HR must look out for workplace bullies

HR
professionals are being warned to watch out for the increasing problem of
workplace bullying. 

Employment
lawyer David Bickford highlighted the issue in the wake of a case involving TV
production company, Twenty Twenty, who successfully defended itself against a
wrongful dismissal claim by a director, Paul Woolwich.

The
judge accepted Woolwich was a systematic bully and that his removal was as a
direct result of a number of incidents which left one employee unable to sleep
at night.

Although
the judge accepted he was "working extremely hard and was under considerable
stress caused by tight production timetables", his manner was
"unreasonably harsh", "hyper-critical" and allied with a
"natural impatience and abrasive manner" when dealing with junior
colleagues.

The
case illustrates that increasing pressure at work cannot justify poor treatment
of colleagues and the need for organisations to buy into anti-bullying
philosophies from the top down.

Bickford,
whose firm Fladgate Fielder acted for Twenty Twenty, said it is usually the
case that a bully will be in a position of authority and often a high
performer. When allegations are made, they must be taken seriously, properly
investigated and appropriate action taken – no matter how senior the accused
is.

Active
steps should be taken to ensure that everyone is made aware of what is not
acceptable behaviour, with a written policy and training preferable.

By Quentin Reade

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