The word bully generates certain stereotypes, often relating to school; playground bullies, on the back of the school bus etc. However bullying can take place anywhere and can take many different forms.

Bully

Workplace bullying is seen to be an increasing problem in the UK, potentially down to the fact that more people recognise and report it, although it can be a bit of a tricky area to pin down.

Acas characterises workplace bullying as ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’.

Bullying can happen via email, face-to-face or on the phone and is far more common than most people would believe. One of the widest reported cases of bullying in the workplace happened earlier this year at sports clothing giant Nike. It was reported that around a dozen Nike employees, including brand president Trevor Edwards, were released from their jobs following investigations of corporate bullying, the majority of whom were male and in a position of power.

A 2017 report commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that men make up 70% of the perpetrators and only 34% of targets. This worrying statistic highlights the bigger issue of male colleagues potentially abusing their positions.

However, Nike is not the only guilty party and there are entire industries that are susceptible to male bias and therefore, according to the stats, stand a higher chance of workplace bullying. Insurance is one of them.

As has been widely reported, only one in five board members or senior executives at insurance companies in Britain are female and though the presence of women in senior positions doesn’t automatically mean that bullying would dissipate, it certainly might help. Data from April 2017 also showed that men were, on average, paid 40% more than women, with the pay gap due to the lack of women in senior roles.

If employers don’t act on bullying it can only result in negative effects for the business. As well as poor morale, employees will not be working collaboratively and this can ultimately result in a dip in performance, high churn rates and worst of all could end up in court.

So what can the insurance industry learn from Nike? Following the allegations, Nike has taken some obvious steps forward in promising to promote more women (currently making up only 38% of managers). However they are also overhauling systems and procedures which were set up in a different age, from how they deal with complaints to redesigning management training and beginning unconscious bias awareness education for employees.

Bullying is universal and can happen anywhere to anyone. If you would like more information on how to tackle workplace bullying Acas provides a wealth of information for managers and employers as well as a helpful Q&A section.

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