Every employee has the right to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, and employees do not have to tolerate bullying by employers. Bullying in the workplace is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly; trying to ignore it may only make it worse. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to address the problem of a workplace bully, whether they are a colleague or your employer.
Workplace bullying links to feelings of incompetence as well as job insecurity. It is generally seen as unwelcome conduct which is hostile or offensive and induces a fear of harm and/or humiliation.
- Bullying usually seems to arise when an employer wishes to get rid of a particular employee, but does not want to follow proper procedure; the aggressive and harassing behaviour is resorted to in the hope that the employee will resign.
- Bullying is classed as an unfair discrimination and a violation of human rights. It results in poor morale among employees and insufficient concentration at work, which can lead to a loss of productivity.
Bullying vs the Law
According to the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, workplace bullying is offensive conduct in the workplace which is persistent and/or serious and demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile or intimidating environment. This offensive conduct includes workplace violence, moral harassment and emotional abuse.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) states that employers have a duty to protect workers from bullying, and that they should develop a code of conduct on harassment in consultation with the employees and the employee representatives.
Dealing with Bullying
It is the responsibility of the employer to develop a policy or code of conduct with regards to bullying, and they should educate managers and employees on suitable workplace behaviour. Grievance procedures must be established to protect employees from bullying; senior management should actively support the introduction of these procedures, and they should implement practices to alleviate workplace bullying.
It is important that human resource practitioners are educated in effective investigation processes with regards to bullying in the workplace. Suitable reporting mechanisms should be established between human resource departments and senior management to report on corporate bullying.
- When an employee gets bullied, it is advised that he/she first confronts the bully directly, in the presence of a witness, and request the bully to cease the harassment immediately.
- They also have the option of turning to their union or employees’ association for assistance.
- Once the case has been reported, the employer is obliged to investigate the case and if necessary, disciplinary action must be taken against the bully.
- Any matters that cannot be resolved at employer level can be referred to the CCMA for conciliation and if a resolution is not reached by that process, then the matter will be referred to the Labour Court.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Please feel free to contact Brian Kahn for further information or specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)