At least 25% of all employees will experience bullying at some time during their working lives, estimates Ban Bullying at Work.
The charity, in conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute, recently surveyed more than 500 managers and found that 66% cited lack of management skills as a contributing factor to bullying.
However, employers are being given the opportunity to highlight and challenge bullying in the workplace by getting involved in this year's fourth annual Ban Bullying at Work Day, which takes place on 7 November.
Position of power
Bullies tend to be in a position of power, explains Lyn Witheridge, chief executive of Ban Bullying at Work.
"Bullies are often insecure, weak, ineffectual and often no good at their jobs," she says. "Typically, bullying is based on personal envy, where a person might view a colleague as a potential threat to their position."
Bullying behaviour isn't necessarily in the form of outright aggression it can be much less obvious, even covert. Witheridge says that victims of workplace bullying often experience brutal intimidation, sometimes bordering on psychological torture, which may go unspotted by others.
She warns HR and employers to watch out for signs of bullying, for example managers setting up an employee to fail by not giving that person the right tools or information to do their job setting unrealistic deadlines, or constantly changing the guidelines which will eventually break down the victim's confidence and self-esteem to the point they feel completely useless in their job.
Policies are not enough
Bullying is a serious problem in the UK, and in the workplace it crosses all age, gender and boundaries - anyone can be a target. Even though HR is racing to tighten up its policies and procedures on bullying, Witheridge argues that having a standalone policy is not enough. "Putting such policies in place just creates the illusion that we are doing something about it, but everyone needs to be educated," she adds.
"You can never completely eradicate bullying because it's part of our basic human nature. Every organisation will have workplace bullying, but you can deal with it by providing harassment training to staff."
She believes HR needs to communicate with staff and actually define what bullying means to them. Ask them to think about what behaviour is and is not acceptable in the workplace.
"We all have a duty to look after the welfare of one another at work," says Witheridge. "Our campaign is about saying that enough is enough and bullying does not have to be feared. It's about everyone raising their heads above the parapet and encouraging each other to tackle it together."
Ban Bullying at Work: the facts
- More than two million people are bullied at work in the UK, and workplace bullying is a major cause of stress-related illness.
- A lack of recognition and acceptance of this very basic human behaviour is the cause of much corporate dysfunction, resulting in costly damage to both individuals and organisations.
- The Ban Bullying at Work Day (7 November) campaign is independent and is calling for all organisations to get involved.
- Participate on the day by taking ownership of the issue and raising awareness of bullying in your workplace.
- For further information, visit the Ban Bullying at Work website at www.banbullyingatwork.com