Managing stalking in the workplace: signs of stalking
In the first of two articles, Rachel Griffin, director of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, looks at the issues surrounding stalking in the workplace, and how to create a policy to deal with it. Part one: the signs and implications of stalking
Stalking is far more common than most people think. Research has shown that of those stalkers who are not actually colleagues ‘nearly half will present at their victim’s workplace. Typically, these are cases of the rejected stalker, where the (usually male) ex-lover or spouse harasses his former intimate at her work’ (Mullen et al. 2009: 173). This creates risk not only for the victim but also their colleagues or manager who may have to interact with the stalker if they do turn up to the premises.
So it’s important for employers and employees to understand how stalking can impact on the workplace and what steps can be taken to ensure that employees who disclose that they are being stalked to their colleagues and/or manager feel supported in their workplace.
Providing employees with support is not only beneficial to them personally but can also help them continue to be productive at work. Research has found that victims of stalking can suffer from falling productivity, absenteeism and tension due to negative reactions to the situation from other co-workers, adding to their distress and isolation (Mullen et al 2006: 177; Stalking Risk Profile 2011).
What is stalking in the workplace?
Stalking can take place in many forms in the workplace. The stalker could be another colleague or a client or it could be someone unrelated to the workplace but who makes contact with the victim there because of ease of access or in order to cause them further distress.
Stalking is repeated unwanted contact from one person to another which demonstrates either a fixation or obsession and cause the victim to feel alarm, distress or fear of violence.
Below is a table listing the wide range of behaviour victims can experience. Not all victims will experience all types of behaviour and they can occur at differing frequencies.
|· Nuisance telephone calls
||· Repeatedly sending emails
||· Sending gifts or letters
|· Death/suicide threats
||· Monitoring behaviour
|· Making false complaints to employers/police etc.
||· Abuse of social networking sites
|· Criminal damage
||· Visiting home/place of work
||· Physical assault
|· Sexual assault
||· Computer hacking
Stalking is a specific criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland and stalking behaviour is against the law in Northern Ireland.
Why is it important to have a policy to deal with stalking in the workplace?
A stalking policy is important for maintaining a safe environment for all members of staff. If there is one in place for members of staff to use, it will help to ensure that issues/incidents are dealt with in an appropriate way and minimise risk to both the stalking victim and their colleagues and/or manager.
Victims targeted by a stalker can display symptoms in line with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression (Mullen et al 2009: 276-7). Understandably, this will cause detriment to the victim’s working ability, and possible absenteeism due to stress, anxiety, injuries or to attend legal appointments. It has been found that 50% of stalking victims have actually ceased work as a consequence of being stalked’ (Mullen et al 2006: 177). A stalking policy can therefore ensure that the right support is in place to enable the employees to continue with work while the stalking is ongoing.
Stalking can have a hugely detrimental impact on its victims causing people to feel unsafe wherever they go. This can have a knock-on effect on their physical and psychological well being.
Many of the callers to the National Stalking Helpline are reluctant to disclose to others what they are experiencing because they fear that others won’t understand what they are going through or provide them with helpful support. It’s therefore important that supervisors and managers are aware of signs that may identify a victim of stalking.
These could include increased absences, arriving late for work, or poor work performance. Any changes in an employee’s productivity may be caused by stalking and this should be taken into account when managing these issues.
Identifying that an employee is experiencing difficulties at an early stage will lead to appropriate help being offered, which will make it easier for the victim to deal with the situation — and improve the safety of both the victim and the rest of the staff.
This article was originally published in March 2014 and was one of our top performing articles of the year.
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