Stand up to bullying. Serving those who serve the public

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1 Stand up to bullying Serving those who serve the public

2 Beating bullying IMPACT first published guidelines on workplace bullying in We ve now updated them to take account of a major report by the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying. The task force included representatives of unions, employers and government, as well as independent experts. Workplace bullying is unacceptable. It can undermine its victims health and make their working lives a misery. It can also have negative effects on their colleagues and damage organisations and their performance. IMPACT believes employers have a responsibility to prevent workplace bullying and deal with it quickly, fairly and effectively should it occur. The union is also committed to representing its members in fair procedures to deal with allegations of bullying. What is Bullying? The report of the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying defined bullying as: Repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual s right to dignity at work. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work. But, as a once-off incident, it is not bullying. The repeated nature of bullying is its defining characteristic. Taken separately, bullying incidents may seem insignificant. But over a period of time they can have serious effects on individuals and their organisations. Bullying is not: Fair and constructive criticism of an employee s performance, conduct or attendance pattern. Reasonable management instructions to staff, in crisis or other situations, which require immediate action. How do I recognise bullying behaviour? The following are examples of bullying behaviour: Undermining an individual s right to dignity at work. Humiliation. Intimidation. Verbal abuse. Victimisation. Exclusion and isolation.

3 Intrusion by pestering, spying and stalking. Repeated unreasonable assignments to duties that are obviously unfavourable to one individual. Repeated requests giving impossible deadlines or impossible tasks. Implied threats. The effects Bullying can have physiological, psychological and behavioural effects on individuals. The symptoms can include: Headaches. Fatigue. Nausea. Sleeplessness. Depression. Loss of self-esteem. Lack of motivation. Irritated and distracted behaviour. Bullying can also have adverse effects on organisations and their performance because it can cause: Increased absenteeism. Low morale. Loss of job satisfaction. Reduced productivity. A bad reputation for the organisation. What to do if you are being bullied The only effective way to deal with bullying is to confront it. If you feel you are being bullied you should: Ask your employer for a copy of their workplace bullying policy. Keep a written record of all incidents including dates, times and the nature and details of each incident. This will be important if you subsequently make a formal complaint. Write down your feelings and response at the time of each incident. This will be important if you subsequently make a formal complaint. Send the bully a memo rebutting their unfair claims or criticism and saying that you object to any unreasonable or threatening behaviour. Keep copies of your memo and any written replies. This will be important if you subsequently make a formal complaint. Avoid being alone with the bully, and if possible get witnesses to the bullying. Follow the procedures set down in the policy. Your local IMPACT representative may be able to assist you but they cannot make the complaint for you. Stick strictly to the facts when making a written or verbal complaint.

4 Employers responsibilities Employers have a responsibility to prevent workplace bullying under the health and safety legislation. They are obliged to have a workplace policy dealing with the issue of workplace bullying. IMPACT representatives should ensure that the policy is available to staff and is updated on a regular basis. How can workplace bullying be prevented? IMPACT branches should approach management to agree a joint approach to the prevention of workplace bullying. The Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying recommended that employers and unions adopt dignity at work charters along the lines of the example set out below. It says the charter should be publicised, posted on notice boards, and distributed to everyone in the workplace. Principles Dignity At Work Charter Ensuring that each individual is guaranteed a working environment that recognises the individual s right to be treated with dignity by management and colleagues is a core employment value. The commitment to provide a workplace free from bullying is integral to this. Objectives The objectives of a dignity at work charter should be: To create and maintain a positive working environment which recognises and protects the right of each individual to dignity at work. To ensure that all individuals are aware of, and committed to, the principles set out in the charter. Wording The Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying suggested this wording for dignity at work charters: We at commit ourselves to working together to maintain a workplace environment that encourages and supports the right to dignity at work. All who work here are expected to respect the right of each individual to dignity in their working life. All will be treated and respected for their individuality and diversity. Bullying in any form is not accepted by us and will not be tolerated. Our policies and procedures will underpin the principles and objectives of this charter. All individuals, whether employed or contracted here at... have a duty and responsibility to uphold this dignity at work charter.

5 Anti-bullying policies Employers and unions in each workplace have a responsibility to draw up and agree a policy on bullying. It should be circulated to all employees and should: Contain a commitment to foster an environment free from bullying. Contain a policy statement, which includes a commitment to ensure reprisal-free complaints procedures. Set out the definition of workplace bullying agreed by the Task Force on the prevention of Workplace Bullying. This will involve clarifying and agreeing acceptable and non-acceptable behaviours in the workplace. Describe formal and informal complaint procedures, which clearly define the role of personnel involved. More than one person should be identified to whom a complaint may be made. Set down a time scale for dealing with complaints. Clarify the degree of confidentiality that will be upheld. Clearly outline the sanctions involved. Make a commitment to re-training if necessary. Set out an appeals procedure. Describe the support available for all parties involved in the process. Vexatious claims of bullying Malicious or vexatious claims of bullying may lead to disciplinary action against the complainant. More information The Report of the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying, is called Dignity at Work: The challenge of workplace bullying. It is available from Government Publications, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. If you have a general query about bullying you can contact the IMPACT information office on Revised 2010

6 IMPACT Trade Union Nerney s Court, Dublin 1. Phone:

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