How To Handle Bullying Incidents In The Workplace

You might have read the recent coverage about workplace bullying in our sector which sparked the twitterstorm #notjustNCVO, prompting many responses and examples of incidents in various organisations. These stories are alarming and show that our sector is not immune from such behaviour and that as employers, we need to actSo what can we do if we find out that there is a case of bullying in our workplace? 

Mapping a course of action

As an employer, you should do all you can to prevent bullying and discrimination in the workplace. You are expected to do so by law, and you also have a ‘duty of care’ to look after the wellbeing of your employees.  

1. Create an anti-bullying policy 

Anti-bullying and harassment policies can support you in preventing bullying in the workplace. Acas has produced a useful booklet for employers, including guidance on setting up a policy if you don’t already have one. 

2. Address any bullying incidents straight away 

As an employer, you must take any complaint of bullying or discrimination seriously and investigate it as soon as possible. The first step is to talk to the person who raised the issue and to find out as much detail about it as you possibly can. At this stage, it’s important to check how they would like it handled. Is it something that they would like to report for you to keep an eye on it, would they like to try mediation, or perhaps they want to raise a formal complaint?  

bullying in the workplace

3. Deal with formal complaints in the appropriate way 

If someone makes a formal complaint about bullying or discrimination, you should follow a formal grievance procedure. This begins with deciding who will need to investigate the complaint. This person should be neutral and not involved in the event being investigated. In some circumstances, you may deem it appropriate to separate the employees involved, while you conduct the investigation.  

If the outcome of your investigation results in your decision to undertake disciplinary action, make sure that you go about this the right way. Acas has produced step by step guidance which can be helpful.  

4. Follow a fair procedure to tackle bullying

If you’ve tried to resolve the issue using an informal route, but found during the process that disciplinary action is needed, you must tell the employee straight away. This should be done in writing.  

When it comes to grievance procedures, the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures can be useful for checking that you’re doing all the right things to follow a fair process. You may choose to use it as a basis for creating your own code or policy. 

Note that in order to be absolutely clear and transparent, and to avoid accusations of unequal treatment, you should follow the same procedure for all similar cases. Throughout the procedure, you should make sure that you’re talking to the employee being disciplined, as well as all affected staff in a clear and confidential manner.  

be strategic yet flexible in charity planning

5. Support your employees

If an employee has raised a bullying complaint, let them know about all the sources of support that are available to them. If your workplace offers counselling, be sure to let them know about it. Likewise, inform them about free external sources of support that they might benefit from, including the below:  

  • The National Bullying Helpline offers legal guidance and emotional support to victims of workplace bullying. Reach out to them via the website or on 0300 323 0169. 
  • Acas has a number of useful resources related to workplace bullying, including a Bullying and Harassment at Work Guide for employees.  
  • SupportLine is a confidential telephone helpline offering emotional support with a page dedicated to workplace bullying.  
  • The Mental Health Foundation provides a list explaining what help is available and which organisations can offer support.  
  • The Equality Advisory and Support Service helpline. 

Don’t let bullying impact your work culture 

It goes without saying that its always best to prevent problems before they arise, which is why having a well-written and accessible anti-bullying policy will stand you in good stead. But if an incident does occur, be sure to action it straight away using the appropriate channels. With the right approach, we can make the charity sector a fairer and more inclusive place to work.   

Tags: bullying, charity sector, discrimination, diversity, diversity and inclusion

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Ewa Jozefkowicz