How to handle Workplace Harassment as a manager

Workplace harassment. Female hand holding males leg

What is the role of a manager in harassment?

The role of a manager when it comes to workplace harassment primarily is to prevent it from occurring however when handling bullying and harassment in the UK workplace it is fairly similar to other situations in the workplace.

This includes the implementation of policies, companies should have anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies within their employee handbooks. Employees must be given a copy of the handbook at the beginning of their employment and made aware of policies.

Creating a respectful and inclusive culture within a team may begin with the line manager’s attitude and behaviour towards team members. Modelling respectful and appropriate behaviour towards everyone in the workplace.

Training managers to understand workplace harassment is critical. Furthermore, the whole team should be trained appropriately also, for understanding what amounts to workplace harassment.

Managers have an obligation to intervene if they witness bullying or harassment in the workplace, managers do not have to wait until a formal grievance has been lodged.  However, if a formal grievance has been lodged managers should be proactive in handling these whilst being respectful and keeping all information confidential. Managers must follow correct procedures and policies.

Following the Equality Act 2010 UK, managers must ensure employees who filed complaints of workplace harassment are not victimised or retaliated against. The manager will also need to keep accurate records of workplace harassment incidents. Records of all conversations, investigations, and actions taken following the complaint.

A manager’s attitude and behaviours may have significant impacts on the prevalence of workplace harassment, especially in smaller organisations.

Definition of bullying and harassment

Harassment is unwanted conduct related to the equality grounds which damages, or is done with the aim of damaging, a person’s dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.

CIPD research shows that 15% of employees had experienced bullying over the past three years, with 8% reporting harassment and 4% sexual harassment.

Organisations should not tolerate any form of unfair treatment such as bullying or harassment. Though some of the reasons for this are obvious (legal and reputational risk, work and underperformance), employers also have a duty of care to ensure that employees work in a safe environment, are treated with respect, and enjoy the quality of working life.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace is a difficult issue to address and deal with in the workplace, but it cannot be ignored. A person’s banter/jokes can be bullying to another person, especially if this banter is repetitive.

How do managers deal with harassment?

Managers have a crucial role in dealing with harassment, fostering a safe and respectful environment, and ensuring that any form of harassment is not tolerated. They must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to address such situations promptly and effectively.

 This starts with understanding the company’s anti-harassment policies and procedures, which should be clearly outlined in the organization’s employee handbook. Managers should be proactive in disseminating this information among employees, reinforcing the rules, and defining acceptable behaviour. Equally important is understanding the process for handling complaints, whether informal or formal and ensuring they are addressed without delay or bias.

Managers should be vigilant and proactive, not waiting for formal written complaints before taking action. Furthermore, these procedures should be reviewed and updated periodically to maintain compliance with evolving laws and norms. Hence, dealing with harassment is a multifaceted responsibility, requiring managers to act as educators, enforcers, mediators, and advocates for their employees.

The do’s and don’ts for handling workplace harassment


  • Have a clear policy drafted in employment handbooks outlining what is deemed as acceptable behaviour, including the definitions of bullying and harassment.
  • Detailing the employer’s and employee’s responsibilities when it comes to workplace harassment.
  • The company’s process for handling complaints should be outlined informally and formally.
  • The policy must be communicated to all employees and always made available to read.
  • Reviewing the policy frequently keeping it compliant.
  • Line managers and team leaders must be fully versed on the policy, especially how and when to implement it.


  • Don’t sit back and do nothing when concerns are raised.
  • Don’t stand back until the issue is raised formally or in writing.
  • Take shortcuts, make sure to follow the full process when dealing with raised concerns or formal complaints.

Poor management of sexual harassment report

A Leeds tribunal ruled in favour of a 19-year-old sales assistant, identified as Ms D, who accused her 40-year-old colleague, Mr F, and her employer of sexual harassment. The tribunal found that Mr F had subjected Ms D to unwelcome sexual conduct, and Ms G, who presided over Ms D’s grievance appeal, had “patronized and belittled” her, essentially suggesting that sexual harassment is an expected part of womanhood.

The harassment occurred when Ms D was reassigned to the warehouse due to a Covid-caused café closure. She reported Mr F touched her inappropriately and became more confident throughout the day. Mr F denied all allegations but the tribunal favoured Ms D’s account, noting inconsistencies in Mr F’s statement and that Ms D reported the incident almost immediately.

After confiding in her friend and her older sister, Ms D reported the incident to her team leader who then escalated it to the deputy manager and HR. An internal investigation found insufficient evidence to penalize Mr F, leading to an appeal on Ms D’s part.

In the appeal hearing, Ms G was recorded making comments that blamed Ms D for not stopping or reporting the harassment sooner. G’s views, seemingly normalized around the inevitability of harassment for women, were deemed by the tribunal as influential in her approach to the appeal and her refusal to act against Mr F.

Employment Judge Miller ruled that Mr F’s actions were an “escalating infringement” of Ms D’s personal space motivated by sexual interest and the claims of harassment were successful against Mr F and the employer. He also criticized Ms G’s approach, considering her questioning “badgering and repetitive” and concluded her views were inherently biased, creating an intimidating environment for Ms D.

source: people management

Bullying allegation led to UK MP resignation.

British Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, has resigned after allegations of bullying led to an independent investigation. Raab faced several complaints about his conduct from civil servants, particularly in Westminster, leading to a protracted inquiry. Despite the inquiry finding against him in only two out of numerous cases, Raab felt duty-bound to uphold his commitment to resign if any accusations were validated.

In his resignation letter, Raab expressed concerns that the inquiry could set a risky precedent, facilitating unwarranted complaints against ministers. He also lamented the leaks from employees, revealing aspects of his behaviour to the media. Raab insisted he acted professionally at all times, though he accepted the inquiry’s conclusion.

One verified incident involved Raab’s conduct with a senior diplomat during Brexit negotiations concerning Gibraltar. The second episode dated back to his tenure at the Ministry of Justice between 2021-2022.

Following Raab’s departure, Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, is set to replace him as Justice Secretary, while Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Dowden, will assume the role of Deputy Prime Minister.

Raab’s resignation marks the third departure of a senior minister under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over personal conduct issues.

The allegations against Raab have highlighted the growing tension between the civil service and the government, with some employees even expressing fears about coming to work. Raab’s departure is seen as both a setback and an opportunity for Sunak, who enjoyed Raab’s political backing. The latter’s future involvement in the government remains to be seen.

Source: Aljazeera News

What is Harassment?

Harassment is unwanted conduct related to the equality grounds that damages, or is done with the aim of damaging, a person’s dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.

Types of Harassment

  • Physical contact ranging from touching to serious assault
  • Verbal and written harassment through jokes, teasing or banter, offensive language, gossip and slander, songs, letters
  • Online harassment
  • Visual displays of posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems
  • Isolation or non-cooperation, exclusion from social activities
  • Coercion ranging from pressure for sexual favours to pressure to participate in political/ religious groups
  • Intrusion by pestering, spying, following etc

Implications of Harassment & Bullying

Harassment and bullying in the workplace are not only unethical but can also have far-reaching negative implications that extend beyond the individuals directly involved. These behaviours can create a hostile work environment, leading to a myriad of adverse outcomes affecting employees, management, and the overall organisation.

The toll can be both psychological, manifesting in stress-related complaints, and operational, such as lower productivity and increased staff turnover. Here are some significant implications of unchecked harassment and bullying within a work environment:

  • Low morale and poor employee relations
  • Increase in absenteeism
  • Increased staff turnover
  • Decline in productivity
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of respect for managers
  • Damage to the image of the business
  • Stress-related complaints, absences and claims
  • Industrial Tribunal or other civil court claims

Workplace harassment of Remote Workers

The advent of remote work, while offering flexibility and efficiency, also presents new challenges for maintaining a respectful and inclusive work environment. Harassment and bullying can occur even outside traditional office spaces, manifesting subtly in various digital interactions.

The fact that these actions take place online can sometimes mask the severity of their impact, but they are no less detrimental. Remote workers might experience different forms of harassment and bullying, ranging from exclusion from online meetings to belittlement of their contributions, or even public humiliation on social platforms like Facebook.

Here are some of the ways in which bullying, and harassment can manifest in a remote work context:

  • Posting on face book
  • Micro-managing
  • Demonstrating a subconscious bias
  • Not inviting to online meetings
  • Ignoring or belittling someone’s contribution at online meetings
  • Failing to copy individual into emails
  • Making decisions without including someone
  • Ignoring/not calling someone 

Employee Rights for workplace harassment and bullying

  • Right to work in a good and harmonious environment that is free from harassment and bullying
  • To be treated with dignity, respect and courtesy
  • Right to complain about such behaviour should it occur
  • Right to have a complaint dealt with through the internal procedure seriously, promptly and confidentially
  • Right not to be victimised should a complaint be raised whether they have made the complaint or given evidence or information in connection with a complaint

Employee’s Responsibilities for workplace harassment and bullying

  • To comply with the Harassment & Bullying Policy
  • To treat each other with dignity and respect
  • Not to commit any acts of harassment & bullying against any person
  • To be mindful of others when expressing views
  • To discourage harassment and bullying by making it clear that they find such behaviour unacceptable
  • To support co-workers who suffer such treatment
  • To alert a manager or supervisor if aware of any incidence of harassment or bullying to enable it to be dealt with

Employer’s Responsibilities for workplace harassment and bullying

  • To make good faith efforts to implement this policy
  • To provide appropriate training
  • To enforce the policy on a day to day basis through line managers and supervisors
  • To set a good example for other employees to follow
  • To intervene where necessary to protect and reassure employees
  • To deal promptly with all complaints

Managers Responsibilities for workplace harassment and bullying

  • You are a role model
  • Employees will look to see what you say and do in dealing with harassment and bullying
  • Do not engage in any harassment or bullying
  • Do not turn a blind eye to any harassment or bullying
  • Set a good example for other employees to follow
  • Intervene where necessary to protect and reassure employees
  • Support employees who complain of harassment or bullying
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