Business clinic: Handling bullying in the workplace

Bullying and harassment is a potential minefield for any employer. Behaviours that some find acceptable others don’t and the potential for discrimination is ever present.

Simon SteadBy Simon Stead of Solutions InStead.

The main thing is to manage it fairly and do not avoid it, - despite the temptation to shrug and say “Well that’s what he or she is like”.

In some cases the alleged perpetrator may not realise they are causing a problem or offence. If appropriate ask the other person to let them know. Help them to describe behaviours and their effects.

If this isn’t appropriate or the person does not feel they can approach the other then look to resolve the issues informally without diving straight into a formal process.

Informal dispute resolution such as mediation is often a great way to help the parties recognise how their behaviour affects others and as it is both confidential and voluntary it has the best chance of getting to a win/win without the need to enter into formal procedures that frequently end in win/lose.

Often there is the potential for discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and in this instance mediation may not be appropriate and a formal approach through the disciplinary or grievance process may need to be started.

The key is to investigate thoroughly and where possible use a person who is both trained as an investigator - it’s all about detail, great questioning and listening skills - and who has little or no prior knowledge of the individuals.

Ensure that as much as possible the emotion and judgement is dialled down along with those assumptions we all make. When deciding the action remember that your values are not always the same as others but ensure you do it right - follow your process or procedure - and do the right thing.