Bullying is often an extension of wider conflict between employees. It can start with workplace incivility, such as ‘rude and discourteous verbal and non-verbal behaviours enacted towards another’ and can extend into undesirable treatment between colleagues. As with harassment, it is the perception of the individual on the receiving end of the behaviour that should be considered, as well as the intention of the alleged bully.

Bullying is an important issue for people professionals because it can:

  • cause harm to the individual 
  • jeopardise the organisation’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment
  • lead to disciplinary and grievance situations 
  • have a damaging effect on employee morale and motivation 
  • lead to increased employee turnover 
  • have a detrimental effect on organisational reputation. 

It is the type of behaviour which increasingly can generate negative attention in the media, and where the organisation’s response can be scrutinised as much as the behaviour itself.

People professionals have a key role to play in tackling bullying and workplace conflict, for example in educating people so that everyone understands what constitutes bullying and harassment, for providing clear policies and training, as well as doing what’s necessary to build a culture based on dignity, trust and respect.

This guide aims to outline the main aspects of this role, building upon CIPD research into workplace incivility and conflict offering practical advice on tackling bullying and managing workplace conflict and other dispute resolution approaches.

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