Workplace bullying is on the increase and now ranks top of employee complaints, according to a new survey of human resources managers called the Industrial Relations Services Employment Review. Problems such as harassment can have wider implications and can thwart efforts to progress up the career ladder.
Complaints about new working practices and discrimination are frequent and almost 50% of managers in the survey said they had dealt with cases of sexual or racial harassment. The growing problem of bullying is now tackled by specialist websites which show how to cope with bullying and highlight the differences between bullying and playful banter.
According to one website, www.menshealth.com, bullying can be recognised by certain traits.
Behaviour which threatens an employee’s work status, isolating an individual from information or events, giving impossible deadlines and not giving credit for work or projects, can all be classed as forms of bullying.
In general, bullying can be regarded as negative acts directed towards another person according to Men’s Health, but bullying can also come from outside suppliers and agencies. Efforts are now being made to tackle more serious complaints such as physical abuse committed outside the office.
In response to increasing cases of aggressive behaviour, the Scottish Executive has announced plans to bring forward its Emergency Workers’ Bill designed to protect employees.
Andy Kerr, minister for finance and public services at the Scottish Executive, explained: ‘Wherever you work, in the transport industry or in other sectors serving the public, it is likely that you will have encountered some form of verbal or physical abuse.
‘Such attacks are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This is why the Scottish Executive is taking steps to ensure that employees and employers can go about their work without fear.
‘The Bill will give other emergency workers similar statutory protection to the police, by making it a specific offence to assault, obstruct or hinder an emergency worker or anyone helping an emergency worker in an emergency situation.’
The maximum penalty under the new Bill will be nine months’ imprisonment, a fine of £5,000 or both.
However, employees now appear to be ‘putting up with abuse’ according to Kerr, who encourages people to report any kind of harassment.
He said: ‘Anecdotal evidence shows employees, employers and the public are now more likely to tolerate such abuse and have become accustomed to an atmosphere of aggression and violence. By working in partnership with the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), employers’ organisations and other agencies, the Scottish Executive is tackling this trend and taking steps to challenge the view that some form of abuse is ‘part of the job’.
‘This partnership approach is resulting in steps being taken to encourage people to report violent behaviour and abuse.’