- Describe the harmful consequences and why it will not be accepted.
- It will be considered as a disciplinary offense.
- Determine the legal consequences and potential risks of personal accountability.
- One can seek help and lodge a complaint either formally or informally.
- Ensure that any claims are handled promptly, seriously and in private, and to prevent any kind of victimisation.
- Make sure all managers understand their responsibilities, as well as the role of unions or employee representatives.
- Supervisors/managers must put policy into action and make sure everyone understands it.
- Stress that all employees are responsible for their actions.
All employees should:
- Developing a workplace that is respectful and compliant with the organisation’s anti-harassment policy requires employees’ commitment. Induction, training, guidance and other approaches equip them to recognise their rights as well as responsibilities—promoting understanding of both employer and employee expectations when it comes to preventing workplace harassment.
- If they need advice on what to do, they should reach out to someone who can provide insight based on their experiences.
- Understand the protocols for making a complaint and the timeline of any official processes.
The policy should be continuously observed to check for its usefulness and modified if needed, which includes:
- Keeping track of grievances – their reasons, participants, and location.
- Individuals can file complaints to ensure a resolution without any type of victimisation.
As managers, it’s imperative to take proactive action against any unwarranted behaviour in the workplace. We’ve crafted a comprehensive guide that provides guidance on tackling conflict effectively and offers sensitive support when needed – be sure to check it out!
The grievance and disciplinary policies should be in alignment with all dignity at work or anti-bullying policies.
Advice and counselling
Employees with misconduct claims to make can find a safe space in the organisation, or beyond it if wanted, for confidential consultations. This provides them an opportunity to explore all potential paths of action and decide how they’d like their complaint resolved.
Guidance and counseling are important for both those responsible for unacceptable behaviour, as well as the people affected by it. Punishing only one party could create a disconnect between them and their peers regarding why such actions have consequences on others.
Dealing with complaints
Rapid resolution of grievances should be the top priority. Solutions may sometimes depend on informal measures, however in serious matters established procedures will enable managers or HR personnel to take corrective action when needed. A comprehensive chain of contact must be available if a worker’s direct supervisor is implicated as an offender; and outside advice can always be found through Acas helpline services.
Tune in to our podcast: Are You Handling Harassment Correctly?
A recent exploration into conflict resolution in the workplace brings to light a potential solution: mediation. As an impartial third party, mediators can aid employers and employees looking for resolutions on mild incidents of harassment or bullying – should both parties be willing participants.
If more subtle approaches are ineffective, it may be time to take formal action – especially if the harassment has become prolonged or serious. Such steps can provide a viable solution for those seeking resolution.
To ensure a safe and respectful workplace, companies should have an established system for addressing any disciplinary issues that may arise – such as bullying or harassment.
Any reports of harassment, bullying, or intimidating behaviour should be addressed as a disciplinary offence and investigated with:
- A quick, comprehensive and impartial answer.
- Taking evidence from witnesses.
- Hearing both the person accused of harassment and the person who reported it speak about what happened.
- A timeline for solving the issue.
- Most situations require confidentiality.
In order to ensure that all employee grievances are addressed with due diligence and fairness, employers should maintain a detailed record of every process from start to finish. This document must include individuals involved, dates pertinent to the incident, underlying details of each claim or investigation as well as any corrective action taken for resolution followed by thorough monitoring thereafter.
All confidential information must comply with data security laws.
When a grievance is accepted and addressed, it could be beneficial for both parties to explore the possibility of transfer or movement within the organisation. Such a move can provide closure and help maintain workplace harmony – all while giving due consideration to every individual involved.
To avoid any legal repercussions, it is essential to ensure that if the wrongdoer must be relocated there are no contract violations. Failing to do so could open them up to a constructive unfair dismissal claim.
David Alssema is a Body Language Expert and Motivational Speaker. As a performer in the personal development industry in Australia he has introduced and created new ways to inspire, motivate and develop individuals.
David Alssema started his training career with companies such as Telstra and Optus Communications, and then developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) within workplace training as principal of Paramount Training & Development.
As an author/media consultant on body language and professional development David has influenced workplaces across Australia. He contributes to Media such as The West Australian, ABC Radio, Australian Magazines and other Australia Media Sources.