Beating the Bullies Together

It’s Apprentice season on the BBC again – our chance to marvel as supposedly some of the finest young business minds in the country spend a few months arguing and squabbling like schoolchildren for our entertainment. The pressure of being on TV, mixed with a range of candidates whose main qualities seem to be arrogance and mis-placed self-confidence, usually make for amusing viewing. But there is a darker side to what we’re witnessing – there have already been accusations of bullying among the candidates this series and the question of workplace bullying is something that needs to be tackled in organisations across Northumberland. Around one in 10 people have experienced some form of bullying in the workplace over the previous six months. Many cases still go unreported as victims, particularly young women, are too frightened to speak up and so try to deal with their situations on their own – however people shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. Workplace bullying can range from offensive to intimidating and humiliating behaviour. Bullies will not always use intellectual tactics and can often be childish and immature, using actions towards their colleagues which can quickly become upsetting and inappropriate. While people may think they are just having fun or making a few jokes, the people on the receiving end can quickly begin to feel victimised, lose confidence and see their self-esteem plummet. A case involving a reporter from the News of the World who was awarded damages earlier this year after he experienced bullying behaviour from colleagues has helped bring workplace bullying to the forefront of our minds, but still too many people are ignoring this inexcusable activity. Bullying does not just affect the lives of the people at the hands of the bullies – the stress which it causes can spread quickly throughout the workplace creating tension and unnecessary anxiety, so employers should always take concerns seriously. Following the additional pressures created by the recession there has been an increase in levels of workplace bullying – with more people facing victimisation from higher-level staff as opposed to their co-workers. As running a business has become much more challenging over recent years some managers are unable to cope with the increase stresses and can take it out on staff. There have also been some worrying suggestions that managers may use bullying as a means of forcing employees out of an organisation, therefore reducing their costs. Unfortunately the rise in bullying coincides with a reduction in the number of trade unions available to support employees. However people who feel they are being bullied should always seek advice and should never suffer alone as this can be more detrimental to their mental and physical health than they may realise. Northumberland residents can contact DAWN Advice for free support and advice on a range of employment law issues, including bullying in the workplace, on 01670 785 500 or visit www.dawnadvice.org.uk Liz Chadwick is the Chief Executive of DAWN Advice, a Northumberland-based social enterprise which offers free, confidential and impartial advice on a number of legal matters including debt, housing, employment, welfare benefits and family law.

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