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Power corrupts, says workplace bullying survey

Misuse of power is the biggest issue

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Two-thirds of UK managers believe that lack of management skills is the major factor contributing to bullying at work, according to new research. Misuse of power was listed as the most prolific type of bullying used within the workplace.

A survey by the Ban Bullying at Work campaign questioned 512 senior managers across the UK in conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute ahead of the fifth national Ban Bullying at Work day which takes place on 7th November.

The other main factors, given by managers themselves, which contribute to bullying at work included unrealistic targets (cited by 27 per cent); authoritarian management styles (56 per cent); personality (57 per cent); and failure to address incidents (37 per cent).

The survey also asked managers what they believed was the most prolific type of bullying used. Misuse of power was cited by 71 per cent of managers while 63 per cent cited overbearing supervision and 55 per cent cited exclusion.

The report also looked at the reasons why organisations should tackle bullying at work. Improving low morale was the most cited answer, followed by improving productivity and reducing absenteeism.

Lyn Witheridge, chief executive of the Ban Bullying at Work Campaign, said: "We are challenging businesses to speak out against bullying to create workplaces where employees can see clearly that bullying behaviours will not be tolerated.” Catherine Barker, an employment lawyer at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said that although there is no specific legislation making bullying at work illegal, every employer owes its staff a duty of care to make sure that its workplace is somewhere where they are not subjected to harassment.

She said: "There is also anti-discrimination legislation which will catch many instances of bullying behaviors. If, for example, a person is bullied for reasons connected to their sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, they may be able to bring a discrimination complaint to an Employment Tribunal.

"Bullying can, however, take many other forms and may be as a result of a personality clash or frustration by management regarding an individual's performance. In this situation any employee is entitled to raise a grievance and if management fails to deal with the grievance properly, this could underline trust and confidence in the employment relationship.

"When this trust and confidence is severely undermined, an employee may feel they have no option but to resign and in this situation they may have a valid constructive dismissal complaint in an Employment Tribunal."

Barker added: "The best thing businesses can do is to ensure that the workplace culture is one of respect and equality so that bullying and harassment of any description is simply not tolerated. This can be achieved by having proper anti-bullying policies in place, training managers on these policies, and dealing with any grievances properly as soon as they arise.

"But, if poor performance – by employees or management – is genuinely the issue, then this should also be properly managed, rather than allowing the problem to fester."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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