Quarter of employees believe bullying and harassment are overlooked

Quarter of employees believe bullying and harassment are overlooked

A quarter of employees think challenging issues like bullying and harassment are swept under the carpet in their organisation, a new report from the CIPD has found. 

The report is based on two large scale surveys, one of employers and one of employees. And, despite the impact of the #MeToo movement, their reseach shows that 15% of workers have experienced bullying in the last three years, while 4% say they’ve been sexually harassed at work. Nearly one in 10 (8%) have experienced other forms of harassment. 

Only two fifths (40%) of line managers say they have had people management training, leading the CIPD to urge organisations to properly train them, including how they prevent and tackle conflict. 

The report highlights the critical importance of line management in both causing and preventing bullying and harassment at work. Four in 10 (40%) of those who’ve been bullied or harassed say their manager was responsible, while a third (34%) of employers said one of the top barriers to effective conflict management is that managers don’t have the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “Managers should be important role models, set expectations of behaviour around dignity and respect, and gain the trust of their team. 

“The number of managers who are being blamed for harassment and bullying should serve as a wake-up call to employers to put training managers at the heart of efforts to prevent inappropriate workplace behaviour.

“Our research shows that managers who’ve received training can help to stop conflict from occurring and are much better at fostering healthy relationships in their team. And when conflict does occur, they can help to resolve the issue more quickly and effectively.”

The report does find evidence that recent sexual harassment scandals and the Me Too movement have had a positive impact. For example, a third of workers (33%) say they are more confident challenging sexual harassment than they were two years ago. 

In response to the findings, the CIPD is calling for employers to increase investment in people management training for managers, encourage a speak up culture with a clear complaints procedure that’s well-publicised and to be aware that there could be times when it’s appropriate to try and resolve the issue informally first.

As part of its research, the CIPD also conducted an online focus group with workers who’ve experienced bullying and harassment to better understand the impact it can have. As well as knocking their self-confidence irreversibly, some people said they suffered from stress, anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations and suicidal thoughts.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl

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