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November 21, 2008

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Employers fail to combat bullying

Poor management skills lie at the heart of a rising workplace bullying culture, a new study by the Chartered Management Institute concludes.

Against a backdrop of government figures estimating that workplace bullying costs the UK economy £13.75bn, the Institute’s survey of 867 UK managers found that 70 per cent claim to have witnessed instances of bullying in the past three years. Incidents are also not necessarily ‘top down’, with 63 per cent of respondents observing bullying between peers, and 30 per cent witnessing subordinates bullying their manager.

Asked to identify the root causes of bullying at work, the top answer was a ‘lack of management skills’ (70 per cent). ‘Personality clashes’ (57 per cent) and ‘authoritarian management styles’ (48 per cent) also featured high up the list.

When questioned on the extent of bullying in their organisation, individuals gave their employer an average score of 2.37 out of 5 — up from 2.25 on a similar survey conducted in 2005.

Those in the public sector experience the highest level of bullying (2.6), a situation brought into sharp focus by recent events at the Scottish Ambulance Service. The organisation’s chief executive, Kevin Doran, and its operations director, Grace Kennedy, resigned in November following allegations of bullying made by two employees. The pair had been on leave while the matter was under investigation.

A spokesperson for the Service would not elaborate on the allegations, but confirmed that “in the best interests of all concerned, it has been agreed that they should pursue their respective careers outwith the Service”.

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