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Bullying Britain: Aggression more widespread because of the recession


Bullying is becoming more widespread in the workplace as a direct result of the recession and bosses need to be more vigilant to prevent serious problems in the future.

This is the warning from Jane Farrell, CEO of Equality Works – which provides equality and diversity training and advice.

“Many people think of bullying as simply meaning verbal or sometimes physical abuse,” says Farrell. “However, in today’s business climate of concern, informal comments or changes in attitude can lead to feelings of being under threat and victimisation.”

“Recession and redundancies are currently a hard fact of life but that is no excuse for not handling the situation with compassion and sensitivity.”

Equality Works’ clients include the BBC, Transport for London and Barnardo’s.

Farrell says examples of bullying may include:

  • Derogatory comments being made in an open-plan office about people's performance
  • So called 'jokes' being made that have the effect of undermining confidence
  • People getting more competitive with each other and collaborating less and less
  • Managers shouting at staff
  • Continual drawing attention to 'difference' such as 'part timers not pulling their weight'

She advises that:

  • Companies should make the standards clear about what is and is not acceptable - tough things can still be said but everyone should be clear how to say them
  • Staff need to be trained so that they understand that jokes about disabled people, women, lesbians and gay men or ethnic minorities, are unacceptable even if no offence is intended
  • Training shouldn't be critical of people but should create understanding

As part of the induction process for all staff, the rules need to be explicit so company policy on the complete unacceptability of shouting or swearing for example is clear.


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