Bullying Destroys Lives and Costs Firms Pounds 4bn a Year; One in Four of Us Have Suffered at the Hands of a Colleague. Emma Pomfret Looks at the Number One Problem in the Workplace
Byline: Emma Pomfret
BEING bullied at work? Feel like you have nobody to turn to? You're not alone. More than two million people in the UK are affected by workplace bullying, one in four people have reported that it has happened to them in the last five years and it represents a staggering 45pc of all complaints raised by employees.
A national survey, conducted by professional and skilled workers union Amicus, found that bullying is the most common cause of complaint at work above even pay disputes and working conditions.
Often called ``middle management disease'' due to the fact that this group is the most common target, workplace bullying can range from extreme forms, such as violence, intimidation and consistent threats of dismissal, to less obvious actions like deliberately ignoring or excluding someone at work.
Roger Lyons, general secretary of Amicus, says: ``The scourge of bullying in the workplace has been a problem for many years and the effects on the victims and their families are terrible.''
So why has bullying become the number one problem in the workplace?
Chris Ball, National Secretary of Amicus, explains: ``The problem is often that organisations value managers who adopt a buccaneering role. New management methods but poorly-trained managers, downsizing but a belief that standards can remain the same, and sometimes sheer yobbishness all contribute to workplace bullying.''
He adds: ``There is also a lack of rights and hundreds of people are struggling with completely inappropriate laws to deal with this problem.''
Tim Field, 48, is a victim of workplace bullying himself and is the author of the world's leading website on bullying www. bullyonline.org. He believes that bullying has become more prevalent because current laws on harassment mean that employees can only take action if there is an obvious race, gender or disability issue involved.
THIS gaping loophole in the legal position for victims of bullying and harassment evidently needs to be tightened. Amicus is continuing its relentless House of Commons campaign to try to make the Dignity at Work Bill law. But Balls says: ``It hasn't been given a minute of time in the Commons. The Government should take it on board and legislate.''
The Bill, if it did become law, would provide rights for employees and employers for the first time in the UK, and would give both parties legal legitimacy for dealing with bullying properly.
In the meantime, victims of bullying at work are exposed to numerous, and often severe, health risks.
The unpredictable behaviour of a bullying boss makes employees lives utterly miserable, leaves victims full of self-doubt, feeling isolated and withdrawn and is the main source of both prolonged sick leave and high absenteeism.
Ball says: ``Anyone who has been bullied is likely to suffer anxiety or depression and in some cases they may experience mental breakdown. In the worst cases this may lead to thoughts of suicide or actual suicide or self harm.''
In addition, bullying can affect a person's home life and, when other relationships fail, depression really sets in. …