An anti-bullying organisation is urging employees who witness others being bullied at work to take action against it before it escalates.
As part of the 'Ban Bullying at Work' day campaign on Wednesday 7 November, Dignity at Work is advising people to step forward because, by maintaining a silence, an environment is created where it is considered acceptable behaviour.
"Everyone in a workplace adds to that workplace's environment, and therefore every individual has a responsibility to act when they witness bullying," commented Mandy Telford, Dignity at Work co-ordinator.
"People often don't speak up because they are worried about the effect it will have on their position and their image within a company – as well as not wanting to turn the attention of the bully onto themselves."
The organisation acknowledges that it can sometimes be difficult to speak out, so it recommends that people should have a quiet word to a senior manager, rather than create a fuss.
"By acting promptly and appropriately if they see it happening at work, they can put the record straight and save someone from the misery and stress that arises from being bullied," added Telford.
Bullying costs employers 80 million working days and up to £2 billion in lost revenue every year, according to estimated figures from the Health and Safety Executive. It is also believed that one in four people have experienced bullying in the workplace.
There is no specific legislation in the UK dealing with workplace bullying, but employers can be held liable for bullying by their staff under a range of discrimination laws, in addition to claims for personal injury and under the Protection from Harassment Act.
Sandra Wallace, partner and head of equality and diversity at law firm DLA Piper, said that bullying at work can only be tackled if senior management are involved in and support the process.
"Managers must be trained to deal with incidents of bullying and not brush it under the carpet or even perpetuate the situation. Organisations need to build an open culture in which the potential for bullying is minimised and if it occurs, employees have the confidence to report it. Failure to deal with bullying can lead to significant legal liability as well as reducing the effectiveness of the business."
More information regarding 'National Ban Bullying at Work' day can be found at www.banbullyingatwork.com