'F**k' | Zoom call fiasco highlights workplace bullying

Zoom call fiasco highlights workplace bullying

While many HR leaders strive to stamp out workplace bullying as best they can, employees are still facing the wrath of their co-workers on a regular basis. In fact, a recent study has discovered that as many as 71% of employees have been bullied or witnessed bullying.

This is according to employment law specialist Ken Law, who interviewed staff at 131 companies in the UK, with 35% of the respondents admitting that they had been direct victims of workplace bullying themselves.

However, it also seems that workplace bullying is continuing but on a virtual scale now that the vast majority of employees in the UK are working from home. This comes as Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething, was caught on a Zoom call bad-mouthing the Welsh Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, Jenny Rathbone, reported Metro.

During a recent conference call where he addressed an unknown person, Gething reportedly said: “What the f*** is the matter with her?” This was overheard by 20 other colleagues, where many in the call can be heard saying ‘no’ and trying to drown him out, however sadly this was too late as he launched into his rant against Rathbone.

Rathbone, who at the time was asking questions about the Welsh Government’s response to coronavirus, got up and left her seat, walking away from the camera and her 20 colleagues.

Speaking out on Twitter, Gething shared that he was ‘obviously embarrassed’ about his behaviour and revealed that he had reached out to Rathbone and had apologised.

Bullying at work

Gething’s behaviour certainly raised concerns over bullying in the workplace, whether that is virtually or in an office environment. Ken Law’s research has revealed that bullying can greatly impact an employee, as 60% of those who were bullied said it had affected their productivity. Meanwhile, 13% revealed they had resigned, 28% took leave and 15% were forced to take unpaid leave.

The survey went on to highlight what more HR departments and employers could do to tackle the issue, as 22% shared that the bullying was not dealt with despite raising it with HR and only 11% believed that the situation improved after doing so.

According to the respondents, 35% said that a greater amount of confidentiality would be needed throughout the handling of the case, while 26% stated that better communication would help from the company on what constitutes bullying and what the repercussions would be when it comes to unacceptable behaviour like this. In addition, while 13% cited that they left their place of work due to bullying, just four per cent raised the issue with HR first, indicating that HR teams should take a look at how their bullying procedures are handled and dealt with.

What should HR do?

With more employees working remotely than ever before, the onus falls onto HR to ensure they are supporting staff and putting in place appropriate communication channels for staff members to utilise. Alice Walder, Solicitor and Employment Law specialist at Kew Law, told HR Grapevine that simple measures such as daily reminders of where employees can get help should be implemented.

“There’s a clear need for businesses and HR teams to listen to the needs of their employees and ensure continuous improvement to the way that bullying at work is handled. With the majority of businesses currently operating remotely, and many catching up with implementing the normal internal processes in a virtual setting, the need for adaptability in HR processes is greater now than ever before,” she explained.

“Employers need to deal with bullying in the workplace in lockdown in the same way that they would if we were not in lockdown. Ensuring there is an open line of communication between employees and HR will be crucial to ensure cases of bullying at work don’t go unnoticed at this time. Simple things such as a weekly company email newsletter with reminders of the correct and anonymous channels where bullying can be reported can help to send a message of openness to the team. This can be the difference between an incident being reported by a victim of bullying or not. Employers should continue to investigate complaints thoroughly and consider disciplinary action where necessary.”

Organisational Psychologist and wellbeing coach, Karen Kwong, also believes that in order to stamp out bullying, it needs to come from the top down. She added that HR should also ensure they are encouraging an open and supportive culture in order to allow employees to express any issues without fear of being shut down.

She added: “Procedures are vital, as are ways in which to escalate and report such complaints objectively. Often, people who have been bullied don’t want to say anything because they fear reprisals – a very real issue. HR is often powerless to do much if the bully is a powerful decision-maker or moneymaker in the organisation. This is why to me, it should start from the top, the culture should be one of respect cascading all the way down to all levels. Then it is less likely to happen. And if it does, it will be swiftly and effectively handled in a fair and objective manner.”



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