workplace bullying

Why Me?

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There are many reasons how and why bullies target others, and the reasons are consistent between different cases. There are many euphemisms used to describe bullying (e.g. firm management”) and myths used to justify it (e.g. “victims are weak”). None of these are true. Bullying often repeats because bullies target their victims for the same reasons each time. This page may answer the question, “Why do I keep getting bullied?”.

Why do people get bullied?

Bullies can act because they are jealous of their target’s status, talents, abilities, circumstances or possessions. Bullies act without integrity, and despise people who display it. Sometimes they act with no reason other than for the kick they get from realising that something they have done has provoked a reaction in their target. Making people annoyed can be a cheap source of gratification and amusement. But bullies with jobs fear exposure of their perceived shortcomings, such as inadequacy and incompetence, and these people bully not for fun but in order – they think – to survive. Competent colleagues fuel the bully’s fear that shortcomings in their capabilities will surface, so they tend to select targets who fulfil some of the criteria below.

  • Being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Bullies are predatory and opportunistic. Irrespective of any other explanation, being in the wrong place at the wrong moment is the main reason.
  • Being competent:-
  •  being good at their job, often excelling;
  •   being willing to go that extra mile and expect others to do the same;
  •  being successful, tenacious, determined, courageous, having fortitude;
  •  being imaginative, creative, innovative;
  •   being able to master new skills;
  •   thinking long term and seeing the bigger picture;
  •   being helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience;
  • being diligent and industrious
  • Being Popular:-
  •   with colleagues, customers, clients, pupils, parents, patients, etc;
  •  Being regarded as an expert and the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional
  •  having a sense of humour, including displays of quick-wittedness
  • Having strength of character:-
  •  displaying integrity, honesty, intelligence and intellect;
  •   having a well-defined set of values that they are unwilling to compromise;
  • being trustworthy, trusting, conscientious, loyal and dependable;
  •  a sense of fairness:
  • willingness to tackle injustice;
  •  low propensity to violence and strong forgiving streak
  •  refusing to join an established clique
  •  being sensitive (having empathy, concern for others, respect, tolerance etc)
  •  being slow to anger
  •  showing independence of thought or deed
  •  refusing to become a corporate clone and drone
  • having high coping skills under stress, especially when the injury to health becomes apparent
  • Having a vulnerability:-
  • The need to earn a living from work;
  •  being proud of one’s reputation and record;
  •  being too old or too expensive
  • finding it difficult to say no
  • low assertiveness and a need to feel valued
  • believing everyone is on the same team and working toward the same goals;
  • being too tolerant;
  •  being a perfectionist;
  •   low propensity to violence and strong forgiving streak;
  •   a tendency to self-deprecation, indecisiveness, deference and approval seeking;
  •   high expectations of those in authority and a distaste for those who abuse their power;
  • quick to apologise when accused, even if not guilty.
  • Having raised concerns
  • .. about bullying, fraud, safety or any matter where the bully feels implicated or at risk as a result.

Revenge.

The characteristics above typically apply to targets who have done nothing wrong to provoke the treatment to which they are subjected. However, some people respond to bullying with bullying. Sometimes they target their bully, effectively engaging in a fight. Revenge bullying does not require the subject of the revenge to have the sort of characteristics listed above. Some would argue that bullying in revenge is justifiable, but in absolute terms it is no less unreasonable than the behaviour that provoked it.

It is common too for a person be reasonably reprimanded for something they have done wrong, to feel the reprimand is unjustified, and to take action against the person who reprimanded them. This is a common response to whistle-blowing, but it can also happen to a manager who takes reasonable steps to address a shortcoming in a subordinate’s work or conduct, and it can happen when someone snaps in response to a bully’s efforts to provoke anger. The perpetrator of revenge bullying can lose any moral high ground they might have had at the outset, and if they persist or their response is particularly mean or damaging, they can ultimately lose their right to criticise the conduct to which they were originally subjected.

Taken from Bully On Line

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Sign Petition to Legislate against Workplace Bullying

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If you believe that workplace bullying should be legislated against please follow the link below and sign the petition. If there are 100,000 signatures there is a good chance that  parliament will debate the issue.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=Workplace+bullying&state=open&commit=Search

A Reminder of what Workplace Bullying is.

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A Reminder of what Workplace Bullying is. Tim Field in his book Bully In Sight says that “after a victim has been bullied out of their job, the pain and separation that the victim experiences is similar to that felt following the death of a loved one. This is especially so if a) it is a position one has occupied for a long time, b) it is a job one loves and has made a success of, c) the job involves working with people (adults or children, especially the disadvantaged) and d) termination  is through dismissal enacted or contrived through bullying behaviour.”Some might find it offensive to equate loss of life with loss  of job, for one is replaceable, the other is clearly not. However, relative merit is not the issue – it is the effect that loss and severance has on the psyche which is the same……” “Victims of bullying often find that because they are ousted in unacceptable circumstances and through dubious practices, they don’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends and colleagues; they are denied the opportunity to put their affairs in order, tie up loose ends and complete tasks in hand, designate successors and beneficiaries and collect their belongings.” This I concur. I worked with children, frequently disadvantaged children as well as adults and loved my career of 25 years. Although I was not dismissed, the false allegations made against me, damaging my reputation and future career prospects and the refusal of anyone to do anything about the perpetrators forced me to take early retirement. I know what it is like to grieve for a close relative who has passed away, and the pain and suffering due to the separation I was feeling from my career was similar. Reading this book helped me through this grieving process because I came to realize that my feelings were normal. I thought I must be crazy not being able to return to the place of work where I put in on average 55 hours a week. I left my belongings such as my own printer that I was using, electronic photograph album etc. I was unable to tidy up loose ends as Tim Field describes. Two years later I still cannot bring myself to drive past the building. From someone who has a very strong character, I couldn’t understand my feelings. Tim Field describes this as quite normal. We are lagging  behind America, Canada, Europe and Australia in terms of protecting our workers in the workplace. Its time the Trade Union Congress spoke up as well as the public and MP’s in order to stop this abhorrent practice. How come other continents recognize the serious harm of workplace bullying but the UK doesn’t. After all, evidence shows that it is rife in our workplaces. (see previous blogs) As Tim Field wrote on page 50, “ Statements such as ‘Why didn’t we tackle this before?’ will be familiar to those who have conquered denial in previous causes. Rape, discrimination, sexual harassment, child abuse, now workplace bullying – it’s as if society is picking off and ticking off these violational abuses one by one; perhaps the next millennium will be one of enlightened and pleasurable existence after all. In the meantime there is much to do and we must not be complacent.” We are 14 years into the next millennium and nothing is being done. Please speak up and say whether you think we should follow in other countries and continents examples by making workplace bullying illegal. Support the campaign to Introduce Legislation to protect Workers and our Economy against Workplace Bullying.

Workplace Bullying Still Alive and Kicking in the UK.

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On Friday 7th March 2014, it was reported in the Standard,  the BBC Director General, Tony Hall, said that the BBC has a bullying problem – but we are on top of it.

 “The findings of an investigation by Dinah Rose QC into BBC’s working environment, commissioned in the light of Jimmy Savile’s sex crimes and published in May, found broader issues of bullying and the inappropriate use of power of which sexual harassment is only one manifestation.”

“I want a culture where people can come to work and feel they are valued and don’t feel bullied. These are not easy things to deal with but we are working our way through that.” Tony Hall

http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/tony-hall-yes-the-bbc-has-a-bullying-problem-but-were-on-top-of-it-9176511.html

However, on the 8th March 2014 it was reported in the Daily Mail that “after  senior executive was found guilty of bullying but then moved to what has been described as a plum job.”

The report went on to say, “Jim Buchanan, a news chief, received a written warning after a year long investigation upheld claims that he bullied and intimidated staff.

The complaints were said to be about verbal abuse and sending intimidating emails to colleagues.

But yesterday sources said Mr. Buchanan had been moved to another senior role, leading to criticism that the Corporation was again failing to take bullying claims seriously.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2576459/Fury-BBC-bully-promoted-plum-job-guilty-abuse-despite-zero-tolerance-vow.html

Tim Field in his book, Bully In Sight, described how it was not unusual for the perpetrators of workplace bullying to be promoted while the victims suffered, receiving no justice.

It is clear to me, evidenced by the numerous reports in the media,  that without legislation this practice of workplace bullying is never going to end as employers are not going to take it seriously. Consequently, individuals and our economy will continue to suffer.

Support the campaign to Introduce Legislation to protect Workers and our Economy against Workplace Bullying.

 

Legislation has been passed in Tennesse USA, to Protect Workers against Workplace Bullying. Employment Rights eroded in the UK while employment rights increase in other countries.

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In my  blog dated  October 2013 I referred to the survey carried out by the OECD which showed that  UK workers  were the 3rd least protected in terms of employment rights out of 40 developed countries. http://xperthr.co.uk/blogsemployment-intelligence/2013/03employment-law-reform-progress/#sthash.8QMj41F4.dpuf

The only countries which had less protection was the USA and Canada. Since then the employment protection for UK workers has deteriorated eg   introduction of fees for employment tribunals; you have to be employed for 2 years instead of 1 year to be able to claim unfair dismissal (see Department for Business Innovation and Skills Employment Law 2013 Progress on Reform page 24 paragraph 2.3

However, Canadian Provinces have   legislation to protect their workers against harassment / bullying in places such as Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario British Columbia.  (see JILPT REPORT Workplace Bullying and Harassment No.12 20130.

In 2008, the OECD sited the USA as having the least protection for workers in the workplace. Yet now we see the Healthy Workplace Bill has been introduced into many States to protect workers against workplace bullying.  Tennesse is the first state to enact the Law on June 3 2014. http://www.healthyworkplacebill.org/states/tn/tennessee.php

On April 13 2014, in Massachusetts, the Bill reached its 2nd reading in the House in the USA.

http://healthyworkplacebill.org/states/mahb1766.pdf

Nevada State Senator, Richard Segerblom of Las Vegas proposes amending Nevada’s employment discrimination law so that anyone who is a victim of a hostile workplace environment has a legal remedy whether or not they can show illegal discrimination.

http://abusergoestowork.com/tag/healthy-workplace-bill

This I would argue, would overcome the absurdity of our present law in the UK as I endeavoured to show in the previous blog with various examples.

However, what is happening in the UK today to protect UK workers against bullying in the workplace – NOTHING! There has been a lot of talk in the past by unions, MP’s and others, such as the great work by Tim Field and the Andrea Adams Trust to show the seriousness of the problem in the UK and how it is affecting the mental health of individuals and also the economy as well as business organisations and the efficiency of workplaces but still workplace bullying continues.

As well as the references I have referred to in previous blogs, see the speech made by John Robertson MP in 2008 on 16th December  http://www.john-robertson.co.uk/2008/12/dignity-at-work/

Apart from this blog I have seen no recent campaigning from MP’s or unions to stop this evil practice.

We need to follow the example of other countries and learn from them. We must not give up fighting against this morally outrageous practice which needs to be made illegal.

Support the Campaign to Introduce Legislation to Protect Workers and our Economy against Workplace Bullying

2004 Voluntary Project to Combat Workplace Bullying in UK. 10 Years Later – FAILED. Now is the time to bring in UK Legislation to Protect our Workers as in other Countries.

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Valerie Davey MP. (Lab) for Bristol West stated in 2004

“The need for the Government to be more proactive in promoting and ensuring dignity at work for all employees at every level has been reiterated from the back benches of this Chamber and the House of Lords since at least 1996……

All Members of Parliament must know through their surgeries of cases of constituents experiencing bullying at work and being unable to voice that experience and seek a resolution. When we first heard about those often desperate cases most of us were unaware of the scale of the problem….

Subsequent evidence from trade Unions confirmed that despite years of campaigning against bullying, it remains a persistent and extensive problem.”

Valerie Davey  MP went on to describe a new project that was being launched.

“The project has been launched to provide supportive advice and training to organisations that are trying to tackle bullying, train employees as counsellors, devise and promote a voluntary charter on dignity at work, promote examples of excellent employers in the UK and produce a benchmark that enables organisations to measure their success in achieving dignity at work and a “ban the bullying” pack.”

She went on to say “ I remind the Government that other European countries have followed the legislative route and I hope the work (Project)  will be compared with the work in other countries.”

Ms Davey MP hoped that the project would be enough to stamp out bullying in the workplace and therefore no need to bring in legislation. However she went on to say that if the project was not successful that Ministers would then reconsider and bring in legislation.

“-and with assurance –from the Minister that the project will be monitored and that should  good practice not prove as infectious as we all hope, the Government will reconsider the possibility of legislation and revisit the new clause or a similar provision later”

That was back in March 2004.

Ten years later the project I argue has not been successful. Surely 10 years is long enough to test out a project. Was there any monitoring? Are there any reports regarding any monitoring? I think the following links to newspaper articles over recent years reporting on workplace bullying is enough to show that ‘the project has not been successful and therefore legislation needs to be brought in, in line with other countries.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2353280/One-NHS-workers-bullied-colleagues-Managers-named-worst-offenders-increasing-workloads-toll.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-19421195

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/oct20/bullying-workplace-ed-balls

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/bbc-nhs-release-statements-after-4876098

http://www.wharf.co.uk/2014/05/greenwich-council-employees-st.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-27425360

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10679410/Mark-Lawson-quits-Radio-4-Front-Row-amid-bullying-furore.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27480951

http://www.bb.co.uk/news/uk-26878761

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/newsbeat-chief-rod-mckenzie-moved-after-complants-of-bullying-from-over-30-bbc-staff-9078443.html

http://www.standard.co.uk./lifestyle/london-life/tony-hall-yes-the-bbc-has-a-bullying-problem–but–were-on-top-of-it-9176511.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2576459/Fury-BBC-bully-promoted-plum-job-guilty-abuse-despite-zero-tolerance-vow.html

http://www.bbc.uk/news/uk-27434220

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20340073

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14527103

These are just a small percentage of articles I have collected from newspapers which I believe shows that the Project referred to  by Valerie Davey has not been successful.

It also must be recognised that the articles are referring to large Public Sector organisations which attracts media attention. We must not forget  the millions of workers employed in small businesses who equally suffer psychological trauma by workplace bullies but do not attract media attention.

Surely after 10 years, MP’s need to start acting again in order to bring in legislation, in line with other countries, to protect our workers and economy from the insidious  bullying that is taking place every day in organisations up and down this country.

Tell us about your experiences and opinions. Do you think the UK has a problem with Workplace Bullying? Do you think that there should be legislation to protect our workers?

Support the Campaign To Introduce Legislation To Protect Workers and our Economy Against Workplace Bullying

 

Lords arguments for and against the Dignity at Work Bill

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Lords’ arguments for and against the Dignity at Work Bill

Baroness Gibson stated in Parliament, on 27 March 2002 when she presented the Dignity at Work Bill, that the aim of the Bill was to counteract bullying at work and to enshrine good practice into law.

“The Bill attempts to be fair to both employees and employers. In an ideal world, it would not be necessary. All employers would be good ones and would already have policies and practices in place which would prevent bullying in the workplace. But this is not an ideal world and employers are not all good ones. This Bill aims to correct those who are not.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but it is only in recent years that it has been identified and rightly recognised as a workplace issue. As Angela Ishmael wrote in her excellent book, Harassment, Bullying and Violence at Work, published by the Industrial Society: As employers move towards creating and maintaining a healthy working climate as a corporate priority, bullying and its effects have leaked through the organisations like a crack in a wall”. Bullying is undoubtedly a great problem faced by many British workers. It affects all kinds of workplaces. I have known cases of bullying on the shop floor and in the office; in the voluntary sector, telecommunications, retail, catering, engineering, finance and insurance, the health service, manufacturing, universities and schools and the Prison Service. You name the workplace and bullying can be found. It is a very destructive force.

It is difficult to put a concrete figure on the number of workers bullied, but an NOP poll conducted for a TUC conference on bullying at work suggested that a staggering 5 million working people in the UK had either been bullied in the past or were currently experiencing bullying. Of course bullying does not only have an adverse effect on employees. Employers are also affected by it. Bullying at work costs businesses in employee absenteeism through ill health and lost effectiveness. Professor Cary Cooper of UMIST, an acknowledged expert in the field, has estimated that 40 million working days are lost each year because of bullying. In financial terms, this puts the cost to industry at £3 billion to £4 billion annually. On top of that, it brings to the workplace low morale, poor working relationships and a general depression of spirit. That is hardly conducive to high productivity and quality standards. Bullying blights lives and causes immense and acute suffering and stress.

In the course of the debate, we may be told that there are laws which adequately cover bullying at work. As a former trade union official, I would dispute that emphatically. In the past the UK Parliament has not focused on providing statutory protection against bullying at work. Instead it has concentrated on discrimination. That is fine when it comes to sex or race. But the laws covering sex and race do not adequately cover bullying. It is true that cases can be taken under the Sex Discrimination Act or Race Relations Act. But the great weakness here is that most cases of bullying cannot be shown to amount to sexual or racial harassment and therefore this legislation is not effective in that case.

On the face of it, the health and safety Act can be used by those facing workplace bullying. But again that Act does not specifically mention bullying. It concentrates on the, health, safety and welfare at work of all employees”— a much vaguer concept.

As I know from my years as a health and safety commissioner, the Act is rarely found to be effective for bullying cases. Indeed, because there is no specific law relating to bullying or harassment in the non-sexist or non-racist sense, the only way for an employee to proceed to an employment tribunal because of bullying is to resign from his or her work and bring a claim of breach of contract under the heading of constructive dismissal. That cannot be a just and proper way for an employee to have to proceed in this day and age.

The current laws are not only inadequate for the employee, they also expose employers to a wide range of liabilities without providing the legal tools or guidance to deal with potential bullying problems before they become serious. The existing laws do not help employers to deal with the problem of bullying in the workplace. At best they can provide only a certain financial compensation to an employee who by then has lost his or her health, job or both.

I can best illustrate the absurdity and ambivalence of the law by telling the House of the experiences of two members of my previous union. A young man and a young woman worked in a London teaching hospital. Both received appalling treatment at the hands of their male supervisor by whom they were constantly undermined and their lives made a misery. The young woman’s bullying and denigration also included unwanted sexual advances. At the same time, the supervisor embarked on a campaign to humiliate and reduce the standing of the young man by a series of mean and malevolent acts.

They both went to the same internal appeal. The young woman was held to have been sexually harassed and the young man to have been bullied. Both sustained substantial financial losses as well as suffering emotionally. The young woman was advised that she had a sex discrimination claim which she lodged and eventually settled out of court. The young man had no legal basis for a claim and received no effective remedy for his very similar experiences. He would have had to leave his job had he wished to claim constructive dismissal, as I explained earlier. I believe that that highlights graphically why a new law is needed. If the Bill had been in place, both could have presented bullying cases and both could have received their just rewards.

The Dignity at Work Bill supplements existing employment legislation enabling employers to send a clear message to all their staff that dignity at work must be respected and, if they act quickly and fairly, avoid claims and resolve issues in a way that promotes better workplace relationships and higher morale.”

Baroness Gould of Potternewtonstated in response

As my noble friend said, it covers many situations and can take many forms. It is that aspect upon which I wish to concentrate my remarks. It can cover unfair and excessive criticism, humiliation, public insults, the constantly changing or setting of unrealistic work targets, withholding information, undervaluing efforts and shouting and abusive behaviour. Bullying is a sustained form of psychological abuse, a gradual wearing down process that makes the individuals feel demeaned and inadequate, and hopeless not only within their own work environment but also in their domestic life.”

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton also spoke in favour of the Bill being passed;

“In my submission, the Bill is particularly welcome for two features. The first is its concentration on the terrible problem of bullying, of which my noble friends Lady Gibson and Lady Gould have spoken so convincingly and on which our current law is so manifestly inadequate and confused. Even beyond the focus on bullying, I welcome especially a worker’s right under the Bill to escape unjustified punishment and arbitrary change in his or her working life. I also welcome the right, so clearly set out, not to be victimised for pursuing proceedings for his or her rights to be enforced.

So often today, those whose only way of feeding their families is the sale of their labour power, by hand or by brain, are spoken of as though they were merely items in a labour market, to be manipulated— “

Baroness Barker also spoke in favour of the Bill being passed,

“I want to pick up the question of why we need to have specific legislation on this subject. It has become clear to me in my researches that because of the absence of any specific bullying legislation a great many people dream up or invent reasons to recast what is actually bullying as something else. That is extremely bad for management. To call something by another name and to call it racial discrimination or sexual discrimination, for example, when it is just plain bullying does not help either the business or the culture involved.

A couple of years ago I was on a training course led by a personnel manager. He took us through a number of different case studies in order to put across some points. He described one case study in a large statutory organisation. He came to the crux of the matter and asked, “What happened next? Let me rephrase the question and ask any of you who ever worked for the NHS what happened next”? Three people put their hands up and said, “She went sick”. The lack of specific legislation on bullying and its recasting as something else breed a culture in some organisations which is distinctly unhelpful. There is a powerful case for disentangling bullying from other things.

As your Lordships will know, the 1996 Bill foundered for two main reasons. First, it suffered the fate of many a Private Member’s Bill; that is, death at the hands of the draftsman. The then government spokesman, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, took apart the wording of the Bill with all the relish of a Minister unveiling the fruits of the toil of parliamentary counsel. One of the merits of the Bill before us today is that many of those criticisms, principally those of definition, have been taken into account by the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson. Clause 1 of the present Bill which seeks to define behaviours which would be deemed to constitute bullying is much more tightly defined.

The second reason why Lord Monkswell’s Bill met a swift end in another place was not the ill disposition or the then government, although, undoubtedly, that played a part, but rather the sense that specific legislation would be either an unnecessary burden on business or would fail to tackle the issue effectively. I suspect that there was also another factor although it was never explicitly stated; namely, a fear that the passage of such legislation would in itself lead to a rash of claims. The then government acknowledged that although bullying was a problem of some significance, its adverse effect on productivity, coupled with existing legal protection against explicit discrimination and protection on grounds of health and safety, for example, should suffice. Six years on we have another opportunity to assess the extent to which that strategy was correct and the extent to which there is a need for legislation now.

A number of noble Lords have cited some of the studies and pieces of research which have emerged since 1996. I wish to mention just two. In 1998 Staffordshire University published research in which 40 per cent of those surveyed had witnessed bullying and 18 per cent had experienced for themselves what they termed bullying. That in turn sparked other pieces of research, the most interesting of which found that priests and clergy have been among those who have, experienced that.

The research by Professor Cary Cooper and Helge Hoel of the Manchester School of Management at UMIST was quoted extensively by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould. I want to discuss two further points about it. The first involves the headline conclusions of that research, which was entitled Destructive Conflict and Bullying at Work. It concluded that bullying thrives in a management culture where the loss of emotional control goes unmanaged; that good employers need a policy to deter bullying, which states explicitly that those who report incidents will not be victimised; and that bullying is often a correlation of autocratic, insensitive management styles, which need to be confronted and challenged. Each of those points should be readily understood by any employer who wishes to have a productive and thriving enterprise.

Secondly, the detailed findings of that study tell us a great deal more. The percentages of men and women who had been bullied were roughly equal. Those who were victims were most likely to be aged between 35 and 44, to be white and on full-time permanent contracts. Although managers were most likely to be perpetrators, they, too, could be victims. The significance of that data is that they indicate that bullying is not confined to particular professions or sections of the workplace. It can and does happen to anyone, but it is most likely to occur when other poor management practices are taking place.

That study defined the critical times at which bullying was most likely to occur. It cited factors such as periods of organisational change, the introduction of new IT systems, redundancy and restructuring. All of those are well-known pressure points in any organisation of any size. That valuable information is available now and the Government should be promoting it vigorously in order to enable employers to identify bullying and to take preventive or remedial action.

As I said earlier, the Bill has benefited from previous scrutiny. Clause 1 confers a right to dignity at work and provides a detailed but not exhaustive list of behaviours. That list is helpful and necessary. On 8th April 2001, Richard Wilson of the Institute of Directors wrote an article querying the need for legislation. He said: How would you distinguish between times when people do need to be criticised and encouraged to do better, and those when people are being treated in an unacceptable fashion?”. There is plenty of relevant evidence from the world of education. Furthermore, in my field—social care—working definitions of abuse have been developed over the past 10 years. It is high time that employers caught up with many other fields and adopted the definitions in the Bill, coupled with the growing body of evidence from employment tribunals. In other employment matters, such as race and disability discrimination, employers are increasingly wising up to the fact that bad practice equals bad business. They should swiftly come to the same realisation about bullying.

It is high time that staff who are victims of bullying are given information and support to enable them to seek a way out other than resignation from situations that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, has set out, are often extremely damaging. This measure is commendable and we on these Benches wish the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, well, not just with this good piece of legislation, but with what, in reality, will be a longer campaign to educate employers to eradicate the scourge of bullying at work.

Lord Rotherwick on the other hand argued against the introduction of new legislation to protect workers who are victims of workplace bullying on the following grounds;

“Can the extra burdens on small businesses and the public and voluntary sectors be justified with more legislation? Large private sector employers with adequate resources can and do use cost/benefit analysis to underpin a business case to tackle workplace bullying. But it is questionable whether small businesses have adequate resources to carry out similar risk assessment. This is a complex and costly area for any employer considering the introduction of dignity at work policies. The employer should take into account not only that people who are being bullied have employment rights, but that those being disciplined for bullying also have rights. For instance, if an employer does not strike the correct delicate balance in addressing an employee over alleged bullying, that employee may feel that the employer has been heavy-handed and has tried to dismiss him or her and can make a tribunal claim against the employer.

Can legislation be used surgically to solve a workplace problem without secondary effects? While there is an argument as to whether or not we want this type of legislation, it is worth bearing in mind what Jan Long, the clinical adviser at the Wiltshire and Swindon NHS Trust’s staff support centre, said. He warns that accusations of bullying are already used to cover up poor performance. He goes on to state: Once accused managers find themselves in an agonising situation where it is almost impossible to defend themselves. The knock on effect is that managers are finding it increasingly difficult to discipline staff. Sadly, this is especially true when dealing with sensitive situations—such as with members of minority groups”. Another example is that of Mr Richard of the Institute of Directors who claims that any legislation is fraught with difficulties. He asks: How would you distinguish between times when people need to be criticised and encouraged to do better, and those when people are being treated in an unacceptable fashion?”

Reading Lord Rotherwick’s comments, I cannot help but think he feels that the legislation to protect people against racial and sexual discrimination is not appropriate because of difficulties he perceives employers face when trying to discipline employees or address underperformance. When looking at evidence from the victims of bullying, procedures have been flagrantly flouted and the victim has not been given a fair hearing.

For example in my case that I referred to in one of the first blogs; I was called into a senior Director’s office who was employed by  large public sector organisation. I was not told the purpose of the meeting and I was told to be bring a line manager who had control over my career. At the meeting I was told that another senior Director was considering taking legal action against me because of a letter I had written. No letter was at the meeting, the Director who was supposed to be considering legal action was also not at the meeting. When I asked what specifically I had written, he was unable to give any answer. Because of his position, my line manager believed that I had done something illegal, although with no idea of what. Of course I hadn’t done anything. I had simply disagreed with plans the senior Director had regarding my ‘department’ and I had provided very good reason based on solid objective data analysis. In other words, he wanted to get rid of me for doing my job well. He succeeded after 25 years in a career I loved. The grievance I raised was a farce as there was no transparency and evidence I provided was ignored. If the Senior Director had genuine reason to make such a claim, he would have informed me of the purpose of the meeting beforehand. He would have had the letter at the meeting that we could have discussed and the senior Director who was supposedly considering legal action would have been at the meeting too. If there had been transparency in terms of correct procedures being followed  there would be no reason for me to claim bullying.

With regard to underperformance, if there was clear evidence that underperformance existed and correct procedures were followed, a claimant who was trying to cite bullying would not be successful at a tribunal.

I therefore believe that Lord Rotherwick’s argument does not stand up to evidence.

What do you think? Please comment with your views and experiences.

 

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