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Bullying at Work

11 February 2021

Bullying and it’s affects on employees is a recognised workplace hazard

IN 2014, IRELAND was named the 7th worst country in Europe for workplace bullying, while in 2018, a study found that two in five people experienced bullying in their work environment.

The Health & Safety Authority have published a new code of practice (replacing the 2007 publication) entitled Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work

The purpose of the Code is to provide guidance for employers, employees and their representatives on good practice and procedures for identifying, preventing, addressing and resolving issues around workplace bullying.

Bullying activities involve actions and behavioral patterns, directly or indirectly, spoken and/or written and could include the use of cyber or digital means for the goal of bullying. Such bullying events, delivered through cyber means, may also be covered by the requirements of the 2005 Act. Behaviour which makes for a bullying pattern will likely include not just one but a range of the following behaviours

  • Exclusion with negative consequences
  • Verbal abuse/insults in being treated less favourably than colleagues in similar roles
  • Belittling a person’s opinion
  • Disseminating malicious rumours, gossip or innuendo
  • Socially excluding or isolating a person within the work sphere
  • Intrusion – pestering, spying or stalking n Intimidation/aggressive interactions
  • Excessive monitoring of work
  • Withholding information necessary for proper performance of a person’s job
  • Repeatedly manipulating a person’s job content and targets
  • Blaming a person for things beyond their control
  • Use of aggressive and obscene language
  • Other menacing behaviour

What is harassment at work?

The interchangeable use of the words harassment and bullying can lead to a misunderstanding of what each one relates to. They are legally distinct concepts and so a behaviour can be deemed either bullying or harassment, not both.

The effects of bullying on the business can include:

  • high turnover of staff, high absenteeism and/or poor morale,
  • mismanagement or poor management of relationships in the workplace

bullying is more likely to be a factor in workplaces that do not have an effective management system based on respect and awareness or sensitivity to the impact of behaviour on others,

  • gender/age/status imbalance,
  • other factors – composition of the workforce, interface with the public, history of tolerance of unacceptable behaviour, lack of/inadequate procedures or no adherence to procedures, and
  • absence of clear reporting structures and clear job/role descriptions.

What should employers do?

  • Ensure there is an Ant- Bullying Policy in place and it is communicated effectively to all
  • Ensure there is a number of points of contacts available for people to communicate instances of potential bullying
  • Provide the appropriate training to staff in management roles so they are aware of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not