DIGNITY AT WORK:
BULLYING AND HARASSMENT
A Comprehensive Guide
for Workplace Representatives
in the ‘Not for Profit’ Sector
of Unite the Union
DIGNITY AT WORK
1. INTRODUCTION 2
2. PURPOSE OF GUIDE 3
3. WHAT IS DIGNITY AT WORK? 4
4. DEFINING UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR 5
5. COMMON FEATURES IN DEFINITIONS 6
6. A WORKING DEFINITION 7
7. TYPES OF BULLYING 8
8. EXAMPLES OF BEHAVIOUR 10
9. ADVISING TARGETS/MEMBERS 12
10. REPRESENTING AN ALLEGED PERPETRATOR 20
11. UNDERSTANDING THE TACTICS OF A SERIAL BULLY 21
12. METHODS OF RESOLUTION 24
13. A COLLECTIVE APPROACH 25
14. ORGANISING 27
15. CONCLUSION 28
16. APPENDIX ONE: EXPECTED BEHAVIOURS 29
17. APPENDIX TWO: EXAMPLES OF UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR 30
18. APPENDIX THREE: STRESS RELATED BEHAVIOURS AND EFFECTS 33
19. REFERENCES 33
The very least any worker should come to expect is ‘Dignity at Work’ and yet
unacceptable behaviour, bullying and harassment show themselves in the workplace all
The Not for Profit Sector is far from exempt from this, in fact one of the most frequent
issues that representatives and Officers of Unite deal with in the Sector appertains to
bullying in one form or another.
It is well documented that 1 employee in every 5 will experience bullying at some point
in their working lives and the outcome of this can be devastating. Many remain scarred
from their experiences, others have to move from their job, whilst most will testify that it
has resulted in ill health, distress and an adverse impact on their personal and family
lives, not to mention their work.
It is also our experience that employers in the Not for Profit Sector struggle to manage
unacceptable behaviour appropriately and expeditiously, causing further distress to the
targets of such behaviour.
Unite is leading the way in reversing these trends. From drawing on the experience of
our members and representatives, progressive employers and that of international
experts, we have produced this guide to enable all representatives to be well equipped in
handling members’ cases. This guide will assist in identifying the forms of unacceptable
behaviour that have taken place and the appropriate resolution to the situation.
Furthermore, this guide also helps representatives to challenge their organisations and to
work with them toward adopting a zero tolerance approach.
As representatives, a key objective which we should all strive for is to ensure we are all
treated with ‘Dignity at Work’.
Unite National Officer
Community and Not for Profit Sector
2. Purpose of Guide
This guide is intended to be of specific use
to workplace representatives who may find
themselves advising or supporting
members who believe they have been the
target of unacceptable behaviour in the
workplace and potentially ‘bullied’ or
‘harassed’. It is also intended to be of use
when representing members who are the
alleged perpetrators of such behaviour.
Trying to promote dignity at work and
dealing with the issues surrounding
unacceptable behaviour, bullying and
harassment can be extremely complex.
The consequences are potentially very
costly and personally devastating. For these
reasons no advice is better than incorrect
or inappropriate advice, no matter how
Representatives within the ‘Not for Profit’
sector may find themselves in a position
of either offering some very brief
informal advice to members or having to
become involved in quite complex and
detailed representations and potential
This guide is exactly that, just a guide, and
is not meant to be definitive or cover every
scenario or eventuality. It should however
provide an initial reference point from
which to develop an understanding and
ensure as much as possible that the advice
and support given is directly related to the
available research on the subject and the
actual experiences of workplace
The guide is intended to complement
existing Unite publications and to focus in
more detail on areas not covered in the
other materials. There is a very useful
publication, the union’s “Guide to Tackling
Bullying at Work” which can be accessed
via the Unite website.
In addition the Unite sponsored ‘Dignity at
Work Partnership’ has produced a number
of publications and tools.
Remember that in many instances
members may require far more support
and advice than representatives can or
should personally offer. All representatives
should identify their own support needs to
deal with the technical and emotional
3. What is Dignity at Work?
THE CONCEPT Unlike the U.K. a number of European
countries do have specific legislation in
Dignity at work is a term used to describe
place to address dignity at work issues,
how we should treat colleagues with
dignity and respect within the workplace.
It is about behaviour both from an THE DIGNITY AT WORK PARTNERSHIP
organisations point of view and as
The Partnership was established in July
individuals towards our colleagues. It is
2004, following a successful bid by Unite
about valuing and respecting others,
(Amicus Section) for £1 million from the
including their qualities and their differences.
Government. Initially set up to run for a
LEGAL BACKGROUND three year period, the project seeks to
encourage cultural change whereby trade
In the U.K. the Dignity at Work Bill was
unions, employers and employees work in
initially drafted by MSF Union in 1996 and
partnership to foster greater respect and
was steered through the House of Lords in
dignity for all, and establish a zero
December 1996 and January 1997 by Lord
tolerance approach to bullying and
Monkswell. Attempts to introduce the Bill
harassment at work.
into the House of Commons were blocked
by John Major’s Conservative Government DIGNITY AT WORK POLICIES
in February 1997 and the Bill was put on
Dignity at Work policies are a relatively
recent concept. Previously most
The Bill started its progress again through workplaces would have a number of stand
the House of Lords in December 2001 alone policies dealing with issues such as
under the guidance of Baroness Ann bullying and harassment, discrimination,
Gibson, chair of the Unite (Amicus)/ equal opportunities and diversity.
Government, ‘Dignity at Work Partnership’.
Dignity at Work policies attempt to bring
The term can also be found in European all of these topics together under one
law, whereby harassment and discrimina- umbrella policy although this should not
tion are examples of unacceptable be at the expense of minimising the
behaviour which “affect the dignity of importance of each separate and distinct
men and women at work”. topic. The intention is to focus more on
promoting positive behaviours whilst
Some aspects of unacceptable behaviour
ensuring there are clear and effective
are addressed in employment legislation,
procedures for dealing with the negative
for example in areas of discrimination and
behaviours associated with bullying,
harassment, however there is as yet no
discrimination and harassment.
specific statute regarding bullying in the
4. Defining Unacceptable Behaviour
THE IMPORTANCE OF DEFINITION identity i.e. their gender, ethnicity, sexuality
etc. There is no such focus with bullying.
To promote a culture of dignity and
respect and minimise incidents of At times bullying can involve highly
unacceptable behaviour becoming issues aggressive or violent acts but generally
of potential bullying and harassment it is behaviours tend to be subtle, persistent
crucial to define the type of behaviour and long term in nature. This is in contrast
considered unacceptable, and to provide to harassment, where a single gross act,
examples so that people understand what say of a sexual or racist nature, can be
is meant by it. regarded as harassment.
The terms ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ are It should also be noted that some defini-
often misused and a failure to clearly tions of bullying exclude ‘physical violence’
define can lead to confusion, misunder- and ‘physical assault’ as examples of
standing and conflict between all of the bullying behaviour, viewing such behaviour
parties involved. This is an unnecessary as so extreme that it stands alone.
and costly diversion to effectively dealing
with the issues and more likely to result in
problems not being satisfactorily resolved. “Workplace bullying is behaving in a way
that is offensive, intimidating, malicious or
Behaviours associated with bullying and
insulting, with the result being that the
harassment are often subtle in nature, may
targeted person feels undermined,
seem very trivial when viewed in isolation
humiliated or injured.
and tend to take place without witnesses.
This makes it far more difficult to prove as Whatever form the bullying or harassment
it tends to be regarded as people’s takes it is unwarranted and unwelcome to
subjective interpretations of events. the individual.”
Witnesses who are unaware of the context
of a situation or the history between indi- Bullying is “repeated and persistent
viduals, or who simply don’t understand negative acts that are directed towards
what constitutes unacceptable behaviour, one or several individuals, and which
can easily interpret events completely create a hostile work environment. In
differently to the parties directly involved. bullying the targeted person has difficulties
defending him/herself; it is therefore not a
Therefore the significance of a particular
conflict between parties of equal
event may only be known by the
perpetrator and the target. This makes
Denise Salin, 2001
it far easier for the perpetrator to
manipulate the situation. “A situation where one or several
individuals persistently over a period of
time perceive to be on the receiving end of
“Harassment, in general terms, is unwanted negative actions from one or several
conduct affecting the dignity of men and persons, in a situation where a target of
women in the workplace. It may be bullying has difficulty in defending
related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, him/herself against these actions. We will
sexual orientation, nationality or any other not refer to one-off incidents as bullying.”
personal characteristic, and may be Helge Hoel & Cary L. Cooper, 2000
persistent or an isolated incident.
“Bullying can take many forms. It is
The key to this is that the actions or generally accepted as unwanted behaviour
comments are viewed as demeaning and that offends, persecutes or excludes
unaceptable to the recipient.” ACAS someone. It includes treating individuals in
a demeaning and unacceptable way and
It is common for employers and employees
can be intimidating, malicious or insulting,
alike to lump together the two concepts
or a misuse of power to undermine,
of harassment and bullying. Although they
humiliate, threaten or cause injury.
may be similar in terms of impact and
Harassment is usually seen as constant
underlying principles, and always involving
interference or intimidation that violates
some abuse of power, they are different in
people’s dignity or creates a hostile or
The key difference is that harassment Dignity at Work Partnership: “Beat
focuses on an individual or groups social bullying in the workplace” guide, 2007
5. Common Features in Definitions
When we look at the different ISSUES OF POWER
definitions of bullying given above,
Bullying can happen when an unequal
or others, some common themes
balance of power exists between two
emerge. Definitions of bullying make
individuals in a conflict situation. Sources
of power include:
• negative behaviours,
Positional power – the power of a role
• frequency of behaviours, or position
• duration of behaviours, Relationship power – the power of a
• issues of power/iimbalance of power and
Resources power – the power to with-
• some refer to intentionality.
hold scarce resources essential to one’s role
NEGATIVE BEHAVIOURS/ Psychological power – the power of
CONSEQUENCES recognising an individual’s vulnerabilities
Virtually all definitions make some and exploiting this knowledge to the
reference to negative behaviours or acts person’s detriment
carried out. Common words used are: Knowledge power – the power to
Abusive, coercive, controlling, criticising, withhold information.
degrading, demeaning, excluding, Delegated power – the power to use
humiliating, insulting, isolating, intimidat- your relationship with someone to
ing, malicious, manipulative, offensive, undermine and/or threaten others.
oppressive, persecuting, ridiculing,
threatening, undermining, victimising. INTENTION
In terms of negative consequences felt by Definitions focus more on the impact of
the target, common words include: the behaviour on the target rather than
whether there was intention.
Anger, anxiety, contempt, distress, fear,
frustration, injury, resentment, stress, It is not the intention of the
suspicion, upset, vulnerability. perpetrator that is the key to deciding
whether bullying or harassment has
FREQUENCY taken place; the defining principle is
The behaviours are seen to be repeated whether the behaviour was unacceptable
and persistent. Isolated or occasional by reasonable normal standards of
incidents of negative behaviour are not behaviour and is disadvantageous or
normally defined as bullying, even unwelcome to the person/people
though they should still be regarded subjected to it.
as unacceptable. However, the perpetrator’s intention is
The exception is where the isolated relevant to understanding the impact of
behaviour is so extreme that it has a their behaviour on the target and in
lasting negative effect on the target choosing the most effective ways to try
e.g. being physically threatened. and resolve the situation. There are three
levels of intent:
Intentional – behaviour directed at the
Most definitions refer to the duration of target with the intention of causing actual
the behaviours continuing over a period of occupational, physical or psychological
time and for some targets the experience harm.
goes on for months or even years.
Instrumental – negative behaviour being
Swedish Professor, Heinz Leymann,
an unintended side-effect of a behaviour
suggested that a target would have to
directed at achieving another goal.
have been exposed to negative behaviours
for more than six months. Such an Unintentional – a lack of sensitivity or
arbitrary and rigid time period is felt by awareness of the negative impact of the
many to be unhelpful. behaviour.
In their Guide published in 2005 the It should be borne in mind that ‘intent’ is
Chartered Institute of Personnel and extremely difficult to prove and very few
Development detailed issues of ‘power’ perpetrators would openly admit to
and ‘intention’ as follows: intentionally harming someone.
6. A Working Definition
UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR and the manager started to regularly
behave in this way toward the member of
Any behaviour that could potentially under-
staff it is far more likely that they will start
mine someone’s dignity and respect should
to feel actual harm, especially if they were
be regarded as unacceptable. If it is not
being singled out.
challenged it is likely to escalate into bully-
ing and harassment and lead to significant When challenged about their behaviour
difficulties and costs for all concerned. the manager may come up with a range
of excuses and claim that they didn’t mean
In establishing the links between
to cause any offence.
unacceptable behaviour’, ‘bullying’ and
‘harassment’ as well as drawing together the If hit by a car, the injuries are the same
common themes and issues, the following, whether it was deliberate or accidental.
broader definition may be helpful: Similarly, whether or not there was any
intention is of no relevance to the
“Any behaviour, always involving a misuse
immediate distress the manager caused
of power, which an individual or group
the member of staff. It is the actual
knows, or ought reasonably to know, could
behaviour and its impact on the member
have the potential effect of offending,
that is the relevant factor although the
humiliating, intimidating or isolating an
distress felt would likely be greater if the
individual or group should be regarded as
behaviour was known to be deliberate.
unacceptable in the workplace.
The degree of intent is only relevant
‘Unacceptable behaviour’ changes its label
to how the behaviour should be
to ‘bullying’ or ‘harassing behaviour’ when
challenged and how the issues should
it causes actual harm or distress to the
target(s), normally, but not exclusively,
after a series of incidents over a prolonged For example, if the manager always
period of time. targeted particular individuals, would gloat
about making their lives a misery, the
Lack of intent does not diminish, excuse or
power they had over them, how they
negate the impact on the target or the
enjoyed getting rid of staff to show the
distress caused. The degree of intent is
others who’s boss and had victimised
only relevant in terms of how the
anyone who had ever tried to challenge
behaviour should be challenged and the
their behaviour in the past, then advising
issues subsequently resolved.”
the member of staff to directly confront
Fergus Roseburgh March 2007
the manager would not be good advice.
ILLUSTRATION OF BEHAVIOURS –
However, if it was felt that the manager
was unaware of the consequences of their
If we take an example of a manager who behaviour and if confronted was likely to
criticises a member of her team by angrily be genuinely mortified and apologetic and
shouting at them in front of their anxious to put things right, then an
colleagues we would probably all agree informal challenging of their behaviour
that this should really be regarded as would be far more appropriate and likely
unacceptable in the workplace. We would to lead to a positive resolution.
probably all agree that the manager ought
In the first scenario the level of intent
reasonably to know that such behaviour
behind the behaviour would suggest that
could have the potential to cause offence
any informal resolution would not be
appropriate or successful. Intentional
In most cases we would expect a bullying or harassment should be regarded
competent and emotionally mature as a far more serious offence and a
manager to recognise that this was potential disciplinary matter.
unacceptable on their part, fully apologise
In the second scenario an informal
to the member of staff and promise not to
resolution, such as mediation, is likely to
repeat such behaviour.
produce the desired outcome.
The member of staff would likely feel humili-
In determining the most productive way of
ated and offended but this would probably
resolving an issue, the level of insight into
subside following a genuine apology and
the effects on the target which an alleged
undertaking that there would be no repeat.
perpetrator has is also extremely relevant
However, if no apology was forthcoming and shall be discussed later in this guide.
7. Types of Bullying
The majority of cases of workplace bullying think about other people’s behaviour, so
and harassment in the U.K. involve an their negative behaviours are part of their
individual being bullied or harassed by their personality and positive behaviours are due
manager. Studies vary between figures of to external circumstances.
50 – 80%.
In most cases of escalating conflict, neither
Around a quarter of cases involve bullying person is entirely passive. As each perceived
and harassment by peers or subordinates negative act happens, one party will
respond according to their interpretation of
Both Tim Field’s website and book, “Bully
the intentions behind the other’s actions.
In Sight”, and the C.I.P.D. Guide, written
As the atmosphere deteriorates, it’s
by Noreen Tehrani, offer excellent insight
possible that both people come to believe
into the different ‘types of bullying’:
that the other is responsible for the
Pressure/unwitting - We are all prone to breakdown of the relationship, and either
this. A ‘bad day at the office’ when under may accuse the other of bullying.
stress we can ‘snap’ or do something we
Passive-aggressive - This form of bullying
know is wrong and hurtful. We quickly
can be very difficult to recognise. People
apologise and don’t repeat the behaviour.
who use passive-aggressive bullying as a
This should not be referred to as ‘bullying’
way of undermining and manipulating
but should be regarded as unacceptable.
others tend to focus on the disadvantages
Predatory - This happens when the target in any suggestion or idea. However, instead
of the bullying has done nothing to justify of being open about their disagreements,
the negative behaviour to them. The bully they will resist undertaking any tasks
may be using the innocent target to allocated to them and covertly sabotage or
demonstrate their power to others, or the undermine the efforts of their manager
target may belong to a separate group and and others. Passive-aggressive bullies resist
is attacked as a representative of that undertaking routine social and occupational
group. Predatory bullying is more common tasks and constantly complain about being
in organisations where the culture permits misunderstood or unappreciated.
or even rewards this kind of behaviour and
They can demonstrate a wide range of
the bully feels they are unlikely to be
emotions depending on what they want to
punished for their bad behaviour. Targets
achieve. To a peer or subordinate they can
of predatory bullying find it hard to
be sullen or argumentative as a way of
understand what they have done to cause
avoiding work. On the other hand, they
the problems. However, the target doesn’t
may be playful and charming to get the
need to have done anything wrong to
attention of their manager. Passive-aggres-
cause the bullying.
sive bullies alternate between hostile
Dispute-related - This develops out of a attacks and contrition. They tend to
perceived slight or conflict that has got out of emphasise their personal misfortunes, diffi-
hand, souring the atmosphere in the work- culties or needs as a way of manipulating
place. One person believes that the other has others to provide them with help and sup-
wronged them, so the conflict escalates into port, or to deflect blame away from them.
a personal vendetta where the destruction of
Corporate - This is where the employer
the opponent becomes the goal.
abuses employees with impunity knowing
Dispute-related conflict involves intense that the law is weak and jobs are scarce.
emotions leading each side to experience
Organisational - This is a combination of
feelings of fear, suspicion, resentment, con-
pressure bullying and corporate bullying
tempt and anger. An allegation of bullying
and occurs when an organisation struggles
is used as a tactic between the opponents.
to adapt to changing markets, reduced
Escalating - Bullying can be explained by income, cuts in budgets, imposed
the way we attribute the reasons for our expectations, and other external pressures.
own and other people’s behaviours. When
Institutional - This is similar to corporate
we think about our own behaviour we
bullying and arises when bullying becomes
tend to see positive behaviours as part of
entrenched and accepted as part of the
our personality and values and we put our
culture. People are moved on, long existing
negative behaviours down to external
contracts are replaced with new short term
contracts on less favourable terms with the
However, the opposite is true when we accompanying threat of “agree to this or
else”, workloads are increased, work condition. They tend to have difficulty in
schedules are changed, roles are changed, sustaining relationships with other people
career progression paths are blocked or and see their own negative behaviours as
terminated etc. and all of this is without virtues and strengths.
They will also frequently have a hidden
Senior team tactics – In some agenda combined with low levels of
organisations, the chief executive may emotional intelligence and rigid, irrational
appoint a confederate to carry out harsh belief patterns. It’s important to remember
and uncaring actions, leaving the CEO that personality disorders are an illness and
with clean hands. When challenged, the that the person may have little control over
CEO may even appear genuinely their behaviour.
concerned about the negative
Secondary – This is mostly unwitting
behaviours, and may even punish the
bullying which people start exhibiting when
henchman/woman if things go too far.
there’s a serial bully in the department. The
Client – This is where the employees are pressure of trying to deal with a dysfunc-
bullied by those they serve e.g. teachers tional, divisive and aggressive serial bully
bullied by pupils and parents, nurses by causes everyone’s behaviour to decline.
patients and their relatives, social
Merry-go-round – This occurs when the
workers by their clients, executive boards
serial bully selects one member of a team
by shareholders, projects by external
at a time to bully. All the team is constantly
funding bodies etc.
on edge as to whether or not it’s their
Client bullying can also be employees ‘turn’ to be bullied.
bullying their clients e.g. care staff bullying
Pair/‘Good guy’, ‘bad guy’ – This is a
vulnerable residential home clients, buyers
serial bully with a colleague. Often one
bullying their suppliers, etc.
does the talking whilst the other watches
Serial – This is where the source of all and listens.
dysfunction can be traced to one
The ‘good guy’ will apparently be friendly
individual, who picks on one employee
and concerned about the target. They will
after another and seeks to destroy them.
find out about the impact of the negative
This is the type of bullying Tim Field behaviours and encourage the target to
focused on and most of his book and talk about their fears and concerns. This
website is devoted to describing and information is then passed to the ‘bad guy’
defining the serial bully. as further information on how to be more
accurate in the targeting of the negative
Personality disordered – This is linked to
the behaviour exhibited by the serial bully
described above. Gang – This is a serial bully with colleagues.
Gangs can occur anywhere but flourish in
People with a personality disorder may use
corporate bullying climates. If the bully is
bullying as a way of achieving their goals.
an extrovert, they are likely to be leading
Personality disorders are long-standing
from the front. If the bully is an introvert,
disturbances that commonly begin in late
they will be in the background initiating
adolescence and continue throughout life.
the mayhem but probably not taking an
People with personality disorders engage
active part, and may thus be harder to
in repetitive patterns of behaviour in their
work and other relationships. Usually the
people suffering from personality disorders A common tactic is to tell everyone a
are unaware of the impact their behaviour different story and encourage each person
is having on others and frequently don’t to think they are the only one with the
believe they have a problem. correct story.
There are many types of personality ‘Gang’ bullying is what some refer to as
disorder and some of the milder versions ‘mobbing’.
are sometimes valued in the workplace
As this happens in a group, individuals
e.g. to be single minded in approach can
don’t need to behave in particularly bad
be viewed as an advantage.
ways or act on a frequent basis for the
However, people with more developed target to feel extreme distress. It’s also
personality disorders are very difficult to easier for the individuals to justify and get
handle due to the nature of their away with their infrequent bad behaviour.
Vicarious/Delegated – This is where two The serial bully bequeaths a dysfunctional
parties are encouraged to engage in environment to those who are left. This
adversarial interaction or conflict. It is can last for years.
similar to gang bullying, although the bully
may or may not be directly connected with Cyber – This is the misuse of modern
either of the two parties. communications such as email systems,
internet forums, mobile phones etc. for
One party becomes the bully’s instrument sending aggressive ‘flame mails’ and other
and is deceived and manipulated into messages. Serial bullies tend to have few
bullying the other. An example of vicarious communication skills, thus the impersonal
bullying is where the serial bully creates nature of email etc. makes it an ideal tool
conflict between employer and employee, for causing conflict. Sometimes called
particularly to stoke a conflict, but rarely ‘cyberstalking’.
taking an active part in the conflict themselves.
Regulation – This is where a serial bully Subordinate – A small number of cases
forces their target to comply with rules, involve the bullying of a manager by a
regulations, procedures of law regardless of subordinate. Sometimes this can be subtle
their appropriateness, applicability or necessity. and unintentional but the impact is
disruptive. It can involve procrastination,
Legal – The bringing of a vexatious legal undermining, publicly challenging,
action to control and punish a person. This withholding information from, or failing to
is a particularly vindictive form of bullying. pass on important messages. When a
Residual – This is the bullying of all kinds group of subordinates is involved the
that continues after a serial bully has left. damage to the target can be even greater.
8. Examples of Behaviour
EXPECTED BEHAVIOUR Staff, management and the trade union
must sign up to and agree to follow such
“Tackling a difficult and complex issue like
behaviours. It is helpful to list these for all
bullying at work is about much more than
staff to refer to and be measured by. (See
having a policy in the staff handbook. It’s
Appendix One for examples).
not just about an absence of negatives, but
about actively defining and promoting ‘FIRM MANAGEMENT’ OR ‘BULLYING’?
positive working relationships.
“Good human relations at work do not
The focus needs to be moved from the mean being soft in one’s treatment of
destructive stance of punishing and isolat- people, but being fair and frank with them,
ing alleged perpetrators to a more explicit giving praise where praise is due and con-
presentation of positive options. structive criticism when such is justified.
This is important.”Marcus Sieff (Lord
Building a culture of dignity and respect at
Sieff of Brimpton)
work means creating a workplace where
appropriate ways of behaving are clearly “You don’t manage people by demeaning
communicated, promoted and supported. them, devaluing them and putting them
It also means individuals being supported in down. That’s the most ineffective way of
accepting responsibility for their behaviour managing human beings. If you don’t
and actions, and working towards solutions manage your employees well, they’ll leave,
when problems occur.” C.I.P.D. Guide so you’d better be good people-managers,
otherwise you’re going to be out of
If a policy of zero tolerance is to be
business.” Professor Cary Cooper, BBC
adopted and aspired to, then clearly the
Radio 4, 1991
leaders of an organisation need to set a
model example of positive and dignified Many of us, particularly managers, tend to
behaviours for all to follow. In addition be confused when distinguishing between
such behaviours need to be made explicit the concepts of firm management and
and promoted widely to all staff. ‘bullying’.
We also make assumptions that the more everyone is valued and supported. Positive
senior someone is, the less management pressure can be harnessed to enhance
training they need as surely individuals performance and fuel achievement but this
would not have been appointed to a is dependent upon excellent interpersonal
management position if they didn’t possess skills, high behavioural maturity, the ability
the required skills. to compromise and clear leadership skills.
However, the reality is that whilst many Having to be firm on occasions is
managers have excellent technical skills, appropriate when the intention and
their communication, conflict resolution outcome is positive and constructive but
and general people management skills are this should not be confused with
sometimes lacking. overbearing, condemnatory and often
covert behaviour, which results in a wholly
There is a very fine line between ‘firm
management’ and behaviours associat-
ed with bullying and harassment. That ‘Firm management’ is often a euphemism
line is crossed when an individual or for behaviours which are experienced as
group is persistently targeted with domineering, isolating, threatening and
behaviours that cause distress. coercive and create a climate of fear.
It is extremely important to understand and ‘Firm management’ becomes unacceptable
recognise the distinct behaviours of ‘firm behaviour when professional firmness is
management’ as opposed to the tainted with an element of personal
unacceptable behaviours associated with vindictiveness. Attempting to make people
‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’. toe the line by singling them out,
demeaning and devaluing them should not
Often managers accused of ‘bullying’ or
be labelled as a style of management.
‘harassment’ find it difficult to recognise
themselves as behaving in an unacceptable Being ‘firm’ does not mean displaying
or aggressive way and describe such unfair and unethical behaviours that cause
behaviour as just being ‘firm’. Conversely, extreme distress and disruption to the
some managers are concerned that in individual, group and ultimately the whole
having to be firm to tackle poor performance organisation.
or conduct issues they will be accused of
Being ‘firm’ is unlikely to affect people’s
being a ‘bully’.
mental and physical health and normally
In addition, unacceptable behaviour can everyone is on the receiving end. If the
soon become part of an organisations manager becomes too overbearing they
culture and thrive where it is confused with can be challenged by the whole team
‘firm’, ‘strong’ or ‘robust’ management. without fear of reprisal. Sometimes even a
Where this is the case it tends to filter from ‘good moan’ among colleagues will relieve
the top down as people follow the example the tension.
set by their leaders.
Managers do need to be ‘firm’ at times but
This is especially the case in highly this should always be done in a way which
competitive and pressured environments does not undermine the dignity and self
where many managers consider such respect of those staff they manage.
behaviour as the accepted and justified
method of motivating staff and achieving
results. Whilst this may result in the Providing a detailed list of examples of
achievement of some short-term goals it unacceptable behaviour will help a member
will have a negative effect on productivity who has raised concerns to construct their
and success over the medium to long-term. case by enabling them to not only
understand what is unacceptable but also
In workplace cultures such as the above
to put time, dates, details and narrative to
members may feel that they have to put
the behaviour they have experienced.
up with such behaviour as “that’s just the
way things are” and see it as being ‘part of Members will often be struggling to
the job’ and that nothing will ever change. verbalise what has happened to them.
They are likely to have difficulty in
A competent manager may at times need
compiling a coherent and ordered
to be firm to achieve agreed objectives but
recollection of events. Referring to a list
will demonstrate a style of leadership that
acts as a useful guide in helping them to
ensures everyone works together and
logically structure their experience.
It is particularly important for everyone due to the subtleties and complexities of
involved to understand that an inability to the behaviour involved there does not
describe what has happened may be a appear yet to be any universally agreed
direct consequence of what the member categorisation.
has suffered and not an indication of lack
Perhaps the easiest method of
categorisation would be that developed by
There is some debate as to whether lists of Professors Helge Hoel and Cary L. Cooper
behaviours associated with bullying and (2001) who found that behaviours tend to
harassment are useful. Some experts argue fall into two main categories, personal and
that a long list is too prescriptive and too work related. One point to bear in mind
short a list is too vague to be useful. with this method is that some behaviours
can easily fit into both categories e.g.
Some employers are concerned that having
shouting at someone could be related to a
an extensive list will lead to a flurry of staff
personal as well as a work related issue.
claiming that they have been bullied or
harassed but in reality it is extremely diffi- For the purposes of this guide the
cult to construct a false or malicious claim. categorisation used will be similar to that
The evidence quite simply will not be there used by the C.I.P.D. in their guide:
or will not stand up to investigation. It is
1. Behaviour that offends or insults
however vital to ensure that anyone
assessing evidence has been adequately 2. Behaviour that intimidates or threatens
3. Behaviour that excludes or isolates
There have been many attempts to try and
4. Behaviour that is directly work related.
categorise examples of unacceptable/
negative/bullying/harassing behaviours but (See Appendix Two for examples).
9. Advising Targets
of Unacceptable Behaviour
Validate and verify themselves. It is not their fault. They did
Acknowledgement and awareness not ask to be offended, humiliated,
intimidated or excluded.
Investigate By being able to put a label on what is
happening, such as unacceptable behav-
Detail the case
iour, bullying or harassment, responsibili-
Assess and discuss options ty shifts from the member toward the
Take action perpetrator and the burden of guilt can
Evaluate be removed. By having a frame of
reference and a language to describe
(In trying to remember all of the salient events the member can find a voice and
points when advising members it may be start to express what has happened and
helpful to refer to the above acronym). regain some control of the situation.
VALIDATE AND VERIFY In helping the member to develop an
Validate their experience understanding of what is happening, they
can start to employ strategies to positively
A crucial first step for any member who
confront and deal with the issues.
feels that they have been the target of
unacceptable behaviour, bullying or harass- Receiving such validation and recognition
ment is to be able to understand what is is the first step in the healing process.
going on, to validate their experience. Symptoms
Many targets believe that they are in The member is likely to be suffering from
some way responsible through some fault a number of symptoms which are classic
on their part and may also be wondering indicators of stress i.e. confusion, anxiety,
why they were selected as a target. insomnia etc. It’s important to advise
Members should never blame the member that such symptoms are
a completely normal reaction to the Target v victim
abnormal behaviour to which they
In supporting members we should always
have been subjected. This again helps
be mindful of the language we use and
to validate their experience.
the messages such language conveys.
There is a debate as to whether the word
One of the most important things a ‘target’ rather than ‘victim’ is more
workplace representative can do is appropriate when referring to those who
believe the member. Failure to do so only have suffered from negative behaviours.
compounds the situation in that it causes
The word ‘victim’ can be used as a tactic
secondary wounding to the member.
to avoid responsibility by playing on the
This doesn’t mean that you are agreeing prejudices and preconceived notions
with everything that they say but simply about ‘victims’ e.g. that in some way the
that you believe their perception of what ‘victim’ invited the behaviour.
is happening to them. It is primarily this
Use of the word ‘target’ clearly shifts the
perception that needs to be taken
focus of responsibility solely on to the
Be mindful that there are at least two
There is never any justification for
sides to every story when offering
bullying or harassment.
validation and support. However the key
issue is how the behaviour has impacted Therefore anything that can be done to
on the target rather than the detail of minimise the use of excuses for such
the incidents. behaviour should be followed.
No advice is better than bad advice Verify membership
Everyone concerned, workplace Check the person is actually a union
representative or other, needs to member and encourage them to join
understand that this is such a potentially straightaway if they are not. If they do
damaging issue that no advice is better not want to join the union then we
than bad advice. If you don’t feel cannot formally represent them and they
confident, seek advice from elsewhere. will not have access to the wider support
and expertise which the union can offer.
Be aware that, whatever course of action
is taken, the bully’s behaviour has the The issues they raise may have
potential to get worse. It’s a virtual implications for some of their colleagues,
certainty that the bully’s behaviour will who may be union members, and we
not improve of its own accord. Members would therefore want to raise the issues
need to seek help and support now in support of those members.
rather than sustaining further injury.
Whilst it may seem sensible to advise a AND AWARENESS
member to try and stand firm, remain
Part of your role is to assist members to
confident and keep calm the reality may
work through and explore their
well be that the member’s confidence,
experiences and associated feelings, so
self-esteem and normal coping
that these can be put into context.
mechanisms are low and dysfunctional.
The advice given should be mindful of Acknowledge impact
the physical and psychological impact of Members may feel that they have to put
the negative behaviour on the member. up with bullying behaviour as part of the
It is very easy to fall into the trap of using job and may not wish to complain for
standard clichés, such as "it's normal", fear of further victimisation or being
"it's just a personality clash", "don't be so labelled a troublemaker. Members may
sensitive", “you’re over reacting”, “it’s often feel ashamed to discuss their
just the way they are”, “get over it”, experiences with colleagues because they
“take no notice”, “don’t let it worry you”, feel their professional credibility is being
“keep your head down”, “ignore it” etc. called into question.
This only dissuades the member from Irrational beliefs can lead to negative
speaking out about what is happening to behaviours. For example, where a
them. member has an irrational belief that
everyone hates them, their behaviour P.T.S.D. as this disorder is normally
may become aggressive toward their associated with highly traumatic and
colleagues. This in turn can bring about a often acute events whereas behaviours
situation in which colleagues become associated with bullying and harassment
less friendly, thereby reinforcing the tend to be more subtle and prolonged.
member’s original view. An alternative diagnosis is Prolonged
Duress Stress Disorder (P.D.S.D.).
In more extreme cases the member may
well be suffering from shock. Most of Whilst it is up to a G.P. or specialist to
us tend to think of shock as a natural diagnose any condition it is helpful to
consequence of a single frightening understand some of the behavioural
incident. However shock can result from signs and effects of stress.
a series of small but regular and (See Appendix three).
persistent unpleasant incidents.
Awareness of effects on health
Acknowledge that the member should
If the member’s health appears to be not suffer in silence and that by contact-
suffering, psychologically or physically, ing you they have made the first and
then advise them to visit their G.P. Some most important step toward resolving
members are reluctant to do this as they their situation. That takes strength.
see it as a sign of weakness or are
What has happened to them is not a
concerned about having a poor sickness
result of being ‘paranoid’ or ‘mentally ill’.
absence record if they decide to either
What has been inflicted upon them
stay or move on. However insist that
should be referred to as a ‘psychiatric
their health and wellbeing should be the
injury’, an injury caused by something
primary and immediate consideration.
external to them, rather than a ‘mental
Reassure the member that it is not a sign illness’ which many people assume to be
of weakness and if they are ‘signed off’ inherent and allows for suggestions that
by their G.P. this can help them not only the member is in some way responsible
recover but also give them the space to for their condition.
gather their thoughts and make informed
Suggesting a target has a ‘mental illness’
decisions about what to do next.
is sometimes used as a tactic to try and
Advise the member to ensure that if deny responsibility and legal liability.
‘signed off’ the correct reason is given
i.e. ‘work related stress’ as opposed to
‘stress’ or some other less specific or Acknowledge and understand that the
ambiguous diagnosis. Should the issues member may have lost their confidence
become contentious then having an and be confused about their personal
accurate and specific medical diagnosis is and professional characteristic and
extremely helpful. abilities. Again, it is important to
acknowledge this and reassure them that
Additional support for a member may
all of their feelings are a normal reaction
also be necessary i.e. through a trained
to abnormal circumstances.
counsellor. Some employers provide such
a service. Acknowledge that they may feel terrified
by the prospect of either meeting the
The behaviours associated with bullying
perpetrator face to face at a meeting or
and harassment are a major cause of
of being viewed as a troublemaker. If
stress in the work place. In the most seri-
possible, offer reassurance that they
ous cases this can lead to major physical
won’t suffer any negative consequences
and psychological impairments of health
e.g. having to leave their job or move
leading to significant personality change
and nervous breakdown. It can also have
a devastating effect on the target(s), Encourage the member not to isolate
their colleagues, family and friends. themselves or withdraw. They should
continue to socialise and try as far as
Commonly diagnosed disorders are
possible to lead a normal life.
Depression and Generalized Anxiety
Disorder, Adjustment Disorder and Post They should seek support from a variety
Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of sources and recognise that rather than
psychiatrists have questioned diagnosing being powerless, the opposite is true.
The member has a position of power thing is that they know that someone
because it is their popularity or ability will listen to them.
which has clearly threatened the alleged
As Tim Field states, targets of bullying
“often have an overwhelming and at
Awareness of confidentiality times almost uncontrollable desire to tell
their story. This obsession probably has
Reassure the member about issues of
its origins in the heightened sense of
confidentiality, so they feel properly
injustice combined with the lack of
protected. Explain the circumstances in
recognition and want of opportunity to
which confidentiality cannot be
talk to people who understand the
unimaginable awfulness of what has
Under Health and Safety legislation happened.”
employers have a ‘duty of care’ toward
The potentially debilitating effects of
being the target of unacceptable
In certain scenarios a member may be behaviour mean that a member may
making serious allegations which have difficulty or be unable to find the
potentially will be affecting their health words to describe what has happened to
and that of their colleagues. Whilst they them. It may take a significant period of
may not want any action to be taken, time before the member is able to recall
the union and employer have a and recount a complete and coherent
responsibility to ensure the matter is picture of events but with the right help
properly investigated and dealt with. and support this time can be significantly
Care should be taken to explain this to
members. Whilst confidentiality cannot INVESTIGATE
always be upheld, any subsequent action
The role of a workplace representative
should be taken with a view to
can involve conducting some form of
respecting the member’s wishes as much
investigation into the issues that a
as possible. They should also be kept
member is raising.
fully informed of developments and
consulted about action taken. The size of an organisation, the resources
at its disposal, the provisions of any
The member should be in control of
Dignity at Work policy and the level of
events as much as possible. In only the
organisational commitment toward
most extreme cases should it be neces-
effectively challenging and dealing with
sary to take action against the wishes of
unacceptable behaviour will all influence
a member i.e. when their own safety or
the degree to which a workplace repre-
that of others is put at risk.
sentative should and will be involved.
Awareness of Policy/Procedures
In an ideal world an organisation would
If they have not already done so, encour- commission an external, independent
age the member to read up on the and specialist investigator or failing this
organisation’s policy and to start learning an internal, trained investigator. This
about issues of unacceptable behaviour, increases the objectivity of an
bullying and harassment e.g. they could investigation.
be provided with a copy of this guide.
In most cases, at least initially, the
Remember that knowledge equals workplace representative has to help the
power. member gather the evidence and
investigate the allegations.
Some members may have already kept a
Listen carefully to what the member says diary/journal/log or collated a body of
and make it clear that you don’t consider evidence to support their claims. If not
them to be over-sensitive, that the encourage them to do so retrospectively
incident isn’t silly or trivial, and that the and to discreetly record every future
union is prepared to help. incident.
You may be the first person that the The detail of all incidents which have
member has approached for support and caused upset should be recounted,
the first person to have heard their including date, time, witnesses, how they
‘story’. At this stage the most important felt after each incident and the affect
this had on them and others, both support the member.
personally and professionally.
They may be willing to offer support in
It is extremely helpful to have a list of person or prefer to do so in confidence.
unacceptable/negative behaviours to use They should be asked if they will provide
as a prompt, such as that in Appendix a written statement.
Quite often several members of staff
It’s not necessarily each incident that is may be affected at any one time. The
relevant but more the number, regularity more people experiencing the same type
and especially the patterns that reveal of conduct and willing to come forward,
potential bullying and harassment. the less likely any complaint will be
The alleged perpetrator may offer thought of as a personality clash on the
explanations of individual incidents part of the member.
but cannot explain away the pattern.
Advise the member to keep any records
in a secure place, preferably away from
The quality of evidence will vary
the workplace. This is to ensure nothing
is ‘lost’, ‘misplaced’ or tampered with.
• hard, factual, documentary evidence
• incidents that have been witnessed DETAIL THE CASE
• alleged incidents where it will simply The complaint should be as objective as
be one persons word against another possible so that the member cannot be
(these may be more down to accused of making a vexatious, false or
individual’s perception of events). malicious allegation.
Even if the evidence appears to be weak It is important that any evidence is
reassure the member that their written up in a logical, coherent and
perception of what is happening to structured manner, as this will greatly
them will be taken seriously and is the assist anyone connected with advising
overriding concern. on the matter or attempting to resolve
Advise them to gather as much
corroborating evidence as possible in Everyone will make their own
writing: emails, text messages, letters, assessment of the information in front
faxes, memos, reports, documents, of them. The clearer that is, the more
appraisals, supervision notes etc. likely that all concerned will reach the
Previous appraisals are important to same conclusions and agree on the most
check as they can confirm that it is not appropriate way forward.
the member’s performance which has The role of the workplace representative
altered. Performance issues can also be in this process may be to assist the
checked with colleagues. member to logically structure their
Make sure that the member has or information and evidence. In more
obtains a copy of their job description so extreme instances it may mean that you
they can check if the responsibilities they have to write a report on the member’s
have been given match it. behalf, however, it is important to
ensure that the report is essentially in
When trying to persuade the relevant the member’s own words.
parties that a member has been subject
to unacceptable behaviour and has This may well have resource implications
potentially been bullied or harassed, the which will need to be addressed and
more evidence the better. should not be ignored.
Collating such evidence and having to
learn about the issues can also help the ASSESS AND DISCUSS OPTIONS
member to validate their experience and Discuss with the member how s/he
therefore assist recovery. wishes the case to be pursued.
As well as potentially witnessing Your role is to help the member to
incidents, colleagues may also have explore all available options for dealing
been the target of similar treatment and with the issues they have raised, so that
at some stage it may be appropriate to they can decide what to do next and
approach them to see if they will take ownership of that decision.
Doing nothing is not an option as this will Only if the member is extremely
undoubtedly make matters worse and confident of a positive outcome
may place the employer in breach of their should they speak to the alleged
policy and the duty of care they have perpetrator alone.
toward the member and other colleagues.
It is not an appropriate course of action
Whenever possible it is always best to ‘nip when there have been threats or
issues in the bud’ before they escalate and threatening behaviour.
become more serious but any attempt to
It is also not appropriate when dealing
resolve the matter should, when
with someone felt to be a serial bully as
appropriate, be done in a way that
they will most likely deny their actions or
enhances the possibility of retaining the
‘play victim’. In addition they are likely to
basis of a working relationship in the future.
counter attack, becoming even angrier
Whatever option is chosen the workplace and more vindictive toward the member.
representative should ensure that the
If a member chooses to talk directly with
issues are dealt with as quickly as
the perpetrator alone, or with a work-
possible by management and that agreed
place representative/colleague present,
deadlines and actions are adhered to.
then ensure that what will be said is
Remind the member about their rights to clearly planned beforehand. A suitable
representation throughout the process. time and place should be chosen to
ensure that there will be no interruptions
TAKING ACTION and confidentiality can be maintained.
Irrespective of the course of action taken, If a member intends to have a workplace
workplace representatives need to be representative/colleague present then
careful that the employer does not try to ensure the alleged perpetrator is advised
‘sweep the issue under the carpet’, of this before the meeting.
collude with the perpetrator, breach The member, or the workplace
confidentiality or unnecessarily delay the representative/colleague speaking on
process. their behalf, should clearly describe what
If there is a genuine commitment to it was about the behaviour which they
achieving a positive outcome then the found upsetting, how it left them feeling
problems listed above should not arise. and the impact. They should provide
examples and be clear about the
An informal approach is normally resolution they are seeking.
inappropriate when the allegations are
serious e.g. potential gross misconduct or When providing examples of the
if the member feels that it will make unacceptable behaviours the member
matters worse. should describe the emotional impact but
try and avoid being too emotive in their
Talking to the perpetrator language. They should avoid
Even though this would appear to be an personalising the behaviours e.g. say
apparently straightforward and ‘common “the behaviour was undermining” rather
sense’ approach it needs very careful than “you undermined me”.
consideration as to whether it is appro- They should not be apologetic or justify
priate. It can be a very effective means of how they felt or their right for the
resolving the issue and is more likely to behaviour to stop. It is also inappropriate
be successful when the working relation- at this meeting to enter into a discussion
ship is generally positive, the problems or debate about the behaviour.
are recent and the perpetrator is felt to
be open to reflection and compromise. Such informal meetings should be
followed up in writing to confirm points
Sometimes individuals are unaware that made and agreed action to be taken.
their behaviour is unwelcome and hurtful This letter should be copied and retained
and an informal approach can lead to as it may be required as evidence at a
greater understanding and an agreement later stage.
that such behaviour is unacceptable.
Writing a letter
The benefit of this approach is that issues
can be resolved quickly and healthy This is appropriate when talking to the
working relations can quickly be restored. perpetrator has not achieved the desired
outcome or a physical meeting is either the incidents are considered very serious
difficult to arrange or felt to be too by the target, informal routes have been
distressing for the member. unsuccessful/inappropriate or one or
more parties concerned believe the
This approach allows preparation time,
formal process to be the most suitable
enabling the member to be clear about
course of action.
what they want to say and it acts as a
precise record of what has been Formal methods are not appropriate to
communicated. pursue when in so doing the member is
likely to suffer further extreme distress
The letter should be structured in a
which could have been avoided by
similar way to the advice given above for
pursuing an alternative course of action.
talking to the perpetrator.
The formal method should involve
Copies of all correspondence, including
following the organisations Dignity at
a letter such as this, should always be
A member should only write a letter if
they are able to deal with the potential At some stage, and each case is
responses and are prepared to talk different, it may be appropriate to seek
about the difficulties directly. It would professional support from the union.
not be appropriate if it was felt that the This is normally via the Regional Officer
perpetrator would react in a negative and may involve the union’s solicitors
manner and target the member further. (if membership of the union exceeds 6
The legal advice should clarify whether a
This is appropriate when there is a need member is likely to have a case should
for support in dealing with a problem, they wish to pursue a legal claim against
there is agreement on the existence of their employer for potential constructive
an issue and both parties are willing to / unfair dismissal or a personal injury
work for a win-win solution. claim against the employer/perpetrator.
It is not appropriate when one or more Always encourage a member to await
parties are unwilling to take part in the the outcome of advice either from the
process, there has been serious bullying union’s full time officials and / or legal
or harassment or the parties are not will- department before making any ‘rash’ or
ing to negotiate. ‘knee jerk’ decisions e.g. deciding to
A mediator can help to: resign.
• Identify what has happened by Wherever possible members should also
speaking confidentially to all parties, be advised to exhaust all internal
processes and procedures for resolving
• assess the best way to bring the disputes. Failure to do so could severely
parties together, weaken any legal case they may have
• hold a joint meeting, had.
• explore the issues and build an agree- EVALUATE
ment for future working relationships. It is important at different stages of a
It is not the mediator’s role to solve the representation and at the end of a case
problems and mediation will not be to evaluate the success of the advice
successful if the parties involved dwell and support offered and if necessary to
on the past and look to apportion make further representations on behalf
responsibility/blame. of the member.
It is recommended that professional In addition there may well be valuable
mediation should be used since this is a lessons which should be learnt and
highly skilled area of conflict resolution. implemented for the benefit of the
A manager acting as ‘go-between’ wider workforce.
would not be appropriate. There may well be a number of residual
issues left over which need dealing with
if any reoccurrence of problems is to be
Formal methods are appropriate when avoided.
Programmes of rehabilitation for those Far too often, targets of bullying and
involved and counselling may also be harassment are expected to return to
appropriate. If the member has been off work and carry on as if nothing had
‘sick’ then a phased return to work may happened and with no recognition of the
be helpful and a planning meeting long lasting and damaging effects.
should be held to facilitate this and other Recovery time can be anything from a
outstanding issues. few months to a number of years.
An important part of the rehabilitation If the member decides that they wish to
process is the assurance that everyone move on then they should also be given
shares the same expectations of the way positive assistance to achieve this.
people will behave toward one another
Further reviews may be necessary to
in the future.
assess the long term outcomes.
The needs of all involved should be
Finally, evaluation should focus on
clearly assessed and regular meetings
whether the unacceptable behaviour has
held to ensure all issues are satisfactorily
stopped and the member and other
dealt with. This may need to include the
colleagues are operating in a healthy
wider staff team that, whilst not directly
involved, may have witnessed and been
drawn into events and have a number of It should be ensured that any agreement
residual issues that need to be addressed. is effective.
10. Representing an Alleged Perpetrator
UNION POLICY If the alleged perpetrator is demonised
they may well become defensive and
The policy of Unite is to oppose
discrimination and harassment of any enter a state of denial. Care must be
kind and this includes bullying. taken to adopt an approach that assists
Representatives should make it clear that them to take ownership of their
Unite does not tolerate bullying and will behaviour, accept responsibility and want
not defend bullying behaviour by to change. It is more helpful to refer to
members. The perpetrator should be their behaviours as negative,
advised to accept counselling, mentoring, inappropriate or unacceptable, rather
training or other types of assistance to than personalising their behaviour and
help him/her recognise and change their labelling them as a ‘bully’ or ‘harasser’.
behaviour. Organisational factors or issues of ill
Unite will, however, provide representa- health may influence the behaviour of an
tion for members accused of bullying to alleged perpetrator and should be taken
ensure that due process is followed and, into consideration and addressed.
in circumstances where both the target
An emotionally mature person will
and the alleged perpetrator are both
genuinely apologise for their behaviour
members, separate representation will be
and take on board any necessary
provided for each party.
learning. Being made aware of and
Workplace representatives should bear in being able to identify the effect of their
mind that inaccurate/false accusations behaviour on others is sufficient to make
can be made and on occasion these can them want to stop or seek help in
be malicious or a form of counter attack. stopping.
Do not jump to conclusions or presume
guilt. At the other end of the scale is extreme
behaviour where the personality of the
UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR perpetrator is such that it is accurate to
OR BULLYING/HARASSMENT label them as a serial bully. Such
In determining how best to deal with individuals tend to be spiteful, vindictive
incidents of unacceptable behaviour it is and destructive toward their target(s)
necessary to understand what type of and abuse their position of power for
perpetrator the organisation is dealing their own gratification.
with and the severity of the behaviour.
A serial bully is arrogant and usually
This will influence how the issues are
believes they will get away with their
resolved in terms of stopping the
behaviour and what action to take with
regard to the perpetrator. This may be Their capacity to manipulate, deceive and
punitive or rehabilitative or a mixture deny should never be underestimated.
That is why they are able to bully
We are all prone to having a ‘bad day at without being effectively challenged.
the office’ when our own behaviour falls
It is therefore of crucial importance that
well below what we normally aspire to.
Equally some of us may have poor workplace representatives understand
communication and interpersonal skills the methods and tactics of a serial bully
which mean that our behaviour toward or harasser. Failure to do so will
colleagues can also at times be undoubtedly have a negative outcome
unacceptable. for the member(s) involved, the
organisation and others in the future,
Alleged perpetrators can be unaware of including the perpetrator. It will almost
the impact of their behaviour and certainly result in an unsatisfactory
actions. To be accused of bullying or resolution of the issues.
harassment can be a shock. Therefore it’s
important that they are provided with an Workplace representatives should also
appropriate level of care and support ensure that management and HR staff
during both informal and formal processes. understand such methods and tactics.
11. UNDERSTANDING THE TACTICS
OF A SERIAL BULLY
In his book, “Bully in Sight”, Tim Field “It could get nasty”, “I might have to
suggests that: speak to my solicitor” etc.
When a serial bully is challenged Most of the threats are implied rather
their underlying behaviour pattern is than real. In most cases the bully has no
predictable, showing some, if not all, intention of contacting anyone.
of the steps outlined below. Sometimes however, the bully may
contact those regarded as potential allies.
By carefully recording the bully’s
responses, their actions can be shown to This approach is also used to imply that
conform to the pattern of behaviour the bully has the full support and
characteristic of a bully and in this way backing of the colleagues they name.
they convict themselves through This may be true and in the event of a
their own behaviour. confrontation these colleagues may
indeed side with the bully, thus turning
When dealing with a serial bully, watch
the threat into a self fulfilling prophecy.
for this fifteen-step behaviour exhibition:
It is also possible that the bully does not
Surprise – This may be the first time the
have the support of anyone.
bully has been challenged in this manner
and the surprise may be genuine. On the Threats are provocative, anticipating the
other hand, the bully is so accustomed to next step. If it is suspected that the bully
behaving like this that it is more likely to really has consulted a third person and
be an instinctive response, “I thought we made them aware of the ‘facts’, pause
were friends”. and consider how to approach the situa-
tion. A sudden reaction, which is what
Denial – The first outward sign of unwill-
the bully wants, may be inappropriate or
ingness to accept responsibility. This is an
unnecessary and may make the situation
inborn self-protection mechanism that
worse. A considered, discreet enquiry at
most people will resort to when alerted
a suitable time may be more appropriate.
to some potential unpleasant consequences
If a member decides to double check,
as a result of their actions e.g. “I’m not a
advise them to stick firmly to the facts.
bully, it’s not in my nature”. Unfortunately
it’s part of the human survival instinct Provocation – This is an attempt to elicit
and therefore in all of our natures. a knee jerk reaction. In doing so the bully
is trying to gain ‘evidence’ that can be
Projection – The bully now tries to
used against the target as justification in
project their own failings on to the other
portraying the target as untrustworthy,
person, who under the pressure of threat
immature, unreliable, etc.
and intimidation, possibly backed up
with guilt begins to doubt themselves Although difficult the target must try to
e.g. “You have an attitude problem, I ignore such provocation. This will annoy
can’t trust you” etc. the bully even more and encourage them
to engage in further inappropriate
Sympathy – An instinctive response by
behaviour. The more impeccable the tar-
which the bully tries to claim sympathy.
get’s behaviour, the more corroborating
It’s a form of diversion and precursor to
behaviour the bully will exhibit. They
the final stage in the process e.g. “Do
therefore convict themselves through
you know how much I’ve suffered?”,
their own actions.
“I’m under so much pressure” etc.
No matter what the provocation, advise
Alarm – When the target doesn’t back
the member to try and maintain their
down or fall for the sympathy trap, the
self-respect and professionalism.
bully may become alarmed that the tac-
Encourage them never to sink to the
tics are not working and offer to discuss
the concerns ‘openly’ e.g. “We can sort
this out between us”, “I’m here to help, Notes of every interaction and everything
trust me”, “There’s no need for anyone the bully says, does and threatens should
else to be involved” etc. be made. The motivation behind such
behaviour is the relevant factor here, not
Threat – The bully tries to intimidate and
the content of what the bully says or does.
frighten the target. The target has
always succumbed before e.g. “This isn’t “I know people in high places who will
doing your reputation any good”, “I’ll put a stop to your game”, “I don’t see
have to bring this up with the Director”, how we can continue to work together if
you continue to behave like this”, “I’m the bully’s supporters join in with the
reporting this to senior management this bully and close ranks. By sowing seeds of
afternoon”, “You’re behaving in a childish confusion and doubt on a regular basis
and immature manner”, “You’re embar- and involving as many different people as
rassing yourself, me and the company”. possible the bully may convince the
employer that it is the target who’s at
The last provocative remark contains guilt
fault and should be removed.
and implied threat. It is a weak but often
effective attempt by the bully to align The target’s record is scoured for any triv-
themselves with both high moral standards ial mistakes, which are now highlighted.
and the standards of the employer. It can This diversionary tactic distracts attention
have a strong isolating effect on the target. away from the behaviours of the bully
and of the bully’s supporters. The give-
Delay – Bullies may put off disciplinary
away is the triviality and irrelevance to
meetings, hearings, appeals, etc. as often
the current situation of the allegations.
as they can get away with it. Dates,
times and places will be changed, often Sometimes the management position
at short notice, the other party will be becomes entrenched. Typically the case
informed with the minimum of notice presented has nothing to do with the
but justified by seemingly plausible target’s performance, which is probably
excuses. Important and vital documents on record as ‘above average’. The trig-
will be withheld until just before the gering event in this type of case is usually
meeting or until just after. Another the target filing a complaint against a
seemingly plausible excuse and apology senior manager who is known to have a
is offered. One or two important pieces history of bullying.
of evidence may be ‘lost’, ‘in the post’,
Counter attack – The bully makes
‘wrongly filed’, ‘between departments’,
counter allegations, either related or
in fact anywhere other than where they
unrelated. The bully states openly their
belief, in the form of a claim or threat;
Panic – The bully senses a real risk of that they are the one being bullied or
exposure as it is rare for a target to have harassed e.g. “You’re being too hard on
got this far down the list. Attempts are me”. The effectiveness of this last tactic
made to gather support from peers, can be increased dramatically by
management, subordinates, friends, any- engaging a ‘friend’ to say it on the bully’s
where. Time to challenge the target and behalf, especially in front of witnesses,
repeat threats. “Are you sure you’re not over reacting
and being too hard on ‘X’?”.
The bully continues to try and put off
meetings, deadlines etc. and may In so doing, they are preparing the
unilaterally try to postpone any grievance ground for the final step in their defence.
procedure, meeting or attempt at arbitra- Humility – This behaviour will only
tion. In a show of apparent sincerity, the appear if the bully is acting alone and
bully may repeat their offer to discuss has no one to turn to and particularly if
openly; “Let’s talk”, “It’s all a big faced with overwhelming odds or has
misunderstanding”, “It’s a mistake, been caught red handed. The bully’s only
you’ve got it all wrong”. recourse is to surrender in the hope of
Defence – Or rather, attack. A string of winning sympathy, leniency or mitigation.
counter accusations are made; some will Suddenly and unexpectedly the bully
be false, some (usually trivial) will be true offers a full, sincere apology and com-
but most will have a grain of truth in plete cooperation.
them. The bully picks on any faults and In the workplace, the tactic is highly
mistakes the target has made, magnifies effective when used on persons not alert-
them, then portrays them as the norm, ed or trained to recognise it. The sudden
rather than the exception. The bully’s change of tack touches the forgiving
objective is to keep the spotlight and the chord and can induce feelings of doubt,
focus on the target and what s/he has or “Have I been too hard on this person?”,
hasn’t done. “Have I made an awful mistake?”.
Confusion/Diversion – Leading on from With serial bullies, this behaviour is a
defence, particularly if the tactic does not tactic designed to get them out of the
appear to be having the desired effect, hole they’ve dug for themselves. To the
alert observer it is also an admission of potential personality disorder. One means
the bully’s unwillingness to accept of determining this is to focus on the
responsibility for the consequences of issue of insight.
Where a perpetrator’s level of insight is
If this was a genuinely full, sincere reasonably strong they may initially be
apology and offer of complete angry, upset and look to place some
cooperation then it would have been blame elsewhere. However, on reflection
expressed at the beginning of the they will very quickly step back from this
process rather than at such a late stage. position and accept full responsibility for
All those involved should be alert to this the consequences of their actions.
tactic and not view such an apology and They will display genuine remorse for
offer of cooperation as a step toward causing any upset, be willing to offer a
resolution. Previous patterns of behaviour full and unconditional apology to the
will soon reassert themselves. By fooling target, take on board any recommended
those involved the bully lives to fight training or learning and be committed to
another day and will potentially seek avoiding causing further offence.
revenge on the target.
They will also be able to demonstrate a
Play victim – As a last resort the bully high degree of insight into why their
feigns innocence, swaps into ‘martyr behaviour was unacceptable and be able to
mode’ and plays the part of a victim, empathise with the distress caused to the
ensuring witnesses are present. Tears are target. This requires emotional maturity.
likely to be produced.
In contrast a serial bully or harasser may
This unabashed use of guilt has a very attempt to demonstrate some of these
high probability of success as it is very positive behaviours but is unlikely to
difficult not to feel sympathy for some- convince an investigator / observer that
one who portrays themselves as a victim they have any detailed insight into the
and subject of persecution e.g. “Why are consequences of their actions. As such
you doing this to me?”, “What have I they betray the fact that, yet again, such
done to deserve this?”, “What good will attempts are merely a tactical ploy to
it do?”, “I’m the one being bullied!”. evade responsibility.
This ‘performance’ is highly convincing to Even when the negative behaviour is less
onlookers who have not been trained in extreme an inability to demonstrate
recognising such bullying tactics. The insight or empathy should still be of
bully may even be signed off with concern. It suggests that the perpetrator
sickness, usually ‘stress’. is emotionally immature and could
To counter this behaviour in a disciplinary present an ongoing risk to colleagues.
hearing or related meeting draw Level of insight is therefore crucial in
attention to the motivation behind the determining how to deal with an alleged
behaviour exhibited, rather than what perpetrator and assessing the level of
the bully says or does, the content. ongoing risk they pose to the target,
It is useful to refer to this list or one similar other staff and the organisation.
and at the appropriate moment summarise The ‘level of insight’ can be tested in any
what has been observed. The bully’s own investigation by questioning the alleged
behaviour can be used as evidence against perpetrator. Coaching/leading questions
them to identify and prove the case. should be avoided at all costs.
Relevant questions could include:
When confronted or challenged about
bullying or harassing behaviour, the “B was upset by your behaviour, can you
perpetrator will potentially display some explain why he might have felt that way?”
or all of the tactics described above.
“C was upset by your behaviour, what
This does not necessarily mean that they
do you think she felt?”
should always be labelled as a serial bully.
“In behaving in the way you did, what
It is vital to distinguish between someone
did you hope to achieve?”
who is reacting defensively out of shock
at hearing how their behaviour has “What could you do differently in future,
impacted on staff - and someone with a in order to avoid any distress?”
12. Methods of Resolution
In seeking a resolution most members Personality disordered bullying should not
will simply want the behaviour to stop, be treated in the same way as other
as should the organisation. types of unacceptable behaviour as in
doing so there is the potential for far
The organisation should also ensure that
greater conflict. The system and
they accept responsibility by not
procedures will be used for the
colluding with behaviours that create a
perpetrator’s own ends and they won’t
culture of unacceptable behaviour.
recognise the confusion and mayhem
In reaching a satisfactory resolution any their behaviour is causing.
intervention should have the aim of
In the most extreme scenarios legal
helping the perpetrator(s) to:
action may be appropriate, which would
• Recognise their behaviour was be accompanied by internal disciplinary
inappropriate/unacceptable and take processes.
For serious cases involving a serial bully/
• Identify any underlying causes for their harasser the behaviour is likely to
inappropriate/unacceptable behaviour constitute gross misconduct. In this
and address these. scenario disciplinary action will be
appropriate and subsequent dismissal
• Offer a genuine apology for the
from the organisation is highly likely.
Depending on the seriousness of the
• Learn how to behave in a way that
case, and the level of contrition and
respects and values the dignity of others.
insight demonstrated, there may be a
There are a number of methods by which desire to retain the perpetrator but
perpetrators can be helped to examine organisations should be mindful of the
and reflect on their behaviour and avoid effect on the target(s) and the message it
any repetition. They should also be made sends to other staff.
aware of the consequences if they fail to
In some instances the cost of retraining/
counselling/mentoring and the time
For low level incidents of unacceptable needed may be too prohibitive for an
behaviour, simply bringing the matter to organisation to reasonably bear. Dealing
the perpetrator’s attention will suffice. with a serial bully is extremely
Reference should be made to the challenging for all involved and ideally
appropriate policies. help should be sought from trained
Others options for behaviour regarded as professionals e.g. psychologist.
less extreme include: Even when a member of staff is not
facing dismissal on disciplinary grounds it
still may not be feasible for them to
continue in the organisation or return to
Counselling work following suspension or ‘garden
leave’. In such scenarios it may be
Coaching appropriate to use other procedures for
Group work managing the departure e.g. capability/ill
Alternatively it may be appropriate to
Mentoring move the perpetrator to another office/
location and/or suspend/remove their line
management responsibilities. However,
Such interventions may be a this is not appropriate as a resolution in
recommendation of a formal or an itself as it is merely shifting the problem
informal process and may or may not be without addressing the underlying issues.
imposed alongside a disciplinary sanction.
It is always important to remember
If the perpetrator is felt to be a serial that every employer has a
bully then the possibility exists that they responsibility or duty of care to
may have a personality disorder and as its employees. They should be
such they will be unlikely to positively reminded of this legal obligation
respond to interventions such as behaviour when determining how to resolve
modification or awareness raising training. the issues.
13. A collective approach
As a trade union, Unite recognises that confidential counselling for the target
the most effective way of dealing with and witnesses
unacceptable behaviour is to try and 10. The provision of coaching for the
prevent it happening in the first place. perpetrator.
A key method by which this can be Formulating a policy
achieved is to have an effective work-
place approach to Dignity at Work. This Policies should be clearly written and
must involve an accessible, understand- easy to understand. They should start by
able and robust policy for dealing with stating the organisations understanding
situations when they arise. Any policy and commitment to Dignity at Work and
should be developed and implemented the right of all employees to work in an
with the consensus of all relevant parties. environment free from bullying and
harassment. It should also open with a
There is a wealth of material available to statement on the responsibilities and
assist management and trade unions to duties of both individuals and the
formulate effective policies for their organi- organisation in collectively promoting
sation. Such material includes ‘model’ dignity and respect and tackling
policies that can be adapted to suit your unacceptable behaviour.
own organisation. In this guide the aim is
to highlight some of the key features. It should be stated that all complaints
will be taken seriously, that confidentiality
will be respected, and that victimisation
Formulating an approach
of those that raise complaints will not be
To genuinely promote Dignity at Work tolerated. The policy should also detail the
and positively deal with targets and sources of support available to a target.
perpetrators of bullying and harassment
The procedure itself should consist of:
organisations need more than just a
policy. A live strategy which is constantly • An informal stage
being applied across the whole
• A formal stage
organisation is required. The strategy
should include: • An appeal stage.
1. An audit to analyse the extent of
bullying/unacceptable behaviour, and An informal stage
any specific issues Most people just want the bullying to
2. A policy which promotes positive stop. An informal route, properly
behaviours and makes bullying/ managed, can be quick at achieving this.
unacceptable behaviour a potential It can enable the case to be aired in full
disciplinary offence and a positive way forward identified,
including the setting of standards of
3. Training for line managers who are
appropriate future behaviour.
responsible for implementing the policy
A trade union representative must be
4. A process whereby all targets and
able to support the target and the
witnesses can raise a complaint
perpetrator and their role is to provide
without fear of reprisal or victimisation
guidance, information and assist in
5. A network of representatives to assist problem solving.
employees wishing to raise an issue
This comprehensive guide can be used to
6. Clear communication about the assist the target to recognise what has
organisation’s stance on bullying and happened to them. Other support
commitment to Dignity at Work, services can help the target regain their
informing all staff of their rights and confidence and self-esteem.
7. Training on raising awareness and A formal stage
developing the skills needed to deal This route should be pursued when the
with issues of bullying and harassment seriousness of the incident is such that
8. Regular monitoring and review of only a formal route is appropriate or
procedures and their effectiveness when attempts to resolve the situation
informally have not been successful.
9. The provision of independent and Occasionally the target may prefer to use
the formal route to try and resolve the Communication
An organisation must have a clear
Employees need to understand that all communication strategy for regularly
complaints raised will be taken seriously stressing its commitment to Dignity at
and will be properly investigated. Work. Although it is important for all
It should be noted that quite often employees to be made aware of any
grievance procedures are inadequate for policy developments, simply stating an
dealing with issues of potential bullying organisation’s commitment at the time of
and harassment as they only allow mat- launch is not enough.
ters to be raised with the employee’s line Using posters in the workplace, outlining
manager or line manager’s manager. As it
the organisational approach on an
is often these managers that are respon-
intranet site, providing advice to
sible for potential bullying and harassment
employees and putting information into
it is necessary to provide other named
team briefings are some of the ways to
individuals with whom a complaint can
be raised and who have the authority to ensure that Dignity at Work remains high
commission a proper investigation. on the agenda.
It is essential that an impartial and, Training
wherever possible, independent To ensure that a policy is effective,
investigation is undertaken. An internal training must take place at all levels in
investigation should be carried out the organisation, particularly for those
comprehensively and expediently by a with designated responsibilities in both
trained individual with proper regard for the informal and formal procedures.
confidentiality. Thorough recording of all Training should go beyond the technical
the interviews should also take place.
application of a policy. It should also
On some occasions it may be appropriate examine behaviours and the working
to bring in an external, trained, profes- environment and culture in which such
sional investigator. There are several behaviours take place.
organisations that specialise in this area.
The investigation’s recommendations may
lead to disciplinary action, in which case Finally, the best way of assessing any
procedures must ensure that the target is strategy’s effectiveness is to regularly
not subject to further unwanted behaviour. evaluate it. Such an evaluation should
An appeal stage
• Reviewing the policy at regular intervals
If the target is not satisfied with the by holding meetings with
outcome of the formal stage, they must
representatives and managers
have the option of taking the matter to
an appeal. • Keeping records of complaints made in
the informal system
• Keeping records of the outcomes of
formal investigations and the time
taken to resolve issues
• Reviewing the nature of complaints,
without breaking confidentiality
• Checking exit interviews and
performance appraisals for signs of
bullying and harassment
• Carrying out intermittent audits and
The Beat Bullying in the Workplace report
produced by the Dignity at Work
Partnership examines some of these
issues in more detail.
Every trade unionist should look for Raising awareness
opportunities to organise around relevant
Informing employees of the work of
workplace issues and Dignity at Work is a
unions in this area will help them to
understand the added value that we
Trade unions have made great progress bring to organisations. It will also help to
in raising the importance of this issue demonstrate the invaluable advice and
and have persuaded many organisations support we offer members in times of
to address the many forms of trouble.
unacceptable behaviour, such as violence,
bullying, harassment and discrimination.
Circulating leaflets and other materials in
Trade unions are extremely effective at
the workplace about this issue is another
developing good workplace policies and
means of promoting the message. This
practices and we provide members with
should include advising individuals on
excellent support through our trained
how to respond when faced with
A high percentage of employees are
either targeted or witness incidents of
unacceptable behaviour during their Holding an event in your workplace,
working lives. This reality, placed whether a stand in the foyer or a
alongside the positive efforts of the seminar for all employees in the lunch
union to address the issues, means we break, is another means of promoting
have a massive opportunity to organise the issue and the union through how
around this key theme. it addresses this issue.
It is important that you have the right
material to support this work, and Unite
has produced specific information about
Dignity at Work – leaflets, posters, and
other recruitment materials like pens,
coasters, and so on. As representatives,
always make sure that you have wider
information about the union available, as
well as application forms (although
people can always join on-line).
Finally, if you need any support with
organising in your workplace, then
contact your Regional Officer who will be
able to advise how to make the most of
Numerous surveys and studies have and harassment will only take place in
shown and continue to show that what organisations that allow such behaviour
we commonly refer to as bullying and to take place.
harassment remains a real and relevant
A starting point is to describe behaviours
issue in all sectors of life, from the
that unreasonably distresses colleagues
playground and classroom, to domestic
as unacceptable. If such behaviours are
life and the workplace.
regarded and understood as
Whilst the law provides some protection unacceptable/negative/inappropriate by
from discrimination and harassment us all, the likelihood of them escalating
there is as yet no legislation dealing with into what we refer to as bullying and
the specific phenomenon of bullying in harassment will be minimised.
the workplace. Other countries have
It is only in doing so that a common
introduced legislation and it is long
understanding can be developed and
overdue in the U.K.
strategies agreed upon to combat such
Perhaps of more relevance is the failure behaviour.
to adopt legislation to cover the positive
Having to advise a member can be a
concept of dignity at work. For too long
daunting experience but can also be
now a debate has continued, attempting
extremely rewarding. With appropriate
to define bullying and harassment.
understanding and training the member
Without common agreement it is too
can be assisted in choosing the most
easy for some to label legitimate work
appropriate path for securing a positive
place behaviour as bullying and too easy
outcome. They appreciate and can
for others to label their bullying
identify that your advice is the starting
behaviour as simply being firm or
point in regaining confidence and
This has detracted attention away from
By acting calmly, being willing to learn
promoting positive behaviours and what
and avoiding jumping to conclusions we
should be the real focus of the debate.
can soon become competent in
We have a right to be treated with
recognising what is really going on and
dignity and respect and this human right
influencing the appropriate intervention
should be the primary concern for
on behalf of members.
employers, employees and particularly
the trade union movement. Hopefully this guide provides
comprehensive information on how to
Any workplace that is free of bullying
deal effectively with behaviour associated
and harassment should be commended.
with bullying and harassment. It is not a
However, a model employer is far more
subject to be trivialised or ignored and
likely to experience occasional problems
appropriate training should be sought.
but have robust and effective policies
Remember that no advice is better than
and procedures to deal with issues as
and when they arise.
By using this guide and the other
Promoting a culture of zero tolerance is
materials referred to, Unite workplace
not easy and for workplace representa-
representatives and officials can play a
tives such an aspiration can seem unreal-
vital role in supporting members,
istic and naïve. However developing and
supporting each other and working with
promoting an understanding of the
employers to share learning and ensure
benefits for all concerned can help to
that negative and distressing behaviours
persuade employers and employees alike.
are regarded as unacceptable in the
It is crucial to remember that bullying modern workplace.
14. Appendix One
EXPECTED BEHAVIOUR (Taken from performance and unacceptable behaviour
The Children’s Society’s Dignity at will be addressed by professional
Work Policy) management behaviour which does not
undermine the dignity of employees.
WE EXPECT ALL STAFF TO:
This will include the application of the
Treat colleagues fairly and equally. capability and disciplinary procedures
where this is warranted.
Value differences in others and the
contribution they make. Legitimate management action within
agreed procedures to deal with staff
Treat all colleagues with politeness,
whose ability or behaviour is in question
courtesy and respect when carrying out
is not bullying or harassment.
However, if that manager’s behaviour is
Behave at all times with integrity, honesty
outside of what is considered “legitimate
and reasonable management action”
Be aware of how your behaviour impacts then such action is likely to be considered
on others and change it if it is likely to as bullying or harassment.
cause offence or has caused offence.
In order to promote a positive work
Only put in writing what you would be environment and encourage dignity in
prepared to say in person. the workplace we expect all managers
Challenge inappropriate behaviour to uphold the following broad
constructively and bring unfair treatment principles, to:
you have witnessed or strongly suspect Reach out by committing ourselves to
to the attention of relevant managers or respect all staff and to value their
other designated staff. personal and cultural backgrounds,
Offer appropriate support to colleagues regardless of their organisational position.
where possible, as the lodging of a Involve and listen by recognising the
complaint and any associated contribution which individuals make to
investigation can be extremely difficult good decisions, and take active steps to
and distressing for both the complainant secure their participation.
and the subject of the complaint.
Overcome injustice by encouraging
Cooperate with investigations into fair and just processes within the
allegations made under this policy and organisation.
maintain confidentiality as agreed.
Recognise and nurture by ensuring
OUR MANAGEMENT POLICY that all staff and volunteers add value to
We recognise our moral and legal our work and are developed to achieve
accountability for the resources entrusted business outcomes.
to us, and our management policy must We expect all managers to adopt a
be seen to take account of our steward- style which:
ship of material resources and of the
human skills and personal commitment Leads by example and sets high
of paid staff, volunteers and supporters. standards in terms of expected behaviour
in the workplace.
We believe that our objectives and the
nature of the staff we employ indicate Results in any process of change being as
the need for a proactive and flexible positive as possible for all those involved.
management style, within certain broad Results in conflicts being contained in a
principles which are common to the constructive way.
All managers are expected to:
We recognise that conflicts of opinion
and interests arise and that if managed Behave at all times in an ethical and
properly they can form a healthy means morally responsible manner, accepting
of challenging assumptions, encouraging responsibility and accountability for their
progress and generating fresh energy. own actions.
Managers have the right to set targets They must concern themselves with the
and standards of performance and performance, progress, employment
monitor their achievement. Poor conditions, well being and development
of each member of their team as we see Clarify roles and tasks of team members,
the care, support and development of including levels of authority and
staff as an integral part of management. accountability, and involving staff as fully
as possible in the planning, budgeting
Therefore managers are required to
and monitoring of the tasks in which
manage employees effectively in a fair
and consistent way and to foster mutual
trust and respect within their team. Be open to feedback and give
constructive feedback related solely to
genuine performance issues.
This includes a requirement to:
Involve appropriate staff as fully and
Promote a healthy work/life balance, and
openly as possible in reaching a decision,
give fair consideration to requests for
achieving as much participation by staff
as the situation permits.
Ensure that communication is two way,
If it has not been possible to consult then
straightforward and timely and be
to explain to staff the reasons for a
available to staff to discuss their
decision as fully as possible, including the
problems or concerns and to provide
principles and rationale behind any
proposals and disclosing all relevant
Fully listen to and answer views and information in an open, honest and
questions, giving the appropriate level of consistent manner.
detail and explanation. Fully explore all
Actively seek and or develop staff who
reasonable options in a diligent and
excel (even if they are or become more
knowledgeable and experienced than
Undertake consultation with a view to yourself).
reaching agreement on any change.
Ensure that the staff they manage have
Take all reasonable steps to assist and read this policy, follow it and fully
support staff through any process of understand the expected standards of
change. behaviour within the workplace.
15. Appendix Two
EXAMPLES OF UNACCEPTABLE Snide remarks, jibes, name calling, use of
BEHAVIOUR offensive nicknames.
1.Behaviour that offends or insults Insubordination intended to undermine
Shouting at a target, alone or in front of the target.
others. Exacting punishments for mistakes.
Criticising, belittling or patronising a Being ‘two faced’, saying one thing to
target, alone or in front of others. the target’s face, something else,
Using foul, obscene, malicious or normally the opposite, to others.
Back stabbing, back biting, sniping, mud
slinging etc. 2. Behaviour that intimidates
Spreading rumours and gossip.
Telling tales to discredit.
Physically attacking a target.
Displaying offensive and insulting
pictures, graffiti, emblems etc. Pointing and wagging of fingers.
Regular use of sarcasm to demean the Thumping a table.
target and without consent. Stamping of feet.
Libel or slander. Jumping up and down.
Inappropriate jokes, banter, comments, Screaming.
suggestions or aspersions about the target. Having a temper tantrum.
Going purple in the face. Changing targets/deadlines without
Intrusion of a target’s personal and consultation and for no good reason or
intimate space. at short notice.
Standing over a target. Constantly highlighting errors or mistakes.
Inappropriate touching, caressing, Withholding of information, permission
holding, grabbing etc. approval consent etc. that the target has
a reasonable expectation of being given
Shoving, barging and pushing.
in order for them to carry out their
Blocking or barring the way. duties.
Vandalism of a target’s property. Withholding of support at times of
Spying, pestering or other inappropriate necessity.
intrusive questioning, particularly into the Denying the target the resources or
target’s personal or domestic life. equipment necessary to do the job,
Making a target the subject of a ‘witch whilst allowing others the resources and
hunt’. equipment as and when required.
Deliberate action outside of work that Denying training opportunities for a new
adversely affects the target’s working life. job so as to keep the target incompetent
Blaming a target automatically for and therefore open to criticism.
anything that goes wrong. The removal of status, authority, or tasks
Encouraging colleagues to spy, snoop, for which the target was recruited, espe-
eavesdrop or ‘snitch’ on the target. cially in an underhand or devious manner.
Malicious or ambiguous letters sent to the Removal of any authority which is neces-
target’s home, partner, family or friends. sary for the target to carry out their work.
Anonymous telephone calls to the target Refusing to assign or delegate work,
or target’s family, especially at unsocial then criticising for non completion of the
hours. same work.
Ordering of unwanted goods or services Increasing the target’s responsibilities but
to the target’s home address with removing the necessary authority.
malicious intent. Increasing responsibilities without
informing the target.
3. Behaviour that isolates or excludes Deliberate and persistent undermining of
Excluding the target from anything to do the target’s professional competence.
with the running/operation/working/ Setting tasks without timescales and
management of the project, team, office, then criticising for not completing the
department. work ‘on time’.
Sending a target to ‘Coventry’. Sabotaging, interfering or impeding per-
Giving a target the ‘cold shoulder’. formance for the purpose of later criticism.
Ignoring a target’s views or opinions. Preventing the target from progressing
Talking about a target, in their presence, by intentionally blocking promotion or
in the second or third person. training opportunities.
Excluding a target from social activities. Assessing performance far lower than
documented achievements merit.
Limiting communication to memo, e-mail
or via a third party in lieu of speaking Assessing performance or appraising
directly. significantly and adversely at variance
with previous reports.
Forcing the target to sit apart from
colleagues e.g. in a remote corner. Assessing performance at odds with the
assessment of the individual,
Ending conversations when the target
subordinates, colleagues, peers, former
enters the room.
managers, customers, clients etc.
Whispering about the target in their
Excessive monitoring of a target’s work.
presence of behind their back.
Being coerced into regularly undertaking
work of a higher grade but without
4. Behaviour that is directly recognition or remuneration.
work related Setting impossible, arbitrary or unclear
Setting a target up to fail. targets re: quality or quantity of work.
Refusing to clarify target’s job description holiday or sick leave with “urgent” work
/function. or unreasonable demands.
Overburdening the target with work. Interfering with, intercepting or “losing”
Inappropriate, overbearing or excessive mail addressed to the target.
supervision. Denial of opportunity for the target to
Removing areas of responsibility without compete with others on an equal footing.
consultation. Giving the target difficult tasks but
Ordering a target to work below their colleagues are given ‘nice’ or ‘easy’ ones
level of ability and competence. in comparison.
Reassigning work unnecessarily or Misrepresenting a target’s work as their
unexpectedly, perhaps replacing it with own or taking undeserved credit.
inappropriate or menial tasks. Colleagues being appointed/promoted
Imposition of non tasks or work which is without recourse to the correct
unnecessary. procedures/due consultation.
Claims of misconduct, breach of Unwarranted copying of critical emails to
discipline etc. but refusal to formalise or others.
put in writing. Unwarranted contact with higher
Misusing power/disciplinary procedures authority e.g. Chief Executive/Head of
to ensure the target’s removal, dismissal Personnel, without reference, notice, or
etc. anything in writing, especially in relation
Demotion, real or implied.
The use of innocent third parties to
Making threats of disciplinary action for fabricate complaints.
trivial or fabricated incidents but refusal
to discipline other staff for severely Using third parties to carry intimidating
disruptive behaviour. messages or carry out unwelcome
actions toward the target.
Holding meetings, the purpose of and
Claiming that there are complaints about
attendance at is significantly at variance
the target but refusing to substantiate or
with what the target has been lead to
confirm in writing, or be specific.
Claiming that third parties agree, concur
Refusal to minute meetings or attempting
or support the perpetrator’s point of
to deny the opportunity to take minutes
view, especially with respect to criticisms
or alleged shortcomings.
Producing minutes that are inaccurate
Criticising the target for doing what
others do without being criticised.
Meetings, hearings, appeals etc. run
more like interrogations.
Criticism that exaggerates, makes
Attempts to deny representation e.g. in
mountains out of molehills.
Giving unjustified praise to confuse or
Suggesting a target should resign.
Regularly taking advantage of the target’s
Written communication which includes
good nature with regard to work tasks.
bold, red and capital letters or offensive
Refusing to give approval for training language.
until the very last moment or
Demanding that work be redone or
withdrawing approval at short notice.
repeated, especially when it’s satisfactory
Refusal, without reasonable cause, of or complete.
reasonable requests for leave, compas-
Refusal to acknowledge performance,
sionate leave, change of hours etc. achievement, results, worth, value,
Unreasonably delaying approval for the success etc.
above until the last moment. Deliberately undervaluing, downgrading,
Making threats or comments about a ignoring or minimising the value of the
target’s job security without foundation. target’s contribution.
The monitoring of telephone Frequent changes of mind, reversal of
conversations without consent. decisions with little or no notice and
Contacting the target at home, on without explanation or reason.
16. Appendix Three
STRESS RELATED BEHAVIOURS quality, skin irritations e.g. athlete’s foot,
AND EFFECTS dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rashes,
shingles, joint and muscle pains, back
ache, neck ache, migraine, headaches,
(psychologically abnormal behaviour) – dulled senses, especially touch, taste and
anxiety reactions, panic attacks, tearful- smell, loss of appetite, eating disorders,
ness, fragility, apathy, increased sense of disturbed eating patterns, abnormal
futility/failure/powerlessness, avoidance thirst, indigestion, unsettled stomach,
reactions, sense of isolation/withdrawal/ stomach pains, stomach ulcers, irritable
detachment, concentration problems, bowel syndrome, flatulence, intolerance
increased forgetfulness, clumsiness, lack of certain foodstuffs, unusual allergies,
of initiative, suicidal thoughts, depressive urinary infections, unusual hormonal
mood, negativism, melancholy, gloomi- changes, thyroid malfunction,
ness, desperation, mood swings, angry breathlessness, asthma attacks, lethargy,
outbursts, loss of humour/ability to feel fatigue, constant exhaustion, loss of
enjoyment, resentment, fear reactions, strength, loss of stamina, disturbed
hyper-arousal, insecurity, fragility, sleeping patterns, inability to sleep or get
vulnerability, insomnia, intrusive thought, to sleep, nightmares, flashbacks,
irritability, increased obsessiveness, height- frequent coughs, colds, flu, sinusitis and
ened sense of guilt/shame, adoption of other minor infections, conjunctivitis,
“victim mentality”, intolerance/disinterest tired and sore eyes, excessive or
in others’ feelings/ idiosyncrasies. compulsive picking, scratching, biting of
nails, grinding of teeth, anaesthesia,
Psychosomatic (caused or aggravated
numbness, pins and needles in hands,
by mental conflict/stress) – arterial
feet or lips, poor circulation, cold
hypertension, cardiac palpitations,
extremities, intense dislike of cold.
coronary heart disease, heart attacks,
angina, sweating, chest pains, Other effects can include increased
tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart alcohol and drug intake, increased
beat), anaemia, hair loss, poor skin smoking and sexual dysfunction.
ACAS Advice Leaflet – “Bullying and & Cooper, Cary L. (2005)
harassment at work”, www.acas.org.uk. “Workplace bullying: individual pathology or
Amicus Guide: Tackling Bullying at Work. organizational culture?” Chapter 12 in
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Workplace Bullying. Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Adams, Andrea with Crawford, Neil: & Labour Relations Agency. Authors:
“Bullying at Work – How to confront and Fiona Cassidy, John Krmer, Mark
overcome it” McAllister, Richard Steele: “Harassment
Anti Bullying Centre: “Dealing with Bullying and Bullying in the Workplace”
at Work”. www.abc.tcd.ie/work.htm. Field, Tim: “Bully In Sight – How to Predict,
Connolly, Dan: VALIDATE acronym. Resist, Challenge and Combat Workplace
CWU Reps Guide: “How to Deal with Bullying”.
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Dignity at Work Partnership: Various Labour Research Department: “Defining
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– Report Findings; The Role of Leaders; The Martin, Brian review: “Insight and advice
Role of Human Resources; The Role of Trade about workplace bullying”. www.uow.edu.
Unions; The Business case”. Rennie Peyton, Pauline: “Dignity at Work:
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Dieter & Cooper, Cary L. (2003). “The Working Environment”.
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practice.” London/New York: Taylor and Vartia-Vaananen, Martia: “Workplace
Francis. bullying – a study on the work environment,
Einarsen, Stale; Hoel, Helge; Zapf, Dieter well-being and health”. Academic Disseration
AUTHOR OF THE GUIDE –
Fergus Roseburgh is the Senior Staff CONTACT DETAILS:
Representative for Unite at The Children’s Fergus Roseburgh
Society, a national children’s charity. This Senior Staff Representative
is a full time post which he has held for Unite the Union
over 10 years. During that period he has The Children’s Society
advised and represented a number of Email:
colleagues who have felt they were Fergus.Roseburgh@childrenssociety.org.uk
being bullied or harassed. Tel. 0191 2675815 / 07850 801279
For over two years he has been
extensively researching issues concerning
Dignity at Work, bullying and harassment,
an interest borne out of his involvement
in a number of complex internal repre-
sentations and a desire to properly
understand the issues involved. Recently
he attended an international course on
‘bullying and harassment at work’. This
was led by some of the world’s foremost
experts on the subject.
The Children's Society has signed up to
the Dignity at Work Partnership and
Fergus, together with the Unite Chair of
The Children’s Society, Dan Connolly,
have worked in partnership with
management in planning the development
and implementation of a new internal
Dignity at Work Policy. They have also
devised training courses which have been
and will continue to be delivered both
internally and externally. The courses are
aimed at a variety of audiences including
senior executives, managers, staff in
general, volunteer first contacts,
workplace representatives and other
Fergus and Dan have both been involved
in the wider work of the Dignity at Work
Partnership in Unite, including being part
of the Employee Representative’s Focus
Group. The Children’s Society has also
been used as a case study in some of the
publications, as an example of ‘model
partnership working’ in combating
workplace bullying and harassment.
More recently, Fergus and Dan have been
supporting representatives across many
organisations to assist them in changing
the culture in their workplace, and they
are now spearheading a Not for Profit
Sector-wide campaign to roll out this
Unite thanks both Fergus Roseburgh and
Dan Connolly for their vision and hard
work in tackling one of the biggest issues
blighting the Not for Profit Sector and
the wider workforce today.
Dignity at Work: Unacceptable Behaviour, Bulllying and Harassment
First printing October 2007
Published by Unite the Union, 35 King Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JG
For further copies of this booklet, contact:
Unite the Union, Hayes Court, West Common Road, Hayes, Bromley BR2 7AU
Tel 020 8462 7744 Fax 020 8315 8234 www.unitetheunion.com