Managers face 'knowledge gap' on bullying

A UK-wide survey among managers has revealed that bullying is not seen as a key issue in today’s workplace – with only 17% of respondents claiming that it is a problem to be addressed.

However, the research, by Leicester based PTP Training and Marketing Ltd, also highlighted a significant lack of knowledge among managers regarding company procedure to deal with bullying.

Despite up to three-quarters of the sample saying they believed there was company policy and reporting procedures – just 16% actually knew what it was.

According to the survey, the seriousness of ‘bullying’ is sometimes unappreciated leading to confusion as to how to deal with it. Respondents admitted that bullying could be interpreted as little more than ‘personality clashes’ rather than serious misconduct and consequently dealt with more leniently than should be the case.

However, PTP said it was not surprising that managers had difficulties in dealing with bullying incidents in the office as most had no proper training. The survey showed that two-thirds of managers had no official training while training procedures among the remainder of the sample varied considerably.

A few organisations polled were investing in specialist external companies for support and training while the majority said personnel received internal training through employee handbooks, induction manuals and courses and other internal workshops. In some cases the issue is simply a matter discussed in staff meetings.

There was also a lack of awareness regarding who had access to the training in dealing with workplace bullying - with almost half the survey being unaware. Of those who did know it figures showed that 40% of companies were restricting this training to senior management or HR personnel.

Despite the apparent low levels of knowledge of guidelines and training in dealing with workplace bullying, five out of six managers said they believed the policies and training resources are adequate within their workplace. Of those who wanted to see more being done – the most popular responses were more training for line managers and not just senior managers and a clearer definition of what constitutes bullying in the workplace.

Commenting on the results, managing director of PTP Training & Marketing, Marc Holland said he was surprised that more companies don’t have clearer policies and procedures in place:

“Organisations should be taking this issue more seriously as bullying at any level – even if it is described as ‘personality clashes’ can make life very difficult and upsetting for those directly involved as well as causing widespread tension among colleagues. There is a wealth of training programmes available on issues such as ‘managing and resolving conflict’, which can give staff an appreciation of the problem and how to deal effectively with it. This knowledge should be seen as a basic understanding to what is considered appropriate and non-appropriate behaviour in any organisation.”

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