There is currently no uniform definition of workplace bullying available. The INTO policy document Staff Relations: a Report on Adult Bullying in Schools relies on the definition that bullying is "repeated aggressive behaviour of a verbal, physical or psychological nature". The document presents a range of other definitions in use by various unions and organisations and also describes the forms and effects of bullying and profiles both the typical victim and bully.
Adult bullying can take many different forms which usually include:
- intimidation or harassment
- verbal abuse
- dominance or abuse of power
- different or unfavourable treatment
- exclusion or isolation
Key features of adult bullying are that the behaviour is generally:
- persistent and/or systematic
Management and INTO have adopted the definition of bullying set out by the Health and Safety Authority which is:
“Workplace bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could be reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.
An isolated incident of the behavior described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work, but as a once-off incident is not considered to be bullying.”
Accordingly, it is the view of INTO and management, that the exercise of legitimate management functions, in a reasonable and fair manner, does not constitute bullying.
The INTO Equality Committee has prepared a sample Dignity at Work Policy which schools can discuss and adapt to suit their own particular needs.