Many employees choose to stay silent about their traumatising victimisation in a belief it may hinder their career prospects or upset the team dynamics. Hierarchical bullying can take place in any direction and is not stereotypically inflicted through misuse of power, from managers down to employees. It can take place between any number of people and in an upwards or horizontal direction within an organisation’s hierarchical structure. A survey conducted by The Workplace Bullying Institute found same gender bullying forms 68% of bullying and is most commonly found occurring among women.

Typical behaviours associated with patterns of bullying or harassment can include:

  • Undermining a competent worker
  • Treating a coworker unfairly
  • Refusing a team member of training or development opportunities
  • Malicious rumours
  • Intimidating someone new to the workplace
  • Targeting shy or vulnerable employees

Root Causes for Bullying and Harassment

The dynamics of an organisation can change significantly during periods of uncertainty such as reorganisation, transfer of ownership or imminent redundancies, where competition is high for the minimum number of roles. Pride and jealousy can trigger a cause for workers to mistreat their co-workers. Often the target for bullying is someone who is smart, likeable and more skilled at their job, posing a threat to the bully.

The character traits of a bully show they are likely to be insecure within themselves, concealing their weaknesses, while creating an impression of control over others.

Bullying and harassment can take shape in a written format, via a letter or email and also in person or over the phone. Although bullying is not formally illegal, harassment, which can take the form of many of the following reasons, is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 and should be taken seriously -

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage
  • Pregnancy

What Should Employers Do To Tackle Workplace Bullying?

Businesses should develop formal anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies outlining the types of behaviour that are unacceptable towards employees. The policy should include advising for victims and how bullying will be tackled if complaints arise.

Policies should be included in employee handbooks and available to download from the local intranet. Most importantly good behavioural examples should be set from the top of a hierarchical structure and filtered down.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.