According to a European Union survey, some 9% of the workforce - 12 million people - suffered workplace bullying during a 12-month period. If it's happening under your roof, you could face a hefty legal bill for compensation, leaving aside the moral responsibility. So how do you deal with the office bullies?
UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM. Bullying isn't easy to define, and it can be hard to distinguish from tough, hands-on management. Lynne Witheridge, founder and CEO of the charity Andrea Adams Trust, which is dedicated to countering the syndrome, says: 'Bullying is an abuse of power or position that usually manifests itself in persistently criticising someone, openly condemning them, or humiliating them.' It involves personal attack rather than constructive criticism of a colleague's mistakes.
DRAW UP A POLICY. Afraid so, another policy. Tell employees that bullying is unacceptable, spell out what will be regarded as bullying, and how complaints will be handled. But Tim Field, founder of the Bully Online web site says: 'It is essential that this is not just words on paper. You must have the full commitment of the chief exec or top management, and you must be prepared to train your HR staff to understand bullying and how it works.' Mentoring and assertiveness training can provide employee protection.