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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