Workplace Bullying Allegations: How to Deal with them Effectively

Resolving workplace bullying allegations

The 'traditional' approach to workplace bullying allegations is to use an adversarial, investigative process to try to 'prove' that bullying has occurred.

And yet it is extremely rare that such an approach leads to an effective outcome for anyone involved, to the extent that many people resign themselves to the supposedly 'inevitable' destructive outcomes of such allegations:

  • Long term staff absence through stress as a consequence of the difficult procedures involved
  • Staff leave the organisation as a consequence of the difficult relationships and 'bad atmosphere' that follows such allegations
  • Damage to team morale and consequent low productivity
  • High recruitment and re-training costs in order to replace lost staff.

So what is a more constructive approach?

Stepping out of the Circle of Blame to Create an Effective Outcome for All!

"Alan Sharland has written a vital book on bullying. His approach is the way forward. Instead of focusing on 'proving it', which takes us in the direction of investigations and hearings that go no where and only serve to exacerbate an already sensitive situation, he shows the way forward through direct communication and a focus on the behavior that is of concern." John Ford - HR Mediation Academy

How to Resolve Bullying in the Workplace can assist you if you:

  • Feel you are being bullied in your workplace
  • Have been accused of bullying in your workplace
  • Are managing a situation where bullying has been alleged in your workplace

Workplace bullying allegations do not have to mean team-breakdown, loss of staff, employment tribunals and long, arduous, ineffective grievance procedures.

Of course it is a difficult time when such allegations are made but the focus does not have to be on 'damage limitation' - it can be a genuine opportunity for learning, change and renewed and improved working relationships within your organisation, and consequently, improved productivity, enhanced employee morale, satisfaction and engagement. 

This isn't a 'theory based' book, it draws upon experiences of workplace bullying allegations being resolved effectively to inform an approach which is always directed towards successfully improving and rebuilding working relationships. 

Resolving workplace bullying allegations

How to Resolve Bullying in the Workplace - Stepping Out of the Circle of Blame to Create an Effective Outcome for All describes an approach to workplace bullying allegations that enables a constructive way forward, opening the door to: 

  • Renewed and improved working relationships between the staff involved
  • Organisational and Team Learning arising from the process of resolution
  • Restoration of team morale for those affected as bystanders of workplace bullying allegations
  • Increased resilience within teams to overcome future working relationship difficulties

Workplace Bullying Allegations: The immediate obstacle to any way forward...

From Chapter 1 in the book: 

"The problem with bullying in the workplace is that traditional responses to allegations that it is happening require the person who feels bullied and anyone who is helping them with their concerns to ‘Prove it!’. 

While those who feel bullied may see their experience as ‘obviously bullying’, there will be others who do not, including of course the person who they consider to be ‘the bully’.  This expectation of proof of bullying becomes an immediate obstacle in moving forward in any difficult situation or relationship in the workplace. 

The various definitions of bullying that can be found in dictionaries or guidelines or in articles online and in the printed press read as if they are very clear. But when used as a basis for assessing whether bullying has taken place they are ambiguously interpreted because of the subjectivity of the perceptions of those involved. 

.........This is the bad news in relation to bullying. From the very start of any procedure designed to ‘tackle’ it by proving it has occurred there is ambiguity for anyone involved, whether the person who feels bullied, the person they see as ‘the bully’ or any managers or Human Resources officers who are required to deal with it.

The consequence of this is a circle of finger-pointing - blame and accusations and counter-accusations of bullying, incompetence, conspiracy, lack of care, burying of heads in the sand and so very little change, if any, occurs in the majority of cases where bullying is alleged.

..........But within this recognition of the ineffectiveness of proving bullying has occurred resides the possibility for breaking out of the circle of blame and accusations that lead to dissatisfaction all round the circle. This possibility is available to all involved in such situations if they are able to do one thing:

To let go of the focus on ‘bullying’!

As I will discuss in the next chapter, the ways in which I have seen people resolve workplace disputes where originally there have been accusations of bullying and harassment have been where the term ‘bullying’ retreats from the discussion.

When this happens, a more useful, detailed discussion relevant to the unique circumstances and perceptions of those involved can occur, enabling, and expecting them to create their own answers to their difficult working relationship."

Resolving workplace bullying allegations

If you are based in the UK and would like training or consultancy for dealing with workplace bullying allegations and developing more effective workplace relationships, or if you would like mediation or conflict coaching for yourself or your staff, please contact Alan Sharland on 020 3371 7507.

Alternatively please use the CAOS Conflict Management Contact Page to make your enquiry. 

If you are based outside of the UK but would like Conflict Coaching or other support via Skype, please also use the contact page to make your enquiry or request. 


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Hi there

I'm Alan Sharland, creator the Communication and Conflict website and author of the book referred to on this webpage. 

I have written various other articles on the topic of bullying and the ways in which it is commonly responded to which do not work in a way that enables people to feel satisfied that the situation has been resolved. 

(See this linkedin article as an example of the common approach that does not work)

There has been a vast 'industry' grown up around the issue of bullying in the workplace over the last 10-15 years but often it seems to want to encourage doing 'more of the same', not recognising, it seems, the ineffectiveness of the standard approach to allegations of bullying. 

This book recounts my experiences as a mediator and conflict coach where people have, themselves, resolved their difficult workplace relationships, where bullying has been alleged.

Through the opportunity to reflect on the difficulties experienced and the opportunity to create more acceptable, constructive ways forward, people involved from 'all sides' of the workplace bullying allegation have been able to create a vastly improved working relationship from the 'debris' of the broken relationship that previously existed. 

(Here's another article that discusses a more effective way of responding to allegations of bullying at work)

The difficulty of 'proving' bullying has occurred becomes a distraction from moving towards the creation of a better working relationship and the opportunity to acknowledge the impact of the respective behaviours of the person alleged to be the bully and the person alleging bullying has occurred. 

Here's another article entitled 'What is a Bully?' that may be of interest to you.

Thank you for your interest in this topic and I hope you find the book interesting and useful if you go ahead and purchase it. You may find some image links that do not have the 'Circle of Blame' cover on it as this was a later version of the book. All versions now being sold will have this cover on it.

Please feel free to contact me at CAOS Conflict Management (opens a new page on a different website) if you have any questions or place a comment in the comments box at the bottom of this webpage.

Best wishes

Alan Sharland

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