Anti Bullying Week: How can HR professionals prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace?

Anti Bullying Week will take place this year from 14 – 18 November.  Ran by the Anti Bullying Alliance, the initiative aims to shine a spotlight on bullying and encourage individuals to take action against bullying.

Bullying is an issue that takes place not only in schools, but in many workplaces across all sectors. Organisations and HR professionals have a duty of care towards their employees to provide a safe workplace and prevent bullying and harassment from taking place.


I have reached out to Linda James, founder and CEO of the charity BulliesOut, who has provided a great insight about what the charity does and what people professionals should look out for when implementing anti bullying strategies.

BulliesOut, established in May 2006, is one of the UK’s most dedicated and ambitious anti- bullying charities. Their award-winning work is delivered across the UK and each year, through our work with individuals, schools, youth and community settings and the workplace, they provide education, training and support to thousands of people.

At BulliesOut, in addition to their e-mentoring and counselling support, they deliver innovative, engaging, and interactive anti-bullying workshops and training programmes that aim to:

  • reduce bullying behaviour in schools and the workplace
  • change attitudes and behaviours
  • recognise and respect difference
  • understand impact and consequences
  • raise confidence and self-esteem.

Linda explained how bullying behaviour is a pervasive workplace issue, and it hasn’t gone away because many people are working from home. Bullying and harassment create an unhappy and unproductive workplace which can result in poor morale and poor performance. With 1 in 3 employees reporting they have been bullied at work and over 18 million working days every year lost due to bullying, it is a major issue that needs addressing.

To eradicate bullying in work, Linda advises that fostering a culture that is free from bullying behaviour is vital and needs to come from the top down. Management commitment is the most important component of preventing bullying in the workplace and is best demonstrated through a robust policy structure which is communicated to all staff. The key actions recommended by Linda for HR professionals and senior managers are the following:

  • Do not ignore any potential problems.
  • Do not delay resolution. Act as soon as possible.
  • Ensure staff have regular training on bullying and harassment.
  • Have a robust, comprehensive, anti-bullying policy.

To learn more about how BulliesOut could help you implement an anti-bullying strategy in the workplace take a look at their Creating a Positive and Empowering Workplace Training programme.

A personal story

I have also reached out to Lisa Johnson, professional coach and trainer who has shared her own story of being bullied and how she became an advocate for anti-bullying and now works with all major anti-bullying charities and organisations to speak up about the issue and provide awareness.

When asked to share her story Lisa recalled:

I was bullied for years as a child and because of the impact this bullying had on my self confidence I continued to be a target for bullies as I moved into my teens and then into the workplace.

I almost felt I deserved it. I should just keep myself to myself, take the barbed comments and put-downs on the chin and accept them as “banter.” This is the pattern for so many bullied people.

But then there would be epiphany moments. Like when I decided to apply for a law degree. To prove all those who said I would useless and would never amount to anything wrong. So I did. Again and again.

“Someone like you can’t do that.” They’d say. “Just watch me.” I’d reply.

This became my mantra as I became more successful.

So, my business was thriving, I was making millions and had thousands of clients. Surely now the bullying was a thing of the past? I was to discover that the online world is rife with cowardly, keyboard bullies who take pleasure in trying to bring others down. Our world has changed so dramatically over the last couple of decades, my experiences made me realise that there are no “safe spaces,” and that is why I became an ambassador for BulliesOut, an amazing charity who help in so many ways.

Bullying does not stop at school. It does not stop with success. We can all play our part by never tolerating any form of abuse or bullying and never staying quiet.

Final thoughts

Raising awareness and providing anti-bullying training to all staff will promote employee understanding of the steps an organisation has in place to tackle this issue. This will not only demonstrate that the organization has a robust anti-bullying strategy and commitment, but it may also encourage staff who are facing workplace bullying to speak up and allow this to be addressed appropriately.

About the author

Giulia Falconeri is one of CIPD Manchester’s branch ambassadors. She is passionate about employment law, L&D, recruitment and talent development. Giulia is currently working as a Senior HR Advisor.

Connect with Giulia on LinkedIn and Twitter

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