Tackling Bullying and Harassment at work

Tackling Bullying and Harassment at work

It’s impossible to open a newspaper or turn on the TV or radio at the moment without another household name being held up as an example of a bully. Social media is rife with horror stories of people who have been victims of bullying and harassment at work. The #METOO and the Times Up Campaigns have played a key part in bringing this issue to the foreground.

As an adult, being bullied should be a dim and distant memory, left long ago in the playground, but sadly this is not the case and many people have, and still are experiencing bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Bullying and harassment at work can take many forms, from a boss who constantly puts you down, purposefully demeaning you in front of others, to colleagues ignoring, victimising and excluding you on a regular basis. If you are the victim of such behaviours you will be suffering from stress and anxiety, and long-term you may suffer from ongoing health issues both physically and mentally.

As easy as it is for outsiders to stand by and tell those affected to discuss the problems with HR, for many people raising the issue of being bullied by someone within their organisation is not viable. For instance, it could be their boss who is the perpetrator, or they may have seen colleagues going through their company’s Grievance, Bullying and Harassment (GBH) procedures and have consequently seen how destructive the process was.

All companies should have procedures for managing conflict and may also have a Grievance or a complaints procedure in place. But from our experience, we know that traditional frameworks can be woefully inadequate: preventing employees’ needs being met; that promote a win/lose outcome; which consequently perpetuates a culture of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, resulting in a detrimental impact on mental health and well-being.

At TCM, we have adopted a new approach and have created 10 steps for tackling Bullying and Harassment at work. Our method offers a systemic, evidence-based solution to drive changes within an organisation. Our philosophy align a business’s core values, with its HR processes and its management behaviours. It also encourages leaders to adopt a strategic focus on bullying and harassment across the organisation.

Evidence suggests that implementing a Total Conflict Management System (TCMS) such as this create a more effective, harmonious, engaged and healthier workforce. *


TCM’s Ten Steps for tackling bullying and harassment in your workplace

  1. Gathering evidence and data to help you understand the nature and the extent of bullying and harassment at work.

Create a resolution working group that comprises key stakeholders to scope out and understand the impact and nature of your organisation. Gather both quantitative and qualitative data, so your company can understand what’s working and what’s not. Use the TCM Conflict Calculator tool to evaluate the cost of your current policies. Using all the data, prepare a business case to set out the challenges, the positives, the proposed solutions and the benefits that will be sent to the top management of the company. Finally, develop an over arching conflict management strategy for your organisation.


  1. Developing a code of conduct which reflects the organization’s values and principles.

This step is very proactive and sets out to managers and other employees what is expected of them and how the organisation expects their behaviours to align to the company’s core values. Start by setting out the values, why they’re important, and then identify the indicators of how that value can be met and also the behaviours that the organisation does not want. It should also be clearly stated of the steps that will be taken when things go wrong.


  1. Developing a Resolution Policy to replace the traditional GBH procedures.

Introduce a Resolution Policy that sets out a framework for managing all conflict at work, also introduce an early assessment or triage of cases. Remember: coming to HR is not a sign of weakness. Provide your employees with access to a wider range of interventions such as early resolution, coaching and mentoring, mediation, investigation/fact find and formal resolution meetings with appeals processes as required.


  1. Creating a safe place for people to speak out and embedding an early warning system.

Ensure that all staff are confident to spot, prevent and resolve bullying and harassment. Give them the tools to act and speak out without fear of retribution or the finger of blame pointing at them. Listen thoroughly, and don’t be afraid to deal with people’s feelings to help identify the problems. Make sure you provide access to an early resolution team.


  1. Training managers, leaders and colleagues to speak up and speak out.

Ensure that your managers and leaders are not bystanders. Equip your managers and leaders with the five key skills that they require to spot, prevent and resolve conflict at work: 1) Active listening; 2) emotional and social intelligence; 3) reframing, 4) generating win/win outcomes, and 5) facilitating a dialogue between parties.


  1. How and when to suspend and/or investigate.

If you need to undertake an investigation or suspend an employee, do so in a timely manner, thoroughly, robustly and fairly. Create a clear investigation plan so that HR can provide quality assurance and support against the plan. Ensure that all allegations are clearly defined and set out. If you need to suspend, review the suspension daily. Make sure you only involve the people you absolutely need to to reduce collateral damage and keep in mind that most cases will not result in a dismissal, so you will need to consider how to reintegrate the parties.


  1. Integrating Restorative Justice, mediation and FAIR Conversations™ into your range of remedies.

Mediation can be very powerful for building relationships, before, during or after a formal process. Mediators will create a safe space for the parties to discuss the issues. Both Mediation and Restorative Justice deliver a just and fair outcome and can contribute to a just and fair culture.


  1. Learning and embedding the lessons from bullying and harassment cases.

Create a culture of continuous improvement where insights and learnings can be embedded. Review cases with your resolution working group to extract any learnings. Follow this up by embedding any learnings across the organisation. It is important to gather and review data relating to the effectiveness of your approach. A good case management system is critical


  1. The role of internal communications and social media.

Cyber bullying is as serious as any other forms of bullying and should be treated the same. Actively engaging your internal communications teams will help you to share your successes and bring your company with you on your journey. It will also ensure that your approach is underpin efforts to drive employee engagement, employee wellbeing and any other initiatives that are running within your organisation


  1. HR, business leaders and unions working together to achieve points 1-9 above?

Focus on bringing people together, helping them to work collaboratively to be able to resolve their issues. Create a positive working culture that everyone embraces and contributes towards. The effective management of conflict is an exemplar of the best example of joined up, person centred, values-based approach. On the other hand, poor management of conflict and a culture of bullying and harassment is the antitheses of a person centred, values-based approach. Which organisation do you want to be, it’s a choice that we all must make. The good news is that we can all make new choices at any time.

If you would like to learn more about TCMs Tackling Bullying and Harassment at work approach, you can view David Liddle’s webinar by following this link: https://vimeo.com/295994783

If you would like any further information or would like to discuss how we can help your organisation create a Resolution Policy please do get in touch, we’d be delighted to hear from you.

* http://m.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/5/7/Conflict-management-Northumbria-Healthcare-NHS-Trust.pdf

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