Instant Messaging has proved to be an invaluable means of communicating with staff who are working from home, with applications such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Whatsapp being increasingly used on a day to day basis.
However, whilst such channels can improve efficiency, the absence of visual and verbal feedback can give rise to feelings of stress and anxiety amongst staff who have not been used to communicating in this way.
The delivery of negative messages via group channels can also carry a risk of employees feeling belittled in the sight of colleagues, or even intimidated.
Even if the sender has not intended such a response, the result can cause upset, escalation to grievances and ultimately Employment Tribunal claims.
Bullying behaviour in the workplace can give rise to claims of Constructive Dismissal and, if it can be linked to the victim having a protected characteristic, Unlawful Discrimination, which can carry hefty compensatory awards in the Employment Tribunal.
So what should you do to protect your organisation from complaints of bullying?
- Ensure your bullying/harassment policy covers remote communications
- Train managers on effective digital communication and the risks of getting it wrong
- Be prepared to take disciplinary action where a complaint of bullying is upheld
- Give employees a means of raising issues before they escalate
For more advice on dealing with workplace bullying and how to prevent it as an employer, please get in touch on 01942 727 200.