HR the victim as bullying takes hold in UK business

The HR profession remains plagued by the blight of bullying – and the
problem is getting worse.

According to exclusive research from Personnel
and anti-bullying charity the Andrea Adams Trust, more than
three-quarters of HR professionals have been bullied at work.

The last time Personnel Today and the Andrea Adams Trust surveyed the HR
profession, in 1999, around 70 per cent of respondents said they had been

This year’s results, based on responses from almost 1,000 HR professionals,
paint a grim picture of harassment and intimidation in HR departments – the
very teams responsible for setting and implementing policy on bullying.

Public dressings down, undermining authority in front of peers and setting
inconsistent work targets were methods commonly used by office bullies –
usually the victim’s immediate superior. Many respondents reported more extreme
bullying, including physical violence and sexual harassment.

The effects on the victim varied from stress and anxiety to nervous breakdowns
and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. The need for long term
psychiatric care was also widely reported.

One HR professional’s experience was typical of many of the respondents:
"Employees usually leave. Verbal abuse is extremely common. No action is
taken as it is a director or chairman. The company is run on fear, which has an
impact on productivity and sickness and staff turnover
is very, very high."

As well as being victims themselves, HR departments are becoming overwhelmed
by bullying problems.

The survey reveals that 87 per cent of HR professionals have witnessed or
have been aware of bullying in their organisation, with 33 per cent reporting
an upsurge in incidents in the past two years. Three-quarters of respondents
said that tackling bullying is now a higher priority than it was in 2002.

The extent of the bullying is bad news for employers as much as it is for
staff, with 31 per cent of victims electing to leave the organisation.

By Daniel Thomas


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