Absence levels in the workplace have fallen in the past year, from 7.7 days to 6.8 days per employee, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

However, on closer inspection these figures are not quite as positive as I first thought. Further reading showed that stress had become the number one cause of workplace absence for the first time. Bullying is one of the key causes of workplace stress, and is a behaviour which I vehemently despise.

Harassment and bullying can range from the extreme of physical violence to less obvious forms such as ignoring someone and a whole range of behaviours in between. They can be delivered in a variety of ways with or without witnesses, over a period of time or as a one-off act by peers, colleagues, customers as well as supervisors and managers. 

Indeed there is just a fine line between management control and bullying and this is not always clear – regularly there is no intent from the person who is the bully – but this does not make it acceptable. So what can be done to tackle this?

I suspect that we all have an anti-bullying policy in our employee handbooks or a glossy policy proudly displayed somewhere. These tend to focus on the negative behaviours that may constitute bullying rather than looking at the range of behaviours that we want to encourage in the workplace such as a culture of mutual respect and dignity to prevent bullying in the first place.

I am passionate about employee wellbeing and place great importance on this aspect of my work. Our employee benefit package incorporates elements to support our staff – all are low cost to the company, but can make a real difference to our team. I am regularly on site and work alongside team members when possible – this is a great leveller and provides an opportunity to get a real feel for what is happening with staff. Having worked hard to establish mutual respect and trust within the organisation, I am also told of matters which I always discreetly investigate and follow up on.

Challenging bullying behaviour is never easy – and is often not reported to management – particularly if it is a manger or supervisor who is the instigator of this behaviour. However, if we are made aware or witness bullying behaviour which we then do not challenge, we then become complicit in the act and reinforce the acceptability of bullying in our workplace.