Bullying in the workplace

Part two: Businesses need to put robust measures in place to make sure they do not inadvertently allow workplace bullying to occur

Published:  13 November, 2017

In part one of our look at bullying in the workplace, we looked at how bullying is defined, enabling businesses to understand when what may be construed as bullying is taking place between staff members. The next step is handling the situation.

Employers are liable for harassment between employees, and can also be liable for harassment which comes from a third party (for example, a customer). Just as importantly, individuals also have a responsibility to behave in ways which support a non-hostile working environment for themselves and their colleagues.

From an employer’s point of view, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), says their first responsibility is “to put in place a robust and well communicated policy that clearly articulates the organisation’s commitment to promoting dignity and respect at work.” The policy should give examples of what constitutes harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour; that these will be treated as a disciplinary offence; clarify the legal implications and outline the costs associated with liability; describe how employees can get help and make a complaint; promise that allegations will be treated seriously and quickly; note managerial responsibilities; and emphasise that every employee is responsible for their own behaviour.

Employees should be briefed on their obligations, rights and procedure should an issue arise. The policy should be monitored and regularly reviewed for effectiveness.

What will surprise employers is that their responsibilities may extend to any environment where work-related activities take place including social gatherings organised by the employer, such as work parties or outings, unless they can show they took reasonable steps to prevent harassment. Where discrimination-based harassment has occurred employers and individuals can be ordered to pay unlimited compensation, including the payment of compensation for injury to feelings. Individuals can be prosecuted under criminal law too.

Issues arising
When a complaint is made, the CIPD say that it should be dealt with promptly. “Some may be dealt with internally and informally, and in minor cases it may be sufficient for the recipient of harassment to raise the problem with the perpetrator, pointing out the unacceptable behaviour.” But what happens if an employee finds this difficult or embarrassing? Here the CIPD say that procedures should permit support from a colleague, an appropriate manager or someone from the HR department.

Informal procedures should also allow for mediation which may help solve the problem and while maintaining workplace harmony. Acas (http://www.acas.org.uk) can help with this. But if informal approaches don’t work, the next step, is, says the CIPD, to trigger formal a procedure. “These will be needed if the harassment is serious, persists, or if the individual prefers this approach.” To follow this approach, organisations should have a clear formal policy to deal with grievances and disciplinary issues, including bullying and harassment, and this should comply with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance matters.

Part of the process means that any formal allegation of harassment, bullying or any intimidating behaviour should be treated as a disciplinary offence. The CIPD’s advice for investigating, which is backed up by Acas, means that the process should include a prompt, thorough and impartial response; the taking of evidence from witnesses; listening to both the alleged harasser and the complainant’s version of events; a time-scale for resolving the problem; and confidentiality in the majority of cases.

Employers should keep a record of complaints and investigations including the names of those involved, dates, the nature and frequency of incidents, action taken, follow-up and monitoring information. “Remember,” say the CIPD, “all sensitive information should be treated confidentially and meet the requirements of the data protection law which itself is about to get more punitive.”

Lastly, if a complaint is upheld the CIPD says “it may be necessary to relocate or transfer one of those involved to another part of the organisation… and it should not automatically be the complainant who is expected to move, but they should be offered the choice where practical.” It’s also important to keep in mind that where the perpetrator is transferred, no breach of contract must occur or a claim of constructive unfair dismissal could arise.

To conclude
Bullying and harassment is an unpleasant side to human nature. The number of incidents seems to be on the rise, but thankfully the issue isn’t universal. Even so, employers and employees cannot ignore the subject.
 

Related Articles

  • Bullying in the workplace 

    Harassment and bullying remain significant workplace issues despite growing awareness. The Acas Workplace Trends 2016 report said anti-bullying policies had been widely adopted in Britain but were not adequately dealing with this behaviour: “last year over 20,000 calls were taken by the Acas helpline on bullying and harassment with some people reporting truly horrifying incidents including humiliation, ostracism, verbal and physical abuse.”


    Typical behaviours
    According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), many typical harassment and bullying behaviours can manifest in the workplace, from unwanted remarks and physical contact to shouting and persistent unwarranted criticism.

    Research shows employees affected are more likely to be depressed and anxious, less satisfied with their work, have a low opinion of their managers, and want to leave the organisation. The CIPD says “organisations should treat any form of harassment or bullying seriously not just because of the legal implications and because it can lead to under-performance, but also because people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work.”

    An organisation’s public image can be badly damaged when incidents occur, particularly when they attract media attention. This was the situation that Audi Reading unfortunately found themselves in at the end of May 2017 as a coroner examined the suicide of an apprentice mechanic. While the behaviour of some of the staff was found to be unacceptable, the coroner held the dealership free of blame for the death as there were numerous other external influences that led to the suicide. But that finding didn’t stop a torrent of ill-informed abuse being directed at the dealership and staff.


    The law
    Bullying is not specifically defined in law but Acas gives a definition. It says that “bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”

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  • Part two The good and THE GREAT  

    In part one, we looked at the start of the ‘diagnostic process.’ The first steps were customer questioning, confirming the fault and knowing the system and its function. These help the technician to build the ‘big picture’ necessary to repair the vehicle correctly.
    In this article we will look at the next four steps.

    Step 4: Gather evidence
    It is easy to overlook this step as many technicians think of it as the overall ‘diagnosis.’ However, once the technician understands the system, gathering evidence will provide key information. This step is normally best carried out with the use of test equipment that does not mean the dismantling of systems and components.

    Many technicians have their own favourite tools and equipment but this list can include (but not limited to)
    the following:
    Scan tool – It is always best practice to record the fault codes present, erase the codes, and then recheck. This means codes which reappear are still current. Remember that a fault code will only indicate a fault with a circuit or its function. It is not always the component listed in the fault code that is at fault

    Oscilloscope – An oscilloscope can be used for a multitude of testing/initial measuring without being intrusive. Some oscilloscope equipment suppliers are looking at systems within high voltages hybrid/electric vehicle technology. The waveforms produced by the test equipment can be used when analysing the evidence and may indicate that a fault exists within a system. An understanding of the system being tested will be necessary to understand the information. This may even include performing sums so all those missed maths lessons at school may come back to haunt you. It may take time to become confident analysing the waveforms, so be patient

    Temperature measuring equipment – This can include the use of thermal imaging cameras. Most systems that produce energy/work will also produce some heat. The temperatures produced vary from system to system. Examples include everything from engine misfires to electrical components, as well as air conditioning system components and mechanical components such as brake and hub assemblies. The possibilities are endless and results can be thought provoking.

    Emission equipment – By measuring the end result, an exhaust gas analyser can show you if the engine is functioning correctly. The incorrect emissions emitted from the exhaust help indicate a system fault or a mechanical fault with the engine

    Technical service bulletins – Many vehicle manufacturers produce technical service bulletins (TSBs) that are generated by a central point (usually a technical department) from the information that is gathered from their network of dealers. Some of these may be available to the independent sector either through the VM or through a third party – It’s always worth checking if these exist. They may indicate a common fault that has been reported similar to that the technician is facing. Some test equipment suppliers may provide TSBs as part of a diagnostic tool package

    Software updates – Many vehicle systems are controlled by a ECU. Most vehicle manufacturers are constantly updating system software to overcome various faults/  customer concerns. Simply by updating the software can fix the vehicles problem without any other intervention of repairing a possible fault. This is where having a link to a vehicle manufacturer is vital in repairing the vehicle

    Hints & tips – Most technicians will have a link or access to a vehicle repair forum where they can ask various questions on vehicle faults and may get some indication of which system components are likely to cause a vehicle fault

    Functional checks – Vehicle systems are interlinked and typically share information using a vehicle network. The fault may cause another system to function incorrectly, so it is vitally important that the technician carries out a functional check to see if the reported fault has an effect on another system. By carrying out this check the technician again is building the big picture

    Actuator checks – Most systems today are capable of performing actuator tests. The technician can perform various checks to components to check its operation and if the system ECU can control the component, often reducing the time to the diagnosis, by performing this task the technician can identify whether it is the control signal, wiring or component or it is sensor wiring. This function can be used in conjunction with serial data to see how the system reacts as the component functions

    Serial (live) data – The technician can typically review a vehicle system serial data through a scan tool. Having live data readings to refer to can help you review the data captured. Using actuator checks and viewing the serial data can also help the technician to identify a system fault

    Remember to record all the evidence gathered so it can be analysed during the next step in the diagnosis. We can’t remember everything. If the technician needs to contact a technical helpline they will ask for the actual readings obtained recoding the data gathered will help.

    Step 5: Analyse the evidence
    Analysing evidence gathered during the previous steps can take time. The technician needs to build the big picture from all the evidence gathered during the first few steps. You need to analyse the information gathered, and decide on what information is right and wrong.

    This step may rely on experience as well as knowledge on the product. You should take your time – don’t be hurried. Time spent in the thinking stages of the diagnosis can save time later. Putting pressure on the technician can lead to errors being made. It may be necessary to ask the opinion of other technicians. If the evidence is documented it may be easier to analyse or share between others.

    Step 6: Plan the test routine
    After analysing the evidence gathered it’s now time to start to ‘plan’ the best way to approach to the task or tasks in hand.

    The technician should plan their test routine, decide on what test equipment should they use, what results are they expecting, if the result is good or bad  and which component should they test next.

    Document the plan – this enables you to review decisions made at this stage in the next step. The technician may not always get it right as there may be various routes to test systems/components. The test routine may have to be revisited depending on the results gathered during testing. Documenting the test routine will provide a map.  Also, don’t forget to list the stages, as this is something that could be incorporated into an invoicing structure later.

    The technician should indicate on the routine what readings they expect when they carry out the system testing. This can be generated by their own knowledge/skill or the expected readings may come from vehicle information which they have already sourced. If the information is not known at the time the test routine is planned, then the test routine may highlight what information is required and what test equipment is needed. You shouldn’t be afraid to revisit the plan at any time and ask further questions on which direction the tests should take. If the plan is well documented and the technician becomes stuck at any point, they can pause the process and revisit later. Also the information can then be shared with various helplines that support workshop networks.

    Step 7: System testing
    The technician then follows their pre-determined plan, if it is documented they can record the results of the test(s) as they follow the routine.

    Many technicians tend to go a little off-piste when they get frustrated. Having the routine documented can keep the technician on track and focused on the result. If the routine is followed and the fault cannot be found the technician may have to go back to the analysing the evidence or planning the test routine. The technician shouldn’t be scared of going back a few steps, as I said previously analysing the evidence takes practice and can be time consuming, not to be rushed.
        
    Summing up
    Remember to follow the process. It is easy to be led off track by various distractions but don’t try to short circuit the process. Some steps may take longer than first thought to accomplish than others. Some distractions may be outside of your control, and it may be necessary to educate others. Practice, practice, practice. Refine the process to fit in with your business and its practices, the business could align its estimating/cost modelling to the process, being able to charge effectively and keeping the customer informed at each stage of the process.

    Coming up...
    In the next article I will be looking at the next four steps which are; Step 8: Conclusion (the root cause), Step 9: Rectify the fault and Step 10: Recheck the system(s). The last article in this series will indicate the final three steps and how to fit them all together in order to become a great technician and perhaps succeed in Top Technician or Top Garage in 2018.



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