Bullying that goes unresolved can have a detrimental effect on your business. It can affect morale, performance and cause absence issues.
As an employer, you may also be leaving yourself open to claims such as constructive dismissal or breach of contract. If the bullying relates to a protected characteristic, then there may also be a potential claim for discrimination.
Whilst a ‘zero tolerance’ approach is common you must make sure that you handle the complaint sensitively and confidentially. This will ensure that the matter is dealt with quickly and efficiently with minimum impact to the rest of your organisation.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with bullying is to approach it informally. This can allow both employees to have an open conversation and see if they are able to resolve any issues. Where a formal process is needed you must make sure that you are keeping the employees informed throughout the process and any subsequent disciplinary proceedings.
As with most HR matters, your policy on bullying should be the first place you look for guidance. Within it, you should have definitions of what bullying is, and what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. Whilst there is no legal definition of bullying there is an ACAS guide that defines it as ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour; an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate or injure the recipient’.
Employees should be encouraged to raise concerns about bullying and ensuring confidentially is extremely important, but often this can be difficult. The best way to deal with it is to approach it on a ‘need to know basis’. Dealing with complaints sensitively and sympathetically will make the often stressful and difficult process, easier. Often creative thinking can resolve bullying issues and often implementing formal changes to the duties or working location of one or both of the parties can have the desired effect.
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