Dignity in the Workplace

FSU Policy Document on Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

 

Dignity in the workplace is not a privilege - It's your right!

Introduction

Every individual should be treated with dignity in the workplace. The Union seeks to ensure a safe working environment for all its members. The financial services sector has a duty of care to all its members in this regard. The Union is actively involved in drawing up Bullying and Harassment Policies and calls upon the financial services sector to deliver and officially implement these policies.

Procedures for dealing with bullying and harassment must be clear and concise. It is the duty of the employer to ensure that information is readily available and that training is provided to ensure the prevention of the workplace bullying and harassment. Complaints should be dealt with sensitively, fairly, seriously and expeditiously. The Union provides advice, support and representation for members.

As an employer and a provider of services to members, the Union will adopt best practice in the prevention of bullying and harassment and in upholding dignity in the workplace. As well as protecting employees the financial services sector has obligations as a provider of services. All employees are responsible for ensuring that bullying/harassment does not occur, with ultimate responsibility resting with management. The Union's statement on dignity and respect is provided to all delegates and attendees at FSU Conferences.

The Union fully supports the Dignity in the Workplace Charter published by the Health and Safety Authority and endorsed by ICTU and IBEC (See Appendix 1). A Dignity in the Workplace Charter should be displayed in all workplaces and should be clearly visible to all staff and customers.

What is Bullying?

Workplace bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individuals right to dignity at work. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but as a once off incident, is not considered to be bullying.

Examples of bullying may include:

  • Humiliation, ridicule, privately or in front of a colleague or customer imposing excessive workloads or impossible/unreasonable deadlines
  • Unjustified criticism
  • Removing, for no justifiable reason, areas of responsibility from an individual or reducing his/her job to basic tasks which are well below their capabilities
  • Deliberately ignoring or excluding individuals from activities
  • Spreading malicious gossip about an individual
  • Making someone the butt of jokes
  • Deliberately blocking an individuals development
  • An organisational climate of staff reductions, increased workload and imposition of financial targets may result in an environment which creates bullies.


What is Harassment?

Harassment is any act or conduct including spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material which has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person. Harassment is a form of unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds, e.g., gender, religion, martial status, disability. These discriminatory grounds are defined in the legislation applicable in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Many forms of behaviour may constitute harassment including:

  • Verbal harassment - jokes, comments, ridicule or songs
  • Written harassment - including faxes, text messages, emails or notices
  • Physical harassment - jostling, shoving or any form of assault
  • Intimidatory harassment - gestures, posturing or threatening poses
  • Visual displays such as poster, emblems or badges
  • Isolation or exclusion from social activities
  • Pressure to behave in a manner that the employee thinks is inappropriate, for example being required to dress in a manner unsuited to a persons ethnic or religious background.

The definition of sexual harassment includes any:

  • Act of physical intimacy
  • Request for sexual favours
  • Other act or conduct including spoken works, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material that has the purpose of violating a persons dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.

It is unwanted nature of the conduct which distinguishes sexual harassment and harassment from the friendly behaviour which is friendly and mutual. The intention of the perpetrator of the sexual harassment or harassment is irrelevant. The effect of the behaviour on the employee is what is important.

Employers may be legally responsible for the harassment or bullying directed at employees and carried out by co-employees or clients, customers or other business contact of the employer.

Effects of Bullying and Harassment

Examples of the effects of bullying and harassment on individuals include:

  • Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Reduced work performance
  • Withdrawal
  • Decreased problem-serving ability
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia and stomach upset
  • Suicide
  • Heart attack

In addition, bullying and harassment may have severe detrimental impact on family members. It may also cause fear and stress amongst workplace colleagues.

What should I do if I am being bullied or harassed?

  • Tell somebody - don't suffer in silence. You may choose to discuss the matter with a friend, colleague or IBOA.
  • If you feel you can, a way forward would be to approach the person who is harassing or bullying you and explain clearly that you find their behaviour unacceptable. Be specific about the behaviour you find objectionable.
  • If the harassment or bullying does not stop immediately or if you have difficulty in approaching the harasser/bully, then seek assistance.
  • Keep a log of the incidents, i.e. a diary of dates, details of witnesses, what was said etc., and we would suggest that this log should not be kept in your place of employment or on your employer's computer.
  • Remember you employer will require a statement in writing from you if you are making a formal complaint.
  • Remember that bullies never go away - action is required.

Procedures

  • Employers are required to have Policies and Procedures on Bullying and harassment - ensure that you are familiar with them.
  • Note any timeframes and be aware that if you decide to invoke your legal rights, there are timeframes stipulated in each of the jurisdictions.
  • Bullying and Harassment Complaints Procedures include informal and formal stages.

Informal Action

  • As a general rule, an attempt should be made to address an allegation of bullying/harassment as informally as possible by means of an agreed informal procedure. The objective of this approach is to resolve the difficulty with the minimum of conflict and stress for the individuals involved.
  • A complainant may decide, for whatever reason, to bypass the informal procedure. This should not reflect negatively on a complainant in the formal procedure.

Formal Action

  • The complainant should make a formal complaint in writing to management.
  • The alleged bully/harasser should be notified in writing that a complainant's statement and afforded an opportunity to respond to the allegation.
  • The investigation should be conducted by either a designated and alleged bully/harasser, or if appropriate, an agreed third party.
  • The investigator should meet with the complainant and alleged bully/harasser and any witness on an individual confidential basis.
  • The complainant and the alleged bully/harasser should be informed in writing of the findings of the investigation.
  • Following conclusion of the complaints procedure and where a complaint is upheld, there may be disciplinary proceedings and implications of the bully/harasser.
  • If a claim is found to be vexatious or malicious there may be disciplinary implications for the complainant.
  • If either party is unhappy with the outcome of the investigation the issue may be appealed through the normal industrial relations mechanisms i.e. the agreed grievance procedure.
  • Monitoring and support is required on an ongoing basis following conclusion of the complaints procedure.
  • There should be no victimisation or intimidation of victims of and witnesses to harassment/bullying.
  • The Union's policy is that the victim of harassment or bullying is never transferred against their wishes.

What should I do if I am accused of bullying or harassment?

  • Remember that you have a right to be treated in accordance with natural justice and to have the opportunity to defend yourself.
  • If you are made aware that aspects of your behaviour caused offence, then if appropriate, apologise and change your behaviour.
  • Make yourself aware of your employer's Policy on Harassment and Bullying and the procedures to deal with same.
  • Contact the Union for confidential advice and representation.
  • Being accused of bullying or harassment may be very stressful for an individual and his/her family. This could result in suffering many of the symptoms previously described.

Your right to representation

All employees have a right to representation at all stages, whether informal or formal, in a Bullying/Harassment Complaints procedure. In cases where the Union represents the complainant and the alleged bully/harasser, it is the Union's policy to use two different representatives/officials to represent each of the parties separately. Information will be treated confidentially.

Your responsibilities

Do:

  • Take the appropriate steps to stop bullying and harassment when it occurs, particularly if you are in a position of authority.
  • Take the issue seriously
  • Raise awareness of the importance of prevention of bullying and harassment among colleagues.
  • Document incidents of bullying or harassment - dates, times, witnesses, etc.
  • Contact IBOA for confidential advice and assistance.

Do Not:

  • Stay silent if you experience bullying.
  • Place the safety and welfare of colleagues at risk by engaging in bullying.
  • Make vexatious or malicious complaints.
  • Condone bullying or harassment in the workplace.
  • Feel isolated if you are being bullied or harassed. You have the support of your Union.

Remember you have the right to be treated with dignity at work.

DO NOT TOLERATE BULLYING OR HARASSMENT

 

Appendix 1:

Health and Safety Authority - Dignity at Work Charter

We at ................................. commit ourselves to working together to maintain a workplace environment that encourages and supports the right to dignity at work. All who work here are expected to respect the right of each individual to dignity in their working life. All will be treated equally and respected for their individuality and diversity. Bullying in any form is not accepted by us and will not be tolerated. Our policies and procedures will underpin the principles and objectives of this Charter.

All individuals, whether directly employed or contracted by us, have a duty and a responsibility to uphold this Dignity at Work Charter.

Supervisors, Managers and Trade Union Representatives where applicable in the workplace have a specific responsibility to promote its provisions.

Appendix 2:

Profile of a Bully

Adult bullies, like their schoolyard counterparts, tend to be insecure people with poor or non-existent social skills and little empathy. They turn this insecurity outwards, finding satisfaction in their ability to attack and diminish the capable people around them.

A workplace bully subjects the target to unjustified criticism and trivial fault-finding. In addition, he or she humiliates the target, especially in front of others, and ignores, overrules, isolates and excludes the target.

If the bully is the target's superior, he or she may: set the target up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or deadlines, or denying necessary information and resources; either overload the target with work or take all work away (sometimes replacing proper work with demeaning jobs); or increase responsibility while removing authority.

Regardless of specific tactics, the information is driven by the bully's need to control others.