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Managers Need Training to Stop Bullies


Line managers need training to help combat the problem of bullying in the workplace, according to new research from the CIPD.

The CIPD estimates that 450 management days are spent a year on the issue a figure that does not take into account the loss of productivity, key staff or the costs of sickness absence.

Eighty-three per cent of employers have a clear anti-bullying policy in place but, says a report organised by Amicus, when bullying incidents do occur the focus is almost exclusively on supporting the victim, with little support, advice and guidance being offered to those accused of harassment.

The findings also suggest that employers implement their bullying policies for the wrong reasons. Just under half of respondents said their policy fulfilled the need to tackle discrimination at work and this was mainly to meet with legal requirements.

On top of this, the report, ‘Managing conflict at work’ by the CIPD says that while human resources professionals are being trained to tackle the problems, line managers are left to their own devices despite being in a better position to spot the problems at first-hand.

Only 55% of respondents said they train their line managers compared to 75% of HR professionals who receive guidance on how to handle bullying in the workplace.

Imogene Haslam, CIPD Professional adviser said: "If employers are serious about tackling the problem they should be training line managers to recognise the signs and take action to encourage people to recognise and change their behaviour before situations escalate."

Haslam encourages employers to clearly define and communicate the behaviour they expect from all staff. This will help identify unacceptable behaviour making it easier to deal with a problem when it arises.

"There is a very fine line between firm autocratic management styles and bullying. Employers should raise awareness of alternative, more effective, styles concentrating on motivating staff through engaging their commitment and trust."

Spotting bullies

The report breaks down the bullies into the following types:

  • Line managers make up 38%

  • Peers of victim make up 37%

  • Department managers make up 22%

  • Subordinates of the victims of bullying make up 13%

"With more than 10% of bullies being subordinates it is clear they are not simply managers or those at the top, but they are made up from a much wider pool – for example, secretaries keeping information from their boss and teams colluding in making a manager seem unprofessional.

"Employers should ensure they are aware of the different types of bullying which can be subtle as well as obvious and put measures in place to help deal with these problems as they arise," says Haslam.

Other key findings:

  • 91% of organisations have a diversity/equal opportunity policy

  • 39% of organisations believe line managers behaviour is the most important factor affecting success in tackling bullying and harassment.


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