What is the ethical issue?

Bullying is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes either physical or emotional harm. Harassment includes unwelcome and persistent attention, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Bullying and harrassment poses a serious obstacle to creating a positive, productive working environment.

This kind of behaviour creates a toxic and tense environment, and if it goes unchecked, sends a message of acceptance. If mechanisms are not in place for employees to report bullying or harassment, and if these reports are not investigated thoroughly, it can have serious impacts on individuals and the organisation as a whole.

One of the difficult aspects of this kind of behaviour, is that it can be hard to define, and even harder to spot, as legally, bullying is 'in the eye of the beholder'. One person's 'joke' can make another person feel uncomfortable, and if it persists can feel bullying and belittling.

There is a fine line that organisations and their employees tread between banter and bullying. Banter can help bring down barriers in teams and create a shared sense of fun, yet if banter crosses the line, it can exclude people and make them feel uncomfortable, undermining the inclusive environment that is attempting to be built and maintained. It may also be the starting point for other forms of inappropriate behavior, becoming a gateway for more extreme behaviours such as sexual harassment.

 

IBE Guidance

A summary of good practice
  • Everyone is entitled to fair treatment, courtesy and respect. Organisations should not tolerate any form of abuse or harassment of employees, contractors, suppliers, customers or anyone else.
  • Responsible managers develop the right culture by encouraging people to speak up about inappropriate behaviour, but this also requires reliable and confidential channels to do so. By embedding these policies into day-to-day operations and regularly reviewing them, bullying and other inappropriate behaviour can be rooted out, resulting in less complaints, less exit interview revelations and a happier workplace.

 

Further resources

Blog

Doing business ethically in a time of coronavirus

Our Chair, Prof. David Grayson CBE discusses doing business ethically in a time of coronavirus in the latest IBE blog.

06 April 2020

Publication type: Survey

Embedding Business Ethics: 2020 report on corporate ethics policies and programmes

This report is the ninth in the triennial series looking at corporate ethics policies and programmes. It is the IBE’s longest-running survey series, and continues to give valuable insights into how companies run their ethics programmes.

01 April 2020

Blog

Now is the right time to look at your culture

Ethical failures in business continue to happen with depressing regularity. Unfortunately, many organisations are only spurred to look at their culture and take the steps to embed ethical values at the heart of their decision making after things have gone badly wrong and customers, shareholders and colleagues have suffered as a result. 

05 February 2020

Publication type: Business ethics briefing

Business Ethics in the News 2019

This briefing provides an overview of the ethical concerns and lapses that were recorded by the IBE in its monitoring of media coverage in 2019. It gives an overview of which sectors and issues related to business ethics were most covered in the news. For 2019, we have recorded a total of 361 different stories involving lapses of companies with a UK presence.

29 January 2020

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Germany

This survey report describes the German findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average from the eight countries surveyed.

10 December 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Italy

This survey report describes the Italian findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average from the eight countries surveyed.

10 December 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work: Singapore

This survey report describes the Singapore findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with Switzerland and the UK.

23 September 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Canada

This survey report describes the Canadian findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with Switzerland and the UK.

26 June 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Switzerland

This survey report describes the Swiss findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average.

23 May 2019

Blog

Ethics and values are at the heart of a sustainable culture

David Grayson: I am delighted to take on the chairmanship of IBE. Ethics and values are at the heart of creating a sustainable culture.

02 April 2019

Publication type: Other

A Year In Review: Ethical Concerns and Lapses 2018

Read the IBE's annual analysis of business ethics news stories from the last year - which were the sectors and issues most in the news in 2018?

30 January 2019

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: New Zealand

This survey report describes the New Zealand findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research.

28 November 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom

This survey report describes the Australia and New Zealand findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and compares them with the findings from the UK.

27 November 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Australia

This survey report describes the Australian findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research.

27 November 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: Portugal

This survey report describes the Portugese findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average from the eight countries surveyed.

19 November 2018

Webinar

What do UK employees think about ethics at work?

16 October 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work 2018: United Kingdom

This survey report describes the UK findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average from the eight countries surveyed.

13 September 2018

Publication type: Survey

Ethics at Work: 2018 Survey of Employees: Europe

Ethics at Work: 2018 survey of employees analyses the results of the survey and examines whether formal ethics programmes are effective in embedding ethical values into organisational culture and influencing behaviour.

05 July 2018

Blog

Ethics is everybody's business

How can you support large numbers of employees in multiple locations in doing the right thing? One approach is to spread a network of ethics ambassadors throughout the business – it is an excellent way to ensure that messages about ethics and conduct are communicated effectively, consistently and meaningfully to staff in multiple territories.

18 April 2018

Publication type: Survey

Corporate Ethics Policies and Programmes: 2016 UK and Continental Europe survey

This triennial survey provides an overview of how ethics is embedded within large organisations that operate in the UK and Continental Europe.

26 January 2017

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