HR gets upper hand in battle to beat the workplace bullies

The HR profession is getting better at tackling workplace bullying, but more needs to be done to bring the problem under control.

An exclusive Personnel Today survey of more than 1,400 HR professionals, in association with anti-bullying charity The Andrea Adams Trust, reveals that levels of bullying are falling in the UK, albeit gradually.

Almost 70% of HR professionals have witnessed or have been aware of bullying in their organisation, down from 87% in 2004 and 93% in 1999.

Almost half of all respondents (49%) believe incidents of bullying have either fallen or remained the same over the past year.

The survey, conducted by research company Digital Opinion, suggests organisations are becoming more savvy in their approach to bullying.

More than half (59%) said they had specific policies and procedures in place, while more than a third (36%) said bullying was dealt with through recognised grievance procedures. More than half of respondents (55%) said these measures enabled their organisation to satisfactorily resolve bullying incidents.

The feedback also indicates that the overwhelming majority (96%) of organisations offer managers training on how to deal with cases of bullying.

However, HR departments still have much to do to fully tackle the problem.

The survey reveals that bullying takes a variety of forms and is usually perpetrated by the victim’s immediate manager. Humiliation and ridicule, unfair criticism and intimidating behaviour are the most common examples. Nearly two-thirds (62%) have come across incidences of verbal abuse and 5% physical abuse.

Three-quarters say thereis an unwillingness by senior management to acknowledge bullying as a problem, and the management culture is seen as one of the main reasons for firms failing to effectively deal with bullying.

One HR professional’s response was typical of many received: “Bullying is institutionalised throughout the organisation and perpetuated from the very top.”

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