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Research published on bullying in the workplace

Bullies in UK offices are using a range of subtle tactics and behaviour to intimidate colleagues at work, according to research by the Chartered Management Institute. The survey also suggests that their ability to torment is enhanced by increased levels of organisational change and ineffective action by employers.

Findings from the research, which are being released to coincide with the launch of today's national ‘Ban Bullying at Work Day’, reveal that the harassment is often social in nature. Asked about behaviour witnessed in the workplace, respondents identified eleven types of intimidation. These included:

* Power play: misuse of power or position was cited by 70 per cent. Respondents claimed they were also aware of overbearing supervision (63 per cent) and undermining by overloading and criticism (68 per cent)

* Career closure: almost half (47 per cent) said they knew of incidents where opportunities for promotion or training were blocked. A similar proportion (43 per cent) also suggested they had seen threats made about job security

* Word of mouth: 69 per cent said they heard verbal insults aimed at specific individuals and just over half (53 per cent) also identified spreading of malicious rumours as a key tactic used by bullies.

Almost two-thirds (60 per cent) of respondents feel that workplace bullying is increasingly common across the UK. One-third (36 per cent) believe the situation is worsened because their organisation is ineffective at deterring bullying behaviour.

Asked about how they deal with the problem, only 1 per cent of respondents said they turn a blind eye to incidents. However, 71 per cent of managers admitted to spending one day or less dealing with the problem. Fewer than half will confront the person behaving in a bullying manner (40 per cent), only 1 in 10 (11 per cent) will involve a senior manager and just 5 per cent seek help from HR teams.

Additional research published by the Chartered Management Institute suggests that the extent of organisational change is a factor leading to examples of bullying behaviour. According to the ‘Quality of Working Life’ report (March 2006), 89 per cent of managers experienced some form of workplace change in the past twelve months, resulting in behaviour associated with workplace bullies. The research showed people admitting to becoming angry with colleagues (55 per cent), irritable and intolerant (30 per cent) and avoiding contact with them (26 per cent).

Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, said: "There is a major gap between what managers say they do to deal with bullying and the experiences of those who have been bullied at work. No single off-the-shelf policy will suit every organisation, but the organisational culture and management style should make it clear that bullying is unacceptable. Shying away from the issue is no excuse and involving senior staff and other departments is essential to protect staff, performance levels and productivity."

The Institute’s research shows that where organisations have a formal policy, 70 per cent of managers believe they are effective at deterring bullying. Where all staff are trained about acceptable levels of behaviour and who to turn to if they feel bullied, 83 per cent of managers suggest their employer deals with the issue.

The Institute has published a free-to-download guide providing advice on how to identify bullying and deal with it. The guide is available at www.managers.org.uk/bullying

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