Does HR deal with office bullying effectively?

Employees are calling out for HR to do a better job when it comes to tackling bullying in the workplace.

This is according to Kew Law, an employment law specialist, who found that 22 per cent of employees who told HR of bullying in the workplace saw no action be taken. Only 11 per cent of employees felt that the situation improved after doing so.

More than a third (35 per cent) of employees who have been bullied in the workplace say that HR could have shown a greater amount of confidentiality and 26 per cent felt that better communication was needed from their company on what is unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.

Out of the 13 per cent who left their jobs due to bullying, only 4 per cent raised the issue with HR.

Under half (46 per cent) of employees said they would not report bullying behaviour to HR and 33 per cent said they would instead confront the bully directly.

The research also found that 71 per cent of employees have either been or witnessed bullying in the workplace, with 35 per cent saying they have been the victim of direct bullying at work.

The most common forms of bullying in the workplace reported were:

  • Overloading with work (27 per cent)
  • Unfair treatment (20 per cent)
  • Picking on or regularly undermining someone (18 per cent)
  • Spreading malicious rumours (16 per cent)
  • Excluding and ignoring someone’s contribution (16 per cent)
  • Denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities (7 per cent)


Karen Kwong, director of Renoc Consulting and an organisational Psychologist and wellbeing coach, said:

Bullying can be extremely damaging for an employee.  On an individual level, they are likely to lose motivation and confidence in themselves, suffer from severe anxiety and stress which in turn could lead to more serious mental and physical illnesses.  This in turn might lead to their work suffering too, through no fault of their own.  The individual may also start losing faith in the team, the manager and the organisation which is bad for overall morale and the reputation of any firm.  These days things like Glassdoor and social media can very quickly ruin reputations of even the most reputable of businesses.

Procedures are vital, as are ways in which to escalate and report such complaints objectively.  Often, people who have been bullied don’t want to say anything because they fear reprisals – a very real issue. HR is often powerless to do much if the bully is a powerful decision maker or money maker in the organisation.  This is why to me, it should start from the top, the culture should be one of respect cascading all the way down to all levels.  Then it is less likely to happen.  And if it does, it will be swiftly and effectively handled in a fair and objective manner.

Kew Law spoke to the employees of 131 UK companies to obtain these results.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.