Bullying and Sexual Harassment

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Publication date: 1 October 2000




(2000), "Bullying and Sexual Harassment", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 24 No. 7. https://doi.org/10.1108/jeit.2000.00324gae.003

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Bullying and Sexual Harassment

Bullying and Sexual Harassment

Tina StephensInstitute of Personnel and Development (IPD)1999ISBN 0 85292 804 1£9.99 (paperback) (£8.99 to IPD members)Keywords: Employers, Sexual harassment, Training, Stress

Employers and their organisations should save themselves thousands of pounds on sick pay by spending a few hundred on anti-harassment training to root out the bullies in their midst, says this book.

Author, Tina Stephens, formerly a personnel manager for two high street retailing organisations and now a lecturer in management, maintains that highly publicised sensational cases brought against bullies and perpetrators of sexual harassment are "the small tip of a very big iceberg". As many as one in five people, she says, have suffered from either, or both, at work.

Stephens says most companies would be shocked if they honestly investigated whether they had a problem. "Bullying and sexual harassment is happening in [every] organisation now", she maintains, with enormous costs to the victim and the organisation.

Estimates of the cost of stress and stress-related illness (of which bullying and harassment are significant causes) range from £5 billion to £12 billion, and the cost of absence has been calculated at £485 for every head of the working population. Six million working days a year are lost through stress.

Despite a general belief that companies are now better run than they used to be, the proportion of people who feel secure at work fell from 76 per cent in 1990 to 53 per cent in 1997. In the same period, high morale declined from 52 per cent to 39 per cent.

"The old excuse of 'that's the way we do things round here and it works' is unacceptable if it means people are being humiliated, degraded and stripped of dignity", Stephens says. And now victims are increasingly turning to the law to seek redress.

Bullying and Sexual Harassment, written for personnel professionals, gives practical advice on how to draw up policies to deal with both issues and treads the difficult ground in distinguishing between banter and bullying. It details how to establish and administer formal and informal complaints procedures, suggesting methods of ensuring that those who are bullied can make a complaint without fearing that it will make their predicament worse.

In almost all cases, she says, it should be the alleged bully or harasser who is suspended, and transferred or dismissed if necessary – and not the victim, which has tended to be companies' way of dealing with incidents.

Stephens believes that bringing the issue into the open, with a clear statement of what behaviour will and will not be tolerated within an organisation, is the starting point for tackling it. "In my view, the problem has a lot to do with managers who can't manage and shout instead", she says. "Promotional and pay structures don't help. To be promoted and to earn more you have to go into management, which may be a job you are less well suited to. To aggravate the situation further, many managers receive very little training."

Bullying and Sexual Harassment will help personnel practitioners to understand why confronting bullying and sexual harassment is important to the performance and reputation of their organisations, and through all stages of identifying and dealing with both problems.