AntiBullying Week 2015 – Two things HR need to get right to erradicate Bullying

Human Resources need to know who to believe when an incident of Bullying is reported to them. There isabw_twitter_black_500x250 a difference between a prickly situation and a bullying campaign. As we saw in Sarah’s story reporting bullying to HR takes courage (the back story is provided in this link

First – HR Need to Investigate Bullying Thoroughly – use a template to guide your data collection

ACAS definition of bullying: Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

Of course  behaviour may appear as bullying or assertive management depending on your viewpoint. However, 3 examples of Sarah’s complaints as quoted from the HR report indicate that Sarah was being bullied:

  1. Experiencing victimisation, and witnessing others being victimised:“Sarah witnessed Nigel bully two other members of the team, one which took place in a Team Meeting”
  2. Threats and comments made about job security that lack foundation:“Nigel announced that his team would be growing and that there would be plenty of work for everyone. Nigel then after the meeting told Sarah that it was extremely unlikely that her contract would be renewed and that she could have some time off work for interviews”
  3. Unfair treatment:” … Nigel is very aggressive and is trying to divide and rule by cleaning out the existing team and bringing in his own new team” and “being bullied feels like being stabbed in the back”

HR intentions in Sarah’s case while honourable failed to identify that bullying occurred. Later events showed this and the investigator admitted that:

“Nigel was so plausible, he managed me”

An investigation needs a structure and to use a template of questions to ensure that everyone involved has the opportunity to discuss their role in events and its impact on them. The questions ought to be based on who, what, where, when, why and how. They should hone in on personally observed situations and also upon the role, actions and feelings of the interviewee.

Circumstances may arise where there is a personality disordered bully involved. Therefore, it is useful for investigators to keep this in mind. It is important since personality disorder is revealed in a steady pattern of behaviour and resulting in relationship troubles, often evidenced in their HR file. Some personality disordered people are aware of the impact of their behaviours and others are not. Further, some may be deliberately inconsiderate. Essentially, for a personality disordered individual interpersonal issues are not their problem, they are always the other person’s. Motivation for their behaviour may be well concealed, as they may have learnt to camouflage it, especially to more senior people. More about disordered personality and bullying will feature in a future blog post.

There is evidence in Sarah’s story that the bully may have been personality disordered. There is no evidence that this crossed the investigators’ minds. Dealing with personality disordered employees is challenging, so get help from an occupational psychologist or a mediator.

Second – Use A Process – to make sure you have covered all the angles, witnesses and points of view

It beggars belief to say this, the investigation found no evidence of bullying. There seemed to be no framework and process for HR follow.

This left Sarah to use the only recourse left: mediation. In fact this was not mediation; rather it was a personal grievance process. That Sarah continued shows how determined she was not to be a victim. In my experience this is rare. Sarah said the turning point was when:

“Nigel said he did not know I was taken on as the boss’ social media specialist. I said it was common knowledge that he had applied for the job.” Sarah thought HR looked stunned by this.

That this crucial piece of evidence took so long to surface was appalling.

Things HR can do to make a difference

  • Get trained to investigate bullying and grievances, include line managers
  • Get help when the process is a challenge

In fairness, in Sarah’s case the organisation’s culture limited HR’s scope. Organisations need to develop a safe bully-free culture. A bully-free culture both makes ethical sense, and engages people at work. High organisational engagement results in far more productivity.

If you need help in dealing with bullying and or help with an issue where mediation may be useful then you can reach Marjorie at MWR Consulting on 07779 345 499,

Reach us at 07779 345 499,

T: 07779 345 499

Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond


We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Certified ACT practitioner
  • Support if you are being bullied, or have a member of your organisation who has made a bullying complaint
  • Certified Mediation practioner, to address workplace conflict,
  • Personal development activities
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations
  • Special projects, secondments and assignments