Anti-Bullying Week – Reaching out and speaking up about workplace bullying

Anti-Bullying Week 2022 takes place from 14 to 18 November. This year’s ‘Reach Out’ theme empowers us all to do something positive to counter the harm and hurt that bullying causes.

While the focus of Anti-Bullying week is heavily on children, it’s a timely reminder that bullying isn’t just something that happens in childhood or in schools, but in many workplaces too. Bullying and harassment create an unhappy and unproductive workplace which can result in poor morale and poor performance.

A recent survey sponsored by the TUC found that 1 in 3 employees felt they had been bullied at work and 30% have witnessed bullying in the workplace. Bullying currently causes the loss of 18 million working days every year at a cost of £13.75 billion a year to the UK economy, from sickness related absences, staff turnover and decreased productivity. Of course, there’s much more to bullying than just the financial implications, with costs to people’s well-being and mental health being high.

What constitutes workplace bullying?

According to the National bullying helpline, a bully in the workplace “deliberately manipulates, belittles, intimidates and tries to control or undermine”. We will all have encountered difficult experiences within the workplace during our careers, but when does that behaviour become bullying or lead to harassment?

The words bullying and harassment are often used interchangeably. ACAS states that bullying may be characterised as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”.

In short, workplace bullying may be designed to threaten, intimidate or humiliate the employee, and/or interfere with their ability to do their work.

Prevention is better than cure

When it comes to bullying, it is far better to prevent this type of behaviour than to deal with it once it occurs. Organisations have a duty of care towards their employees to provide a safe workplace and prevent bullying and harassment from taking place. Fostering a positive culture that is free from bullying behaviour is vital and needs to come from the top down.

Workplaces that are leading the way when it comes to the health and wellbeing of their employees are those that invest in personal and professional development training opportunities and have clear and robust policies in place.

Anti-bullying/anti-harassment policy

An anti-bullying policy should:

  • Clearly state how the company defines bullying and provide examples of unacceptable behaviour and working conditions
  • State the consequences of bullying
  • Outline the process of how bullying will be handled
  • Encourage the reporting of unacceptable behaviour and ensure this channel is confidential
  • Outline the process of investigating complaints
  • Ensure a program is in place to support the target, outside of the workplace

Anti-bullying training

Raising awareness and providing anti-bullying training helps to promote employee understanding of the negative effects on workplace wellbeing and the steps an organisation has in place to tackle the issue. This will not only demonstrate that the organisation has a robust anti-bullying strategy and commitment, but it may also encourage staff who are facing workplace bullying to speak up and allow this to be addressed appropriately.

Creating an anti-bullying culture

  • Ensure all employees are aware of the anti-bullying policy
  • Clearly state an intolerance for bullying and revisit regularly
  • Take all complaints seriously, investigate thoroughly, deal with promptly and treat with integrity
  • Encourage an environment of respect and celebrate diversity
  • Provide training to educate all employees about bullying, the harmful consequences to the company as well as the individuals involved
  • Provide opportunities for further development, especially in the areas of self-awareness, personality strengths and developmental areas, interpersonal skills and diversity tolerance
  • Provide managers with training in people management
  • Carefully monitor team dynamics, pay special attention to individuals with controlling and aggressive tendencies as well as any employees who seem to have become despondent, nervous, demotivated or are regularly ill.

Final thoughts…

Anti-Bullying Week is a reminder to everyone – whether it’s in school, at home, in the community or online – to reach out, speak up and show each other the support we need. We can all play our part by never tolerating any form of abuse or bullying and never staying quiet.

Preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace starts with creating a positive, transparent culture where any negative or abusive behaviour is immediately called out.

We all deserve to work in mentally healthy workplace environments, where we treat and are treated by others with respect.

At Digital Bricks Learning, we deliver Anti-Bullying training courses that help identify the signs of bullying and harassment, discuss legislation and policies, and suggest solutions for dealing with it. To find out more, contact our friendly team.


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