What are the causes and solutions?

It is widely documented that, on an individual level, bullying occurs because a bully often has low self-esteem, a difficult home life or has been bullied themselves in the past, causing them to redirect anger towards others.

While these factors are very difficult for businesses and companies to monitor and resolve, managers and leaders can still take decisive steps to prevent and mitigate abuse behaviours.

ODRL can provide a range of solutions to help organisations to eliminate harassment, bullying and abuse:

  1. Developing a Positive Organisation Culture: Help develop a deep understanding of the current culture through the engagement and involvement of people using interactive focus groups, culture audits and in-depth interviews
  2. Visible Change: Identify practical actions that can address harassment, bullying and abuse in the workplace
  3. Measurable Change: Develop the evidence base of change through continuous monitoring of data and pulse surveys
  4. Behavioural and Attitudinal Change: Conducting innovative large/small group workshops to bring about ‘in the moment’ sustainable behavioural and attitudinal behavioural change

A poor social work climate with a large power imbalance is shown to increase the instances of workplace bullying (Samnami, 2012) indicating that abusive behaviours also can be initiated or exacerbated by the work climate, this is where decision-makers can step in to mitigate harassment. Being pro-active about establishing a positive company culture is a key starting point, research (Glambek, 2017) has shown that Laissez-faire leadership styles, in which leaders exhibit passive, avoidant and non-responsive behaviours, create an atmosphere where bullying can persist and worsen.

Company culture comes from the top and disseminates downwards, that’s why the attitudes and values of leaders and decision-makers are key in determining whether workplaces become positive places or breeding grounds for harassment.

Some leaders pay no heed to reports of bullying and do not expend any time or resources to try and prevent or solve matters of abuse, in fact, a quarter of employees think their companies turn a blind eye to workplace bullying and harassment.

Hence, it is critical to have in place leaders who visibly take action against harassment, bullying and abuse and take ownership of building and sustaining positive organisation cultures.

But creating a positive work environment is easier said than done and, while having a passive response can be damaging, attempting to resolve cultural problems without a clear or proven strategy can be equally bad.

Lutgen-Sandvik & Namie (2010) found managerial intervention either does not take place or makes thing markedly worse in the majority of bullying incidents. Here are the general EHRC guidelines recommended as best practice for businesses:

  • Develop effective anti-harassment policy.
  • Engage their staff.
  • Assess and mitigate risks in the workplace.
  • Think about reporting systems.
  • Deliver training.
  • Know what to do when a complaint is made.
  • Know what to do if dealing with sexual harassment and third parties.


You can read more about the seriousness of Harassment, Abuse and Bullying in one of our other blogs here.



Glambek, M., Skogstad, A., & Einarsen, S. (2018) Workplace bullying, the development of job insecurity and the role of laissez-faire leadership: A two-wave moderated mediation study, Work & Stress, 32:3, 297-312.

Lutgen-Sandvik, P., Namie, G. & Namie, R., 2010. Workplace bullying: Causes, consequences, and corrections. In Destructive organizational communication. 43-68.

Samnani, A.-K., & Singh, P. (2012). ‘20 years of workplace bullying research: A review of the antecedents and consequences of bullying in the workplace.’ Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(6), 581–589.


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