Poor management cause of bullying at work

Government figures estimate that workplace bullying costs the UK economy £13.75bn, while a new report accuses employers of failing to tackle the issue

Against a backdrop of government figures estimating that workplace bullying costs the UK economy £13.75bn, with 100 million days productivity lost per year, the new report also argues that employers are failing in their legal duty to protect staff.
‘Bullying at work: the experience of managers’ is based on the views of 867 managers and leaders across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Key findings include:

•      70 per cent of managers claim to have witnessed instances of bullying in the past three years.

•      Incidents are not just ‘top down’, with 63 per cent of respondents observing bullying between peers and 30 per cent witnessing subordinates bullying their manager.

•      Of those experiencing bullying, more than one in three (38 per cent) report that no action was taken by their organisation.

The Institute’s latest study draws comparisons with a similar report published in 2005. On a five-point scale, individuals gave their employer a score of 2.37 when asked the extent of bullying in their organisation – up from 2.25, three years ago. Those in the public sector, particularly, have seen the highest level of bullying (2.60).


Asked to identify the root causes of bullying at work the top answer given was a ‘lack of management skills’ (70 per cent). Respondents also cited ‘personality clashes’ (57 per cent) and ‘authoritarian management styles’ (48 per cent) as critical factors. However, in a particular indictment of UK employers’ inability to deal with the problem, ‘lack of management skills’ has risen from 66 per cent in 2005 and the ‘failure to address previous incidents’ increased by one point, to 38 per cent.



Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs, at the CMI, said: “Without strong but fair leadership, how can working environments be productive and how can employers hope to motivate staff in what are already trying times?” The report shows that almost two-thirds of respondents are concerned about their employer’s inability to deal with the problem. Just over a third feel that their organisation is ineffective when it comes to deterring bullying. A further 28 per cent argue that their employer fails to deal with specific incidents.


However, there is some good news. Although action is not yet at an acceptable level, employers are beginning to understand the need to take a stand against bullying behaviour. In 2005 just 55 per cent of organisations had a formal bullying policy – a figure that has risen to 74 per cent this year. Where policies exist, 65 per cent say their organisation deters bullying well (compared to just 44 per cent of those with no policy).
Asked what makes a policy effective, 82 per cent suggested ‘training from the point of induction’. A similar proportion (80 per cent) focused on the need to define bullying and 45 per cent favoured awareness training.

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