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August 21, 2015

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Bullying in the workplace is still “all too common”, survey reveals

A survey of 2,000 workers has revealed that bullying in the workplace affects 37 per cent of people, with a further 21 per cent admitting they have witnessed colleagues being subjected to abuse.

The research was commissioned by employment law specialists Slater and Gordon, who see hundreds of cases of employees being bullied every year.

The report shows that tight deadlines, personality clashes and office politics often caused tensions to run high, with shouting, shoving, intimidation and threatening behaviour all reported by respondents.

But while most people had witnessed or believed they had faced bullying in the workplace, less than half (48 per cent) did anything about it.

Colleagues being deliberately humiliated by a bully was witnessed by more than a quarter of those questioned while one in ten had heard racist insults. One in six saw a co-worker subjected to inappropriate sexual remarks. Childish pranks were seen by 24 per cent of those surveyed while one in 15 saw their colleague’s work being sabotaged.

One in 20 said they had witnessed physical violence between workmates.

The bullying was disguised as ‘workplace banter’ in 56 per cent of cases while 68 per cent said the behaviour was ‘subtle’, such as leaving a colleague out of work drinks, lunches and meetings.

Four in ten workers who were bullied appeared stressed or upset by the behaviour while 21 per cent were reduced to tears.

Claire Dawson, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “Bullying in the workplace is all too common and comes in many forms.

“As our research shows, the majority of bullying comes in the form of verbal abuse or intimidation. This is often dismissed as ‘banter’ between colleagues but the workplace shouldn’t be a place where people are insulted. The idea that people can be subjected to physical violence while at work is quite alarming. This can have a devastating impact on the person who is being bullied and can result in depression and anxiety.”

Over half (52 per cent) of respondents said they did nothing to stop the bullying with a third admitting they felt too awkward to say anything. A quarter thought bullying was just part of the culture of where they worked.

Twenty per cent said they feared becoming the target of the bully themselves if they spoke out and one in ten thought they could lose their job if they complained. A quarter said they didn’t think it was their responsibility to do anything about it

Commenting on the research, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Office bullies must be banished from the workplace. The stress and anxiety felt by victims can make them physically ill, lose all self-confidence and mean that they dread coming into work. No one should be put in this position.

“Employers who fail to tackle bullying will pay a price too. Staff who are bullied are more likely to take more time off because of the stress caused by their harassment and will be less productive at work.

“Every organisation needs to have an anti-bullying policy, and every manager should ensure that there is zero-tolerance of bullying either by line managers or workmates.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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