Branch Bullying Survey

Essex County Branch of UNISON is concerned about the amount of bullying that goes on in the workplace. We need your views and experiences on any bullying you face at work. Please help us to help you by answering the following questionnaire. Your replies will be treated in the strictest confidence and you need not provide your name.

Many thanks for your help and remember to phone us on 01245 354044 if you need to speak with someone.

Please print off the survey (link below) and send it to: UNISON, FREEPOST CL3692, 70 DUKE STREET, CHELMSFORD, CM1 1XZ Bullying Survey.pdf (in a new window) Bullying Survey.pdf opens in a new window

Bullying And Harassment

What people find acceptable and unacceptable in another person’s behaviour can vary widely according to personality, experience and culture.

What matters is what the person on the receiving end of the behaviour feels, not what the person carrying out the behaviour thinks and feels. This is not something that a person behaving inappropriately will necessarily understand. They will often excuse inappropriate behaviour on the grounds that they were “just having a laugh” – engaging in normal workplace banter. What some people may find funny, however, others will find offensive. We are all different, a complex product of our experiences.

Bullying as defined by ACAS is “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”. Bullying is always a pattern of behaviour perpetrated over time.

Harassment is unwanted conduct that affects a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment for them. It can relate to sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age or any other personal characteristic. Harassment could be a one off incident, or could be a pattern of behaviour perpetrated over time.

The Essex County Branch of UNISON held a seminar on Bullying and Harassment on 3rd November which was well attended. A UNISON Stall was also set up on Anti-Bullying Day on the 7th November to highlight this growing problem in the workplace.

If you feel you are being bullied or harassed and would like to talk to someone, please phone the Branch Office on 01245 354044.

Questions and Answers

I’ve heard a lot about bullying and harassment in recent months, but from the union’s perspective, what do those terms really mean?

For most people, the terms bullying and harassment are used interchangeably.

Many definitions include bullying as a form of harassment. Generally speaking, harassment is any unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of anyone in the workplace. Harassment can be related to the nationality, race, sex, sexuality, disability, religion, age or the characteristic of an individual.

Bullying is characterised as offensive. We see it as bad behaviour that has extended from the playground to the workplace. It is intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

All employees have the right to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness. Bullying denies this. It is totally unwelcome and unacceptable.

What sort of things count as bullying and harassing behaviour in the workplace?

There’s a whole range of behaviour that would constitute bullying and/or harassment, including:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • insulting a person by words or behaviour on the grounds of nationality, race, sex, sexuality, disability, religion, age or belief
  • setting a person up to fail
  • ridiculing, demeaning or picking on someone
  • preventing individuals progressing their career by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities
  • misusing power or position, including overbearing supervision.
  • Bullying and harassment need not be face-to-face. It can occur in written communications such as letters and emails, while people can also experience bullying and harassment over the telephone.

If one of my members is being bullied or harassed at work, could it really affect their health and wellbeing?

People who are bullied or harassed may feel anxious or humiliated. They can develop feelings of helplessness, anger and frustration, which in turn may lead to stress, loss of self-confidence and illness.

In most cases, job performance is affected and relationships with other work colleagues suffer. The Health and Safety Executive acknowledges that bullying at work causes stress, so it follows that victims are also likely to suffer from stress-related illness such as ulcers, suicidal thoughts and high blood pressure.

What is the legal position?

Your employer has a duty of care and is responsible for preventing bullying and harassment within the workplace. Under health and safety laws, employers have a duty to assess risks to employees and to develop and introduce policies and procedure to control the risks.

In July 2006, a landmark judgement in the House of Lords, in the case of an NHS policy worker, established that the Protection from Harassment Act does apply to workplace bullying and harassment, thus potentially giving more protection to staff.

Since policies alone will not prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, this was an important and welcome ruling.

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