Bullying and Harassment

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2017 Community Service Group Conference
8 November 2016

Work life in the Community and Voluntary Sector should be about supporting individuals to achieve for them the best quality of life possible with the minimum of distraction and the maximum of support by colleagues and management. In reality it is nowhere near that Utopia, incredible as it may sound the culture of bullying and harassment in the workplace far exceeds the expectations of a union like UNISON. Workplace representatives deal with this sort of behaviour on a regular basis, and the culprits come from both sides of the fence, management and staff. But remember this issue is not just confined to the CVS Sector, it happens in public services and all types of employment.

Bullying at work has many faces – it can be directed at individuals or other instances where it relates to work activities. ‘Bullies’ are often – but not always – more senior than the person they are bullying. ‘Bullies’ sometimes target groups as well as individuals. Legally there is no definition of workplace bullying. It is believed however that bullying involves negative behaviour being targeted at an individual, or individuals, repeatedly and persistently over time.

Bullying at work can take many forms. It can involve:

a. Ignoring or excluding someone

b. Spreading malicious rumours or gossip

c. Humiliating someone in public

d. Giving someone unachievable or meaningless tasks

e. Constantly undervaluing someone’s work performance

Bullying is classed as a silent epidemic, it is a problem that incurs a huge cost in terms of employee well being and performance. Words and actions consciously targeting individuals to wound and affect harm. Bullying damages the physical, emotional and mental health of the person who is targeted. The workplace bully abuses power brings misery to his/her target and endeavours to steal the target’s self-confidence. Bullies often involve others using many tactics such as blaming for errors, unreasonable work demands, insults, putdowns, stealing credit, threatening job loss, and discounting accomplishments affecting not only their work environment but family and domestic life.

The impact of bullying behaviour means that bullies create a terrible atmosphere within an organisation. Their behaviour leads to increased levels of stress among employees, higher rates of absenteeism and higher than normal churn of staff. Because bullies often get results by getting more short-term production out of employees, they are tolerated.

Harassment relates to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, disability, age, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. The Equality Act 2010 protects you from harassment at work by your employer or colleagues. It includes issues like abusive or threatening comments, jokes or behaviour.

Within the Community and Voluntary Sector the role of the individual employee is hard enough with

issues around funding, staff shortages, terms & conditions pruning and salaries. To put up with bullying and harassment on top of everything else makes for a really depressive outlook for all staff.

In some cases management do not deal with this type of behaviour correctly and by not addressing the issues allow relationships to fester and this becomes the focus replacing the main reason for our roles… the individuals we support.

A study of 6,000 British office workers found employees who felt that their supervisors treated them fairly had a 30% lower risk of heart disease. The same study concluded that employees with good leaders were 40% more likely to report the highest levels of psychological well being including lower levels of anxiety and depression.

We call on the Community Service Group Executive to:

1. Survey the members working in the Community & Voluntary Sector to obtain a picture of the true extent of this issue in the workplace.

2. Respond to the results by launching a campaign to highlight the issue in the workplace of CVS organisations.

3. Support Health and Safety representatives of UNISON in these organisations to attempt to bring the issue clearly into the spotlight and encourage change in the attitude and deliverance by management of steps to identify and expunge this behaviour from the workplace.