Ban Bullying at Work - The Way Forward

Every year 18.9 million working days are lost to industry as a direct result of workplace bullying, costing the UK economy £6 billion and massively impacting on productivity, creativity, morale and general employee wellbeing. And yet, 40% of UK organisations STILL don’t have an effective policy on bullying. Lyn Witheridge CEO of Andrea Adams Trust says changing corporate behaviour is the key to creating harassment free workplaces.

By Lyn Witheridge, CEO, Andrea Adams Trust

The way forward does not require a high tech solution, but a strategic reassessment of our workplaces, a commitment and a willingness to negotiate and a shared determination that workplace bullying is totally unacceptable behaviour.

It is this area of changing behaviours, that is the key to the creation of harassment free workplaces, but the transition from a culture which uses inappropriate behaviours to one of appropriate behaviours is extremely difficult.

All organisations are responsible for developing organisational values and behaviours. The way these are promoted has a major impact on the culture of the organisation, so care must be taken in its development.

The first step forward for heads of organisations’ is to recognise and define workplace bullying. It is vital to understand that bullying is a symptom; it is a manifestation of conflicts within an individual or within an organisation, but dealing with it head on, as if it were the whole problem will fail to get at the roots. Recognition and awareness of workplace bullying is therefore essential if we are to move forward.

To do this intervention by management is required, not to identify and attack, but to think to better understand what is happening in the workplace and more importantly why it is happening, for it is this cultural environment that will either support or prevent the occurrence of workplace bullying. A culture where employees are consulted and problems discussed is less likely to encourage bullying than one where there is an authoritarian management style.

The dilemma is deciding what is acceptable practice and what is not. Where symptoms of organisational ill health are in evidence, for example behaviour that results in poor management, high staff turnover an inability to develop full potential – intervention is required to:-

  • Critically examine culture and practices
  • Define acceptable practice
  • Identify behaviours/factors/causes
  • Develop bespoke policies and procedures
  • Effectively communicate to break fear barriers
  • Undertake regular risk assessments and stress audits
  • Introduce safe reporting systems
  • Reduce work stressors
  • Provide awareness training for all staff
  • Provide and train Harassment Advisers/Investigators

Consult and involve all employees/trade unions in the process:-

  • Use auditing techniques
  • Staff questionnaires
  • Focus groups
  • Examine exit Interview statements
  • Examine sickness records

Mechanisms to deal with bullying are hard to identify, but nonetheless required in an attempt to work towards good human relations at work. Although anti bullying policies and procedures can protect organisations against litigation, they do not automatically bring about the changes in behaviour that are necessary to eliminate bullying. That can only be achieved through effective communication.

We can make our workplaces more civilized. We can assemble an intervention force through the legal system, without necessarily having to use it, for the threat alone of action may be sufficient enough for people to think again before they bully at work. However, surely the appropriate ‘battleground’ for workplace bullying to be resolved must be in the workplace.

The problem of workplace bullying is not just the responsibility of management. To balance the liability of employers for human relations I would suggest that all employees should be expected to have responsibility for the management of themselves in their role at work and in relation to others. That surely, is the only way forward.

The Andrea Adams Trust is committed not only to helping both organizations and individuals deal with this insidious behaviour, but also to raise awareness of the issue, by running an annual National campaign culminating in Ban Bullying at Work Day, 7th November. Now in its fifth year, we expect over 4 million people to participate in a wide array of activities.

Recognition and awareness of bullying at work is essential if it is to be legitimately challenged. We need your organization to share our commitment by becoming involved in the campaign and using the day to encourage all employers and employees to take responsibility for open debate, so that everyone is given the courage to speak out in a safe environment.

Lyn Witheridge is the founder and Chief Executive of The Andrea Adams Trust, the first worldwide charity formed to combat the issues that surrounded workplace bullying. Lyn had been firm friends with journalist Andrea Adams who was the first person to comprehensively highlight the issue of workplace bullying in the UK. Before Andrea’s tragic death from cancer in 1995, she asked Lyn to pick up the baton she was about to drop and continue her work in raising awareness of the subject.
The Trust works to reduce the incidences of workplace bullying by raising awareness of the problem through training, development and research. The Trust also operates a national helpline to provide support to anyone who needs it. For more information and to download a free fact sheet visit:
National Ban Bullying at Work Day 7th November:

Further Reading:
How to Identify Bullying:
Being Bullied at Work - find out where to get help

Share this page with your friends


Share this page with your friends.