January 15, 2010

Bullying in the workplace on the rise

The recession has seen a big increase in bullying at work, the Guardian has learned. One in 10 employees experience workplace bullying and harassment, according to the conciliation service Acas, while a survey by the union Unison reports that more than one-third of workers said they were bullied in the past six months, double the number a decade ago.

"The fact that bullying has doubled in the past decade is shocking," said Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison.

Fraser Younson, head of employment at the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said: "In the last year or so, as running businesses has become more difficult, the way managers interface with their staff has become more demanding. Managers are chasing things up, being more critical. If they are not trained to deal with increased levels of stress, then we are seeing them do this in a way that makes staff feel bullied."

Samantha Mangwana, an employment solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker, said: "We are getting a very high level of cases. Most of the people who come to us with a problem at work talk about bullying. It frequently arises in people's line-manager relationship."

Employment lawyers say allegations of bullying have become a frequent feature of claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

Support groups are struggling to cope with the rise in cases, with one helpline recently forced to close.

"We have been overwhelmed by a huge rise in complaints over the last two years," said Lyn Witheridge, who ran the Andrea Adams Trust bullying helpline until last year. "We had to close the charity and the helpline because we couldn't cope with the number of calls – they more than doubled to 70 a day.

"The recession has become a playground for many bullies who know they can get away with it. Under pressure, budgets have got to be met. Managers are bullying people as a way of forcing them out and getting costs down."

News of the increase comes amid a number of high-profile employment tribunal cases, including a News of the World sports reporter, Matt Driscoll, who was awarded almost £800,000 by an east London tribunal after he suffered "a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour" from staff, including Andy Coulson, now David Cameron's head of communications.

Last month two yeomen were sacked from the Tower of London after an inquiry revealed a campaign of bullying against Moira Cameron, the first female yeoman warder in the tower's 1,000-year history.

"We see some cases of bullying in discrimination where the employer invokes what we colloquially call the 'bastard defence'," said Mangwana. "Their defence is that they were a bastard to everyone, so it's not discriminatory."

Academics have long warned of the link between economic conditions and bullying, with studies in the 1980s and 1990s predicting that workplace competition and the threat of redundancy were most likely to cause an increase. The decline of trade unions and of collective action has also been cited as a factor.

Experts also believe that press coverage of bullying cases has raised awareness, encouraging more employees to take advantage of what has been described as an "explosion" of individual employment rights over recent years.

Although "bullying" is not a legal term, cases of bullying at work have arisen through employment law, health and safety and protection from harassment legislation. But news of the rise in bullying cases across different jurisdictions, which research suggests contributes to the 13.7m working days lost every year as a result of stress and depression, has prompted criticism that the government has failed to adequately address the problem.

"The increase in tribunal claims this year is part of a lurch towards the American culture of litigation, but that is not necessarily the answer," said Witheridge. "More should be done to resolve bullying disputes without litigation, and for people to be treated with the dignity they deserve at work, while also being strongly managed."

The government said it was working to tackle the problem. Lord Young, the employment relations minister, said: "Workplace harassment and violence is unacceptable and the government is committed to addressing these problems."

From: http://www.guardian.co.uk

3 comments:

Beauty and Health Editor said...

Talk is cheap. I want to see some action.

How can people carry out their duties and work effectively and efficiently under a bully?

I'm surprised a greater number of people have not been reported to have assaulted the bully at work.

When I was in secondary school, (over 15 years ago), I was bullied for about a year by a girl in my class who was bigger and fatter than me. For the most part I ignored this girl until one day she physically attacked me. Of course I had to beat her up WWF wrestling style. After that she left me alone and so did all her bullying friends. I got respect after that. In an alternate universe, actions like this would not be necessary, but some people are by nature, troublesome and predatory against people who they deem to be weaker, physically and psychologically.

Now, unfortunately, you can't do this in a work setting or you would find yourself getting prosecuted, however some people are very provocative and could test a saint.

I was reading some months ago about a man who got sacked from work in the USA and then came back with a gun to shoot about 5 employees.

Yes, the Government should do more, before people take the law into their own hands. It makes sense for them to address this situation of bullying at work effectively.

Why should people have to work under slavery/plantation conditions because a person/some idiot has been given authority over them to rule with an iron fist?

Additionally, grievances should be heard by Independent parties, not by people who potentially drink down the pub together or are "friends". In so doing there is no room for bias.

Sounds like common sense to me. Of course, there are a lot of things in the UK that don't make any sense to me. The place is supposed to be developed but exhibits the hallmarks of a third world nation full of bribery, corruption, and nepotism in the workplace.

So, no wonder the whole place is falling apart.

Anonymous said...

Found yet another incidence of bullying today (eds - you may want to ignore this comment and post the article as a post in itself, up to you.

http://indefenceofyouthwork.wordpress.com/2009/11/ (See bit re Hamish Murphy)

Anonymous said...

See also:

http://indefenceofyouthwork.wordpress.com/2009/10/