The employment conciliation service Acas has reported this week that workplace bullying and harassment is on the rise in the UK.
Acas reviewed a number of studies and found that reports of workplace bullying have been increasing.
The service has also revealed that its own advice helpline received around 20,000 calls related to bullying and harassment within the last year. 82% of these calls came from victimised employees whilst only 5% came from an employer. More than half of the calls (59%) came from people who were in the process of taking formal action.
One of the most concerning claims that Acas has made is that workplace bullying had caused some employees to self-harm or even consider suicide.
Analysis of the helpline calls found that:
Many employees did not raise a formal complaint out of fear of making their situation worse.
The bullying and harassment often built up to the point where some employees dreaded going to work.
The bullying affected the employee’s home life.
Several employees reported having to take leave to escape the workplace.
Acas also reported several cases where management intervention made the problem worse. Inexperienced managers reported that they lacked the skills to manage grievance and disciplinary procedures, whilst others preferred to just move their team around and hope that the problem stopped.
Sir Brendan Barber, the chair of Acas, said “Callers to our helpline have experienced some horrific incidents around bullying that have included humiliation, ostracism, verbal and physical abuse.”
“But managers sometimes dismiss accusations around bullying as simply personality or management-style clashes, whilst others may recognise the problem but lack the confidence or skills to deal with it.”
Bullying can cause a wide range of health issues. These become a problem for the business when they lead to increased absenteeism, high employee turnover and lost productivity. There are also the financial and reputational costs of a potential court case to consider.
A 2007 report estimated that workplace bullying cost the UK economy £17.7bn. If the rates of bullying and harassment at work have increased since then, that figure will surely rise further.