Sticks & Stones | New TV series highlights core HR issues

New TV series highlights core HR issues

December 2019 saw the launch of controversial ITV show Sticks and Stones, which left viewers feeling uncomfortable, anxious and paranoid as they watched the TV series centred around workplace bullying unfold.

The three-part series focussed on the professional and personal life of Thomas Benson, a Sales Manager who fainted after panicking during a presentation at work, which resulted in the loss of a key client.

In his attempts to remain successful and claw back the client, viewers watched Benson lose control while facing subtle attacks from his colleagues who he believed were his friends.

According to Chronicle Live one viewer said: “Not enjoying sticks and stones on ITV at all. Bringing out all my anxieties about every job I’ve ever had.”

Another added: “Sticks and stones is really making me feel uncomfortable, I can relate to an awful lot of it.”

Viewers went on to watch Benson’s colleagues claim that it was all in his head and that it was harmless banter, but this soon led Benson to report the bullying behaviour to HR.

Shockingly, in the series HR dismissed his claims as there was no evidence to support it.

This is something that Mumsnet user CloudsCanLookLikeSheep concurred with. Writing on a thread discussing the ITV show the user said: “I work in HR and most grievances won’t get far without evidence. Which is a good thing, or else anyone could raise a grievance when it wasn't true, to get someone else in trouble.”

Statistics from the CIPD previously revealed that bullied staff are three times less likely to make a complaint due to feelings of embarrassment, threats to their position and the fear of worsening relationships.

Therefore, the onus falls onto HR to ensure measures are put in place to help any staff member come forwards no matter how small or big the problem is, with an understanding that their grievance will be taken seriously.

One such way HR can tackle this is by launching a hotline that is open 24/7 for employees to contact. This is something that Network Rail launched alongside a support programme. Both lines are confidential with the hotline existing to investigate complaints, while the programme provides support and counselling.

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Loraine Martins MBE, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Network Rail, previously told HR Grapevine: “We encourage people to challenge bullying, either directly, or by drawing people aside, or reporting it to a line manager or peer, or if it’s their own line manager, then escalating the complaint to a line manager’s manager.”

Meanwhile, Acas suggested that employers should frame a workplace policy that should include a checklist of what type of behaviour will not be tolerated within the workplace and what the consequences would be for defying it.

Providing key training for managers would also be incredibly beneficial to help team leaders identify toxic behaviour among teams and their peers, while ensuring open communication is available between employees and their line managers will help staff feel able to come forwards and open up freely.

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