How big a problem is workplace bullying?

February 22, 2010

worker2A political row is brewing after allegations of bullying were aimed at Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The claims, made in a book and published in a Sunday newspaper, accused Brown of several abusive outbursts, including grabbing staff by the lapels, shoving them aside and shouting at them.

Downing Street has strenuously denied that the “malicious allegations” are true, while Conservative leader David Cameron has said he expects there to be an inquiry into the claims.

Christine Pratt, head of the National Bullying Helpline, weighed into the debate by saying several people who worked at Number 10 had been in touch with the charity, adding that none had directly accused Mr Brown of bullying.

Meanwhile, Business secretary Lord Mandelson, in an interview with the BBC, said that Brown is “demanding of people” and himself but has never bullied anyone.

Away from politics, research suggests that bullying in the workplace is on the rise, and the recession may be to blame. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) revealed in January that one in 10 employees experience bullying or harassment in the workplace, while the union Unison claimed that around one-third of workers say they were bullied in the second half of 2009 –- a 100% increase on a decade ago.

The rise was apparently down to the fact that running a business became more stressful as the economic crisis worsened. Managers, under more pressure than ever before, felt the need to be more critical of their colleagues and often took their anger and frustration out on them, all of which resulted in a large rise in employment tribunal cases.

Do you think there is a problem with bullying in the workplace? Is it something you have witnessed or been a victim of? Can passion for the job often be wrongly interpreted as harassment?

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