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Office harassment ‘must be stamped out’

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As employers aim to keep the morale of office workers high, some may need to take steps to stamp out harassment in the workplace.

According to a new study conducted by XpertHR, the vast majority of organisations have seen instances where employees have been targeted by another member of staff in the last two years.

Some 83 per cent of employers said they had been forced to deal with at least one case of harassment or bullying in the past 24 months.

And worryingly, both for employers and office workers, this figure represents an 11 per cent rise since 2006.

The study found that bullying and harassment were most likely to manifest as undermining behaviour – at 54 per cent of organisations.

For instance, employees may complain they are continually given too much work, or criticised in a manner designed to undermine their confidence.

The report claimed line managers were the most likely perpetrators, with sexual harassment reported as frequently as physical intimidation or offensive emails.

XpertHR editor and author of the report Charlotte Wolff claimed that office bullying can “seriously undermine many areas of working life”.

“For instance, 21 per cent said it had seriously affected manager-staff relationships, and 59 per cent said that this type of behaviour had depleted staff morale,” she stated.

“However, giving managers appropriate training, and running employee awareness campaigns can effectively reduce the problem.”

Ms Wolff added that the use of mediation, during an informal investigatory process, is the most effective way to tackle cases once they have been exposed.

According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, workplace bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

“It may be obvious or it may be insidious,” the body stated.

“Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual.”