The Society of St Margaret
The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham
A recognised community within the Church of England
This policy should be reviewed at the first Trustees meeting of each year.
This policy is based upon the model policy contained within the Archbishops’ Council publication Dignity at Work (2008)
Statement of commitment
The Church is required by God to foster relationships of the utmost integrity, truthfulness and trustworthiness. Harassment and bullying – however rare - will not be tolerated. All complaints of harassment and bullying will be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.
Kindness is one Christian attributes by which we should all live; St Paul names it as one of the fruits of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians.
What is bullying and harassment?
Bullying and harassment includes any behaviour which an individual or group knows, or ought reasonably to know, could have the potential effect of offending, humiliating, intimidating or isolating an individual or group to the extent that it causes actual harm or distress to the target(s), normally but not exclusively, after a series of incidents over a prolonged period of time. Lack of intent does not diminish, excuse or negate the impact on the target or the distress caused. Harassment, in general terms, is unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religious belief (including theology or churchmanship), nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The important point is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.
On the whole it is safest to take the view that if a person complains that they are being bullied or harassed, then they have a grievance, which should be dealt with regardless of whether or not their complaint accords with a standard definition.
How can bullying and harassment be recognised?
Bullying may manifest itself in a variety of different ways. It is usually persistent, and often unpredictable, and can amount to severe psychological intimidation. It is insidious, and undermines the ability and confidence of the person suffering from it. It can lead to fear, isolation, demotivation and reduced output, poor concentration, symptoms of stress, a noticeable level of sickness absence or stubborn attendance when obviously unwell, psychological, emotional and physical harm.
Examples of bullying behaviour
This list of behaviours is not exhaustive but gives a clear indication of the sorts of actions that constitute bullying or harassment:
• removing areas of responsibility without discussion or notice
• isolating someone or deliberately ignoring or excluding them from activities
• consistently attacking someone’s professional or personal standing
• setting out to make someone appear incompetent
• persistently picking on someone in front of others
• deliberate sabotage of work or actions
• deliberately withholding information or providing incorrect information.
• overloading with work/reducing deadlines without paying attention to any protest
• displays of offensive material
• use of e-mails to reprimand, insult or otherwise inform someone of their apparent failing, either to the individual or to third parties
• repeatedly shouting or swearing in public or in private
• spreading malicious rumours to third parties
• public humiliation by constant innuendo, belittling and ‘putting down’
• personal insults and name-calling
• aggressive gestures, verbal threats and intimidation
• persistent threats about security
• making false accusations
• aggressive bodily posture or physical contact
• talking/shouting directly into someone’s face
• direct physical intimidation, violence or assault
The most serious incidents might result in:
• creating an unsafe working environment
• ignoring signs of overwork and extreme stress
• putting someone’s health physically, emotionally or psychologically at risk by making them upset, frightened and/or ridiculed
On the other hand it is important to distinguish between bullying, and behaviour that is reasonable in a particular context. For example, there may be occasions where shortcomings in performance are being addressed and more incisive behaviour is interpreted as bullying simply because the recipient is unused to being challenged or asked to account for their actions.
Counselling and dispute resolution
Mediation is often the best way of dealing with issues of bullying and harassment. Professional counsellors, trades unions, and professional associations are other useful sources of support for individuals. See appendix for further details.
It is Priory policy that these matters are to be treated with absolute confidentiality in order to protect all parties and that no action will be taken without the willing consent of the person who feels he or she has been a target unless someone is at risk or performing an action which is unlawful.
False accusations are a serious matter. The behaviour of anyone who is found to have made an unfounded, malicious complaint or allegation will be regarded with the utmost seriousness .
A range of resources including further reading, sources of advice and training providers is available in ‘Dignity at Work’, Church House Publishing 2008 and www.cofe.anglican.org /lifeevents/ministry/workofmindiv/dracsc/dignity/dignity.doc
Recommended Guidelines for Dealing with inappropriate behaviour.
When any incident of inappropriate behaviour occurs, the following steps are recommended. These steps are without prejudice to the legal rights and responsibilities of the individuals involved.
Making a note of the incident
In the event of an incident of inappropriate behaviour the people involved are strongly advised to write down exactly what happened, when, where and in the presence of whom. Such a record should include any words used and witness statements if possible and should be made as soon as possible after the alleged incident occurred.
Initial informal response
The first step in response to an incident is for the person affected to consider requesting the alleged perpetrator(s) either orally or in writing not to repeat that behaviour. The person affected might go to the perpetrator alone or with a friend, or follow up with a friend if a one-to-one approach does not work. It is hoped that many incidents will be resolve with understanding and respect in this way.
If such a response does not lead to a satisfactory outcome; or if the person affected does not wish to confront the alleged perpetrator; or if the person affected thinks that a more significant response is required, then further action is necessary. At this stage, the person affected might wish to consult a friend or colleague for advice. Where relevant they might wish to take advice on their legal rights.
All Sisters, employees, and volunteers have personal responsibilities for up-holding the principles of equal opportunity and helping others to achieve the aims of this Policy.
last reviewed 2.3.23