The difference between assertive management and bullying
1 January 2023
This article was first published on the Batchelor’s Solicitors website prior to its merger with Birketts.
There is all the difference in the world between an assertive management style and one that descends into aggressive bullying. As an Employment Tribunal (ET) ruling showed, employers who fail to take effective steps to stamp out the latter behaviour expose themselves to severe reputational and financial consequences.
The case focused on the stormy relationship between a charity employee and her line manager. Matters came to a head at a meeting when the line manager was seen to become confrontational, shouting at the employee. He pointed his finger at her, threw back his chair and stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him. The tension between them persisted for an extended period thereafter and culminated in the employee’s resignation whilst on sick leave, suffering from stress.
In upholding her complaint of unfair constructive dismissal, the ET found that the line manager’s aggressive behaviour at the meeting was extreme and unwarranted. It was surprising that he was neither held accountable at the time nor, at the very least, asked to apologise to those at the meeting. Apparently emboldened by senior management’s inaction, his behaviour worsened thereafter and escalated during discussions about the employee’s role and the restructuring of his team.
The evidence appeared to demonstrate the employer’s ongoing tolerance of the line manager’s behaviour. Senior management’s failure to take firm action against him showed a lack of support for the employee over a sustained period, culminating in an apparent general lack of care for her welfare. She suffered a great deal of distress and her feeling that she had been let down by her employer was the ultimate reason for her resignation.
A long line of failures by the employer to deal properly with any grievances she raised against the line manager amounted to a failure to provide her with a suitable working environment. Those omissions contravened the relationship of trust and confidence that should exist between any employer and employee. If not agreed, the amount of the employee’s compensation would be assessed at a further hearing. However, the ET urged both sides to reach a settlement in the light of its ruling.
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The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at January 2023.