Workplace bullying is growing in Britain and is more common among certain groups, including women in traditionally male-dominated occupations, according to a new report from Acas.
The Acas report, Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain’s workplace, looked at the latest research on workplace bullying as well as calls to the Acas helpline from employers and employees.
It says representative surveys of workplaces, health and safety representatives and employees all show that workplace bullying and ill-treatment is growing in Britain. It adds that there are more incidences of bullying within certain groups such as public sector minority ethnic workers; women in traditionally male-dominated occupations; workers with disabilities or long-term health problems; lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender people; and workers in health care.
Through analysis of calls to the Acas helpline about bullying it found many people feared that trying to do something about unwanted behaviour might make the situation worse and that ill-treatment from other staff often built up to the point where people dreaded going to work, their family and home life had been affected and many took leave to escape the workplace. It also found that inexperienced employers feel they lack the skills to go through the complex grievance and disciplinary procedures that bullying allegations may involve. It says managers alerted to bullying allegations can favour simply moving staff around rather than investigating and dealing with underlying behaviours.
Acas Chair, Sir Brendan Barber, said: “Our analysis reveals that bullying is on the rise in Britain and it is more likely to be found in organisations that have poor workplace climates where this type of behaviour can become institutionalised.
“Callers to our helpline have experienced some horrific incidents around bullying that have included humiliation, ostracism, verbal and physical abuse. But managers sometimes dismiss accusations around bullying as simply personality or management style clashes whilst others may recognise the problem but lack the confidence or skills to deal with it.
“Businesses should be taking workplace bullying very seriously as the annual economic impact of bullying-related absences, staff turnover and lost productivity is estimated to be almost £18 billion.”
He added: “Anti-bullying workplace policies and managers with good people management skills are essential to deal with the growing problem of bullying.
“Our study shows that encouraging a positive workplace climate is just as important as it allows people to have the confidence to report bullying when it occurs.”
The study recommends that workplaces agree standards of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours and senior leaders act as role models for these standards.