One thing we all know – bullying is not something that we can assume just happens in the playground, as some strange rite of passage. It doesn’t make us all stronger, and it isn’t something that we should accept, like bank holiday rain.
Bullying is something that we should all be able to freely discuss and ask questions about. The biggest hurdle in this should be one of the easiest question to answer…..What is Bullying?
And this is where the confusion starts.
For many people when they are trying to find out if they have a bullying situation they look to the law to guide them. The issue with Bullying is that there isn’t a legal standard in Employment Law.
Unless the incident is linked to a protected characteristic, and might therefore be harassment under the Equality Act 2010, the law is frustratingly quiet on it.
We at acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have characterised bullying as:
‘Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’
Remember though when we talk about a misuse of power, we aren’t just talking about the power that comes with job titles.
Ok so now we have a starting point…..
When we discuss possible bullying situations with others we are often asked; so where’s the line?
- When does good old banter become insulting?
- When does the strong manager become the bullying manager?
- When does the strong personality become the intimidating one?
The answer isn’t straight forward, it depends!
- It depends on the situation;
- It depends on the individual – Bullying is a person’s individual feeling or reaction in the first instance;
- It depends on the relationships and the processes in the organisation that support people.
The best way for an organisation to tackle bullying is to have Bullying and Harassment policies and processes in place and to be used when needed. It’s for staff of all levels to be encouraged to highlight or report issues and concerns. For organisations, it’s to address the responses of the ‘that’s the workplace climate. The culture in which we work’.
Ill treatment, no matter which end of the scale we are talking, should not become normalised as just how things get done in business.
Dealing with Bullying in the workplace isn’t about us all becoming robots and not interacting with each other. It’s about understanding that we are all different, we can all enjoy our time in work (hopefully) and if we feel that something isn’t right, we can safely highlight and report it.
Guest Blogger Bio
Krissy Simmons – acas Senior Advisor & Fair Treatment Officer
Providing guidance/training on all employment matters across the South East of England. Krissy works with organisations of all sizes in advising on general employment issues and policy requirements plus training on what the law requires and best practice.
In her current role with acas, Krissy has worked with and alongside organisations from different sizes and sectors, to advise and guide them with employment matters from day to day management through to change management.
acas offer a range of guidance documents – leaflets, templates, videos and E Learning, all available on their website: www.acas.org.uk