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Movember

It’s starting to get dark early and mornings are getting colder. Bonfire night has passed, Black Friday is almost on us and in four weeks it will be Christmas.

I don’t mean to be personal but is your workplace looking a bit hairy round the upper lip at the moment? We’re part way through the November and that means that moustache growing is in full swing. In fact – these day November is Movember (that’s not a typo!).

The Movember Foundation started in 2003. 30 men grew moustaches for charity and the thing just snowballed. In 2004, the event grew to 450 participants and together they raised a whopping $43,000 (around £25K.

Their tagline is ‘grow a mo and save a bro’. Men across the country are sporting moustaches of all shapes and sizes. The charity deals with some of the biggest men’s health issues including prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

Movemeber can find its way into the workplace in a number of ways. Some employees may be growing facial hair to raise money for charity. An employee may have been affected by one or more of the health issues either personally or through a friend or loved one. There will even be times when things in the workplace will directly impact an employee, for example bullying and harassment.

A few years ago, Sujeev Kuma rwas travelling through Sharjah airport. He complained that a passport control official retained his passport because he did not like Mr Kumar’s moustache. Mr Kumar said that the officer “… stamped my passport, kept looking at me and the picture in the passport. He asked me how I keep my moustache brushed” and laughed.

If the incident happened as described this was bullying behaviour. What happens in the greater world is often reflected in microcosm in the workplace.

So often we hear employees say ‘you’re bullying me’ when a manager is trying to manage an employee’s poor performance. Managing effectively by coaching and guiding an employee is not bullying or harassment. Managers have a right to manage people. There are sometimes some genuine cases of bullying and harassment, either between a manager and employee or between two employees. Where there is a genuine case matters need to be dealt with appropriately before they escalate.

There is no legal definition of bullying, though it is very similar to harassment. Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment and it is connected with a protected characteristic (gender, age, race etc). Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Bullying can sometimes be obvious but there are also more subtle forms. Some examples of both are given below.

  • Shouting and/or swearing
  • Keeping back information or giving wrong information
  • Physical violence
  • Setting impossible goals or often changing goals
  • Constant criticism
  • Stopping requests for leave or training
  • Spreading gossip
  • Unjustified disciplinary action

Examples of harassment include

  • Sexually or racially explicit jokes or comments
  • Sexual advances
  • Wolf whistling
  • Displaying obscene or offensive material
  • Calling someone by a nickname linked to a protected characteristic such as race or age

Take steps to prevent bullying and harassment. This may include policies which give examples of unacceptable behaviour and making employees aware that this may result in disciplinary action. Provide training to managers and other senior staff to demonstrate how to deal with poor performance properly and how to spot signs of potential bullying and harassment.

If problems are not dealt with it can lead to a number of problems. This may start with minor poor performance but the problem can grow to poor morale, high absence levels, damage to an organisation’s reputation and even to the point of tribunal and/or criminal court cases.

We deal with the good, the bad and the ugly of HR. If you need help resolving problems with hairy harassment or any other HR issues, give us a call on 01908 262628.

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Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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