Bullying and harassment may be something that managers never realise is happening in the workplace. Increased use of technology can result in some individuals unaware of bullying or threatening words spoken from one employee to another, but the spoken word is not the only form that bullying can occur. There are subtle and less obvious forms of bullying and harassment which may fall under the radar, for example, harassment through email.
Managers should be trained on the definition of harassment itself. Harassment is ultimately defined by the person on the receiving end of it, for example, the person receiving the email. Managers should be trained that, just because they may not have heard or seen the harassment to be aware of it, if the receiver deems it be bullying then this is how they should perceive it too. Many emails can appear to be jokey but if these contain content on protected characteristics, for example disability, sex or sexual orientation, then it is likely that somebody could find it offensive. Managers have a duty of care to their employees and failing this duty could lead to claims of constructive dismissal
Training should be given to managers on how to implement existing anti-bullying, email and internet policies. Employees may believe that their less obvious actions could escape the anti-bullying policy but they would invariably be caught by an email or internet policy. These can provide managers with the ability to monitor employee communications and periodically check office emails to check that they are work related and not bullying.
Effective training should also cover how to carry out bullying or grievance procedures correctly. Employees who are on the receiving end of less obvious bullying may feel cautious about bringing attention to an unknown situation. They will be more likely to make managers aware, and raise the issue or bring a grievance, if they know that this will be dealt with effectively and properly. Managers should never dismiss any complaint brought by employees and should follow the ordinary grievance procedure or take action using the contractual disciplinary procedure, carrying out reasonable sanctions depending on the bullying incidents.
If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.