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The issue of bullying is one which is often talked about in the context of children, a school-yard behaviour which is left behind upon entering the working world. However, new evidence shows that workplace bullying and harassment is on the rise. With the public focus shifted towards these behaviours, we look at some recent developments in the area of workplace bullying and harassment.

Bullying is not just the name-calling of children. “Bullying can be verbal bullying, physical bullying or cyber bullying,” and behaviours can include, “social exclusion and isolation; damaging someone’s reputation by gossip or rumours; intimidation; aggressive or obscene language; repeated requests with impossible tasks or targets”.1

INMO Survey

A recent study, which can be read here, showed growth in the behaviours in the medical sector, among nurses and midwives.

On 14 April, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) released a press release2 in which they announced the publication of their newest report. Undertaken with the help of NUI Galway and the National College of Ireland, the survey aimed to examine trends in workplace bullying and harassment of nurses and midwives over a four year period (2010–2014).

Although the vast majority of the organisations surveyed had a formal anti-bullying policy in place, the study found that this did little to mitigate the harassing behaviours taking place.

Within the four years of the study, there was an increase of 13.4% in cases of “perceived incidences” of bullying. The rate of “intensive” bullying, or bullying which occurred on a daily basis, rose 3.9% in the time, with 5.6% of those surveyed reporting it in 2014.3

The harassment had a number of effects on workers:

  • 26.1% took an increased amount of ‘sick’ time;
  • 21.7% thought about, or talked about, changing jobs;
  • 23.2% reported a lack of job satisfaction; and
  • 26% said their stress levels increased.4

Only 11% of those who had been bullied formally reported it. Respondents who did formally report it acknowledged that the “use of a trained mediator to resolve the conflict yielded the best results”.5 Citizen’s Information comments that the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre is a valuable resource for those looking for guidance on the issue.6

The report suggests a number of changes which would work to decrease the instances of workplace bullying and harassment, going forward:

  • A “cultural change” was necessary, a “zero tolerance” policy should be employed throughout the workplace;
  • Employers should be “aware of trends and intervene early”;
  • There should a greater focus on prevention;
  • All employees should undergo annual training; and
  • Line managers should also be trained annually on resolution techniques.7

Cyber bullying

In the area of cyber bullying, Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins launched the ‘Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015’ on 16 April. While the Bill has received mixed feedback, it is doubtlessly an area in which increased legislation would be welcomed. The Senator called cyber bullying, by nature “insidious, invasive, omnipresent and there is no escaping it”.8 She has also called for the creation of a single body which would make cyber bullying its remit.9

Learn More

Public Affairs Ireland will hold a half-day seminar on Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace this Wednesday, 29 May. Speakers on the day will include Emmet Whelan, an associate in the Employment department of Byrne Wallace and advisor on all aspects of employment law, and Sile O’Donnell, who has over twenty-five years’ experience of designing and implementing best practice HRM. Please call 01-819 8500 for further details.