Question posted to the Financial Times and answered by Clarion...
I run a small recruitment business with seven employees - most of whom are women. Over the past few months I sense a bit of bullying has begun but I can't really prove it. However, it is important that there is a positive atmosphere in the office for the team to perform well. How can I address the issue without putting the victim on the spot?
First of all, it’s great news that you are engaged with your staff and sensitive to workplace issues such as this. You are right to want to nip this in the bud and there are a couple of discreet ways to go about it.
If you have a Staff Handbook, it could be effective to look at some ‘refresher’ training on your equality, bullying and harassment, grievance and disciplinary policies – reminding staff of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable workplace behaviour. Hopefully it would encourage your employees to reflect on their behaviour and desist any bullying which might be going on.
Training on your existing workplace policies would subtly let the suspected victim know that support is available if they wanted to make a formal complaint about their colleagues. If you do receive such a grievance, make sure you investigate it and follow through with appropriate disciplinary action for the culprits according to your workplace policies.
If you haven’t already got a disciplinary and grievance policy in place, now would be a perfect time to implement it along with others which could prove valuable (see www.businesslink.gov.uk for a list). Until then, ACAS offers a really helpful Code of Conduct which should form the basis of your disciplinary and grievance procedures.
When introducing new policies it is important to train staff on what they mean to them. The same goes for all new starters moving forward.
Organising informal 1:1 meetings with your employees on a regular basis could help you identify issues at an early stage and deal with them before they become formal grievances. This can be a really useful forum for discussing performance and conduct issues while offering staff a chance to ask for help and support to ensure they remain happy at work.
If still in doubt, you should seek advice from a specialist employment law solicitor.
Written by: Joanna Dodd, Employment Associate at Clarion
Source: The Financial Times, 1 November 2012
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