‘Bullying and harassment still being swept under the carpet’

A new CIPD report shows levels of bullying and harassment are still a significant problem and that line managers are to blame in four out of 10 cases.

Upset women on the phone


A quarter of employees think issues like bullying and harassment are swept under the carpet in their organisation, a new report from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development.

The report is based on two large scale surveys, one of employers and one of employees. It shows that 15% of workers have experienced bullying in the last three years, while 4% say they’ve been sexually harassed at work and 8% have experienced other forms of harassment.

Four in 10 (40%) of those who’ve been bullied or harassed say their manager was responsible, while a third (34%) of employers said one of the top barriers to effective conflict management is that managers don’t have the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour.

Only two fifths (40%) of line managers say they have had people management training.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser, at the CIPD, said: “Managers should be important role models, set expectations of behaviour around dignity and respect, and gain the trust of their team.

“The number of managers who are being blamed for harassment and bullying should serve as a wake-up call to employers to put training managers at the heart of efforts to prevent inappropriate workplace behaviour.

“Our research shows that managers who’ve received training can help to stop conflict from occurring and are much better at fostering healthy relationships in their team. And when conflict does occur, they can help to resolve the issue more quickly and effectively.”

Despite experiences of harassment, the report shows employees are more confident in taking action since the #MeToo movement: a third of workers (33%) say they are more confident challenging sexual harassment than they were two years ago.

The CIPD would like to see more investment in people management, clear complaints procedures for staff and more awareness of the need at times to use informal ways of tackling bullying and harassment.

As part of the research, the CIPD also conducted an online focus group with workers who’ve experienced bullying and harassment to better understand the impact it can have. As well as knocking their self-confidence irreversibly, some people said they suffered from stress, anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations and suicidal thoughts.

Other findings show one in 10 people report being bullied or harassed via email or social media, and/or by phone or text, that 53% of people who’ve been bullied or harassed in the last three years didn’t report the latest incident and that being undermined or humiliated in their job, receiving persistent unwarranted criticism and getting unwanted personal remarks were the three most common forms of bullying and harassment.


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