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Civil Service

Review of arrangements for tackling harassment and misconduct

Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary for DCMS and the Civil Service LGB&TI Champion
Sue Owen, Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion Champion

Within the Civil Service, we are totally committed to ensuring that all of our people are treated with dignity and respect. We have zero tolerance for any form of bullying, harassment and discrimination from any source, and where it occurs it is essential that it gets reported and is tackled.

All departments have arrangements for staff to speak up on any matters of concern, and for those to be investigated and dealt with. Alongside this, departments have been working to ensure staff feel safe and supported to speak out.

However, the latest People Survey again tells us that some of you encounter bullying, harassment and discrimination in your working lives and workplaces. In the 2017 survey, on average 12% of respondents at Civil Service level reported having personally experienced discrimination at work, and 11% said they had personally experienced bullying or harassment. To put that into perspective, in each case, that means around 35,000 of our own colleagues across the Civil Service – and the overall percentages have stayed much the same since the survey began in 2009.  

Of those who experienced bullying or harassment, only 36% reported it and only 20% felt that the issue they raised had been resolved. Set alongside that, the People Survey also tells us that not everyone does feel safe to speak out. On average, 63% of respondents said that they feel able to challenge inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and only 46% feel it is safe to challenge the way things are done in their organisation.  

These are the Civil Service-wide results, and there are organisations and teams where the picture is much better than this. 

Continuing action

However, no one should feel it is unsafe to challenge something they believe to be wrong, and all Permanent Secretaries are committed to continuing action. Our Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy commits us to becoming the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020. To do that, we will continue to promote the positive behaviours we expect of all employees and an inclusive culture that is intolerant of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

We are also developing a new culture audit tool, which will be piloted in spring 2018. It will enable organisations and teams to look at how their cultures and values are influencing behaviours, and how those may need to change where they are having a negative or exclusive impact on people. This sits alongside the bullying, harassment and discrimination toolkit, which Civil Service HR published in 2016 and which managers are able to use in looking at issues within their teams.

We are also looking at whether our policies, processes and practices on harassment and misconduct are as effective as they need them to be. While we are confident we start from a good platform – with robust policies and procedures in all departments – we are also not complacent.

In all departments, HR Directors are checking that the existing arrangements are clear, accessible and effective. Alongside that, and at the request of Sir Jeremy Heywood, I am leading a review to see if there are areas where we need to strengthen our cross-Whitehall arrangements. That might include better processes for investigating concerns or for supporting staff who raise them. I am also keen that we seek out and continue to address whatever cultural or organisational blockers are stopping colleagues from feeling able to raise concerns or report inappropriate behaviour, whether that is by a civil servant or any other party.

Additionally, we are considering changes to the Civil Service Code and the Civil Service Management Code, to make clear the behaviours we can expect from each other, and that certain behaviours will not be tolerated.

Online survey

As usual, we are engaging with the trade unions and staff networks as well as looking at best practice inside and outside the Civil Service. I would like also to hear from colleagues across all departments and agencies about your ideas for how we can be even better on this issue – whether that is based on your personal experiences or on best practice where you work.  

I also recognise that, for some of you, this is not yet something that you feel safe to speak up on. So we have set up a way you can give your views anonymously, if that is what you would prefer to do, by completing a specially commissioned online survey, which civil servants can access here.

We aim to conclude the review by the end of February 2018, so are keen to get your input by Thursday 15 February. Anything received after that will still be taken into account but may not be captured in our report.  We will update you in March on what conclusions and recommendations we have reached.   

In the meantime, if you have experienced any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination in the past, or do so in the future, then I hope that through this work you will feel increasingly safe and supported to speak up. It is only through your reporting incidents, so they can be investigated and appropriate action taken, that we can move forward.

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  1. Comment by ??? posted on

    I find it interesting as I’m reading through the comments. Majority of reply’s/responses from senior Grades/managers feel like deja-vu. For the last couple of years once the surveys come out BHD is identified and then suddenly the ban wagon starts, seminars being delivered e-mails being sent out senior grades emailing/attending team meetings the list goes but unfortunately just to tick boxes. Sorry but I see it as poor attempt to convince staff and them self’s that the issue has been identified and will be dealt with but never that’s never the case. Some times you feel like a child where management being the parent realise the child is making too much noise and they find a way to divert the child’s attention. How long has BHD gone on for? I feel as a civil service we should feel ashamed of last survey results in relation to BHD. Sorry but cant remember the exact percentages but I think it was over 13% where staff with disability’s felt bullied and harassed in relation to there disabilities. Sorry but if feel BHD is totally unacceptable and this shouldn’t even be an issue in the civil service but true fact is as senior management/grades have never really try to change this with genuinely tried to resolve this.

    Civil service tends to give an impression that there is zero tolerance against BHD, but it doesn’t need to just be preached it needs to be implemented and acted on. Even when staff build up the courage to raise grievances are given no support, the person who is bullying and harassing them is allowed to continue.

  2. Comment by Silent minority posted on

    At HMRC we were constantly bombarded with reminders to ensure that the annual Civil Service People Survey was completed. As the deadline approached the reminders became a torrent. However when it came to the bullying and harassment survey, the silence was deafening, especially from the senior leaders. I recall one general reminder to complete the survey, but nothing else. Is it because the same level of importance is not attached to such a survey? Every manager at HMRC should have been asked to hold team meetings with their staff to talk specifically about the survey and to encourage every member to complete it. The fact that this was not done gave the impression that such matters were not a priority even though it blights the lives of so many of its people.

  3. Comment by A witness posted on

    I TOTALLY agree with “S on 09 February 2018”, about taking the investigation OUT OF THE HANDS of the Civil Service. Also, keeping records to identify reoffenders.

    For what I could see, when there is a complaint, informal discussions with management tend to fall in deaf ears. On the other hand, the way grievances are conducted lack objectivity, impartiality, transparency, honesty and integrity. Isn’t that part of the Civil Service Code?

    If a person raises a grievance against a manager this goes to the senior reporting officer (SRO). The SRO finds someone in their Group at their level to conduct the grievance. The result is a STRONG resistance to admit that the manager is at fault. This leaves the person raising the complaint feeling uncomfortable as if they did not have a fair share. They are in a non-equal playing field. This makes the whole process unfair.

  4. Comment by from, Fearful of the reprocussions of commenting posted on

    The grievance process seems to be geared to protecting the perpetrator, the victim is told not to speak about it or they will lose their job (or even lose their job because they have spoken out), even though they are taken away from their role to avoid working with the perpetrator, even if it leaves them working within the same office so having to see the person on a daily basis who has bullied, harassed or even abused. You have 10 days to appeal, even if the process has taken 4 months, of endurance. Whilst the person whom the complaint has been made against is happily left in their job able to flaunt their "success" to the victim. This process needs reform, so that the grievance submitted I don’t think would be possible, but the witness statements should be available to both parties, isn't shown to the perpetrator and witness statements aren't shown to the perpetrator as this could influence the witness decision if they are also fearful of repercussions.

    I believe that nearly all people within the CS who are treated in this manner leave their jobs rather than deal with the grievance procedure as they know leaving will have a less damaging effect on their career.

    From a very let down member of the CS.

  5. Comment by Anne posted on

    There are three things that concern me about the process of raising a greivance against a line manager. One the person raising the greivance is often the one removed from the situation (sometimes on the grounds that they may influence the witnessess, in some cases managers/HR don't even give a reason), but the alleged bully is left to exert their own influence. Apart from this being against the written process, is this not also unfair and victimisation or perhaps an deliberate example of how we treat people who make a complaint?

    The person who raises the greivence doesn't see what the witnessess have said in their statements, but the alleged bully does and knowing this will influence the statements made by witnessess, is this not bias.

    The last point I would make is that if the greivance is not upheld all the documents relating to the greivance will be destroyed after the 10 days available to the aggrieved to appeal. Shouldn't we be keeping records of serial abusers? Therefore until we have a fair process how can we expect that staff will safe or supported in raising greivances?

  6. Comment by New staff member posted on

    I was harassed at a previous job and had the full support of management and HR. It was a senior staff member and that person was eventually dismissed for their behaviour.

    I don’t feel at all that this is the case in the Civil Service after what I’ve recently witnessed. There’s no real support for victims or witnesses of misconduct, in fact, as a witness, I was discouraged from speaking out. Management take the attitude that nothing will come of informal discussions (the route HR encouraged me to go down), especially where senior staff members are concerned. I don’t think the informal policy works, people need HR's support to take bullying and harassment seriously, and for actions against perpetrators to actually be enforced.

    I’m feeling completely disillusioned and if I was a victim here, I wouldn’t feel confident speaking up and out at all.

  7. Comment by Disillusioned posted on

    All of you who complain of bullying and harrassment shouldn't be so sensitive! That's the advice I was given by a manager. I've lost confidence in reporting any issues of bullying and harrassment now.

  8. Comment by Chris posted on

    Bullying can be done publically or privately, it is a power play that diminishes the victim. Tackling bullying must therefore be public. Why are bullies never publically held to account? Why where they are moved along is bullying never the acknowledged reason? Why do we still protect the bully's reputation?

    Seeing as doing nothing about the bully is nearly as bad as doing nothing.

    I respect everyone above who has posted, you are still fighting to ensure our concerns are raised. Good on you.

  9. Comment by PB posted on

    I read a lot of comments suggesting bullying/lack of training etc. by a management grade. Whilst I don't disagree with this, the whole 'I am getting bullied' accusation can be thrown about too easily.

    Having been an operational manager I am all too aware of staff that will make that accusation to get away from a manager that is managing them for attendance or behaviours. They think they are being bullied because their last manager never took action over their poor performance/attendance.

    • Replies to PB>

      Comment by Diana Day posted on

      I too have been an operational manger for a number of years in a different industry where attendance management was part of the disciplinary policy along with two other forms of disciplinary action the whole process took six moths its was about being corrective not punitive. Because the department deals with the policy singularly staff will consider this as bullying. Leading, Mangaing, Motivation etc that highlight good management. Managers can make decisions based upon the individual but all to often managers think that following the book is the only way to manage a situation. It isn't. Unfortunately your example doesn't show great fortitude. one has to look at the bigger picture.

  10. Comment by Todd Bailey posted on

    Are we declaring war on bullying and harassment? Will that be more effective than declaring war on drugs or declaring war on terror? I hope instead that we are seeking evidence-based policies and practices, informed by theories of human behaviour, that will focus on harm reduction. Maybe that is what is already being done, but I have not seen anything in the discussion that suggests anything so enlightened.

    • Replies to Todd Bailey>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Todd

      As I said in an earlier post, we have been trying to take as comprehensive look at this issue as possible, and have had some great contributions from colleagues who have shared approaches which they have seen work. If you have any examples you would be able to share, that would be really helpful and much appreciated.

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by Daniel Stapleton posted on

        Hi Andrew,

        Surely there is more to be learnt from failure than success? On that basis wouldn't your team learn more from instances where BHD went unchecked, or continued after a complaint, then hearing about what worked?

  11. Comment by MM posted on

    I have noticed that in a majority of cases, bullying and harrassing usually by managers is linked to ignorance of the Civil Service Code.
    One way to educate those involved is by embracing skills / knowledge learnt in scenarios we see on psychometrics for jobs. Those examples of behaviours are great and it's what we see people fail to follow or emulate. take a scenario like this: in an office Tom speaks on top his voice to Anna [a subordinate] over a process mistake observed . Whats wrong? How do you, as team member, react seeing this ? etc etc.
    If teams are allowed an opportunity to discuss these things, I think, culprits will learn. The same applies to unfairness and lake of impartiality in treatment of staff. Lets loom at educative scenarios and learn form them - as an organisation.

  12. Comment by Concerned posted on

    Due to the lack of training and ignornace of what strong management is, some inexperienced managers will continue to behave in a bullying way.

    Managers of all levels need to be seen to be tackling any allegation of bullying and harassment by regularly making it a subject of open team discussion. The more it is sincerely openly talked about, the more empowered people will be to raise concerns or address it.

    The consequences and repurcussions suffered as a result of bullying are dire and no one should be mistreated like this in their place of work. A place where we spend most of our time.

  13. Comment by Gillian at EA posted on

    The Environment Agency are taking this issue really seriously and have a small team within the business looking at the definitions we use for Discrimination, Bullying, Harassment and Victimisation. We're also looking at how the Grievance procedure should work to support a respectful workplace.

    We're not perfect, but we are working hard to influence changes to our workplace to enable everyone to be themselves and challenge where situations cause concern.

  14. Comment by Mike H posted on

    If BHD isn't tackled effectively then is it any wonder that incidents aren't reported? This 'ignore the problem and it will go away' approach seems to be the default strategy - we see it isn't dealt with so decide there's no point in flagging it up. Therefore managers can say fewer incidents are being reported and the matter is in decline, ergo this isn't an issue they need to tackle.

    Sue Owen states that 'there are organisations and teams where the picture is much better than this' - so why isn't someone finding out what is being done differently/better in these organisations/teams and sharing best practice with the rest of the CS?

    • Replies to Mike H>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Mike

      That is one part of what we are doing through this review. If you or other colleagues have any more examples you are able to share of things you have done or seen work, that would be great and much appreciated.

  15. Comment by Veteran civil servant posted on

    Every year, senior managers tell us they have zero tolerance towards bullying. It would be difficult to find a department that doesn't use this line. Yet bullying is still going on. So what does zero tolerance mean?

  16. Comment by Diana Day posted on

    Dear Sue

    One can look at all of the staistical evidence that is produced in the survey and look for pointers as to why people act in an inappropriate manner and why this inappropriate actions are not dealt with. Good Mangement training is at the heart of improving communication between managers and staff but to do this you have in the first instance to have confidence in the manager, that is very hard in the Civil Service as it appears everyone gets different levels of training.

    Could this be a case that some people have managed to climb the ladder not because they have the ability to be very good leaders but have the ability to write a good story? This brings into question the promotion policy and procedure. Staff can and are bullies in their current grade but as a grace an favour they manage to get the right sort of coaching that helps them get promotion.

    One has to remember success is achieved through people, Leaders know how to motivate people, Bullies don't, this in turn leads to Harassement and quite often discrimination. The latter as other have said is often an issue that bullying and harassement it is endemic and one that needs to be stamped out.

    To achieve this will need a working party from all grades so that everyone is represented. The current Grievance process has far to many loopholes to be effective.

  17. Comment by SB posted on

    My own experience was that I had a very difficult time on a certain team where it seemed I couldn't do anything right, but it was only after I left and joined a 'normal' team that I realised this treatment had amounted to bullying. By then, I was just glad to be out of it and so didn't take it any further. But maybe it was something that senior managers should have noticed at the time?

  18. Comment by Sarah posted on

    With the increase in the use of social comminications e.g. Google Hangouts etc. what can be done to prevent bullying at this level? For example a cobversation between 2 people that no one else is party to in hangouts.

  19. Comment by E1 Survivor posted on


    A big factor for this sadly is ignronance. Thank you for showing this on here and now I know where to go however if people do not see this then it defeats the purpose. A major issue encountered since I have started 5 years ago is the lack of formal training on how the Civil service opperates, let alone how to confront bullying . You need to luck out in your first post to have a line manager to who will teach you how the system works to protect yourself. While indeed there are online courses, they only work so far. This in particular leaves the younger members of the service who may not have the life experience to know how to deal with it vulnerable

    I was heavily bullied to the point by my D band that I had broken down with stress and almost quit the service. This was at the age of 26. It remains a dark point for me in my career even today. I am thankful now lead by a brilliant line manager and by the people i work with in my regiment. Sadly those days still haunt me with my confidence undermined still (Mercifully a lot better than what I was). At the time though I had no idea what to do and felt abadoned with no one to help me or guide me. The ignorance on how we protect ourselfes is dangerous to the health and well being in the service. While I am thankful steps are being taken, i still feel more needs to be done, in particular training entry for newly enetered civil servants. I feel this would dramtically help people know how to respond and give them confidence to stand up to bullying.

  20. Comment by P posted on

    100% agree with N the fact that senior managers cover for other managers. The fact that a manager can get away with bullying and it gets so bad that the person goes off sick. Kit not maintained properly and expecting that person to KIT and RTW with the bully upon their return is unbelievable.

  21. Comment by Mike Noakes posted on

    Hi Sue,

    The team I'm in in BEIS has a niggling respect/bullying problem as reported in the staff survey and we have tried a lot of alternatives to find out more detail on the issue and so how to really design solutions to fix it. This has included various anonymised avenues and external independent parties, but so far no joy. Are there any teams out there who have had this problem, designed measures to address it and seen their levels of reported bullying etc reduce? If so, can we please come and see you to try and understand what you did, why it worked and then shamelessly copy it (with suitable credit offered, of course)? Othyerwise, like death, taxes and the poor, this kind of thing may always be with us and more and more of those not bullied or discriminated against may just shrug nfrom ennui and general despair, which would be dreadful. I say this, inevitably, as one who hasn't been bullied or discriminated against, or was too dim or thick-skinned to notice.

    Thank you.

    • Replies to Mike Noakes>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Mike

      Very happy to share what we know of good practice examples from across the Civil Service, and also outside. Please do email us via (as per the post above) and we will gladly follow up.

      If there are colleagues out there who have good practice which they would like to share with us / Mike (and which you haven't already shared via the survey), then similarly please do let us know via

  22. Comment by Anthony Garnett DFID posted on

    I think part of the problem here is how the process of making a complaint and the structure and governance of the response is so variable across the CS, for no good or logical reason.

    In DFID I head up the Internal Audit Department and within IAD we have our counter fraud section (CFS). This unit receives all complaints from internal and external sources about a wide range of matters covering corruption, aid diversion, sexual exploitation, whistleblowing complaints etc. We have professional investigative resource to respond to complaints and the ability to refer matters as appropriate to specialist resource and support, for example: management colleages (if appropriate); HR; counter terrorism; criminal investigative agencies and specialists etc. We don't investigate everything ourselves, but we ensure an appropriate investigation is done and the result is appropriate and quality assured.

    We are governed and overseen independently of the management chain (by the Audit Committee of the Departmental Board and through my direct report to the Permanent Secretary). This is unique to internal audit functions and this should provide confidence of CFS's independence to the complainant (as at the core of most whistleblowing complaints is a complaint in some level about the line management chain).

    For me it makes sense to have internal audit functions to take this role on consistently across all government departments, not the ad hoc, part HR, part line management, part counter fraud response that some departments have, currently.

  23. Comment by Carol Anderson posted on

    One element that needs to be looked at is unconscious bias as this could well be an element within BHD. The e-learning is all very good but if you fail the course, no advise is offered as to where you went wrong. If it's unconscious, how do you know where your bias is? And consequently, your bias can't be addressed as you don't know what it is!

    • Replies to Carol Anderson>

      Comment by Susie Scarlott posted on

      Hi Carol, many thanks for your post.

      The unconscious bias e-learning is available to all civil servants and is focused on exposing where bias might lie, rather than exploring an individual's personal bias. All humans have a degree of conscious and/or unconscious bias and everyone's biases will differ.This is perfectly normal, but we must make sure that any individual biases are not allowed to lead to poor behaviour and unequal treatment of others. Unconscious Bias e-learning is therefore designed to help illustrate common places where bias might lie, to help individuals reflect on their personal views, assumptions and opinions, and to consider whether and how they may need to change their behaviour. Therefore, rather than testing your own personal bias, the e-learning test also examines whether you have absorbed the content of the learning and as such is a valuable component of the course.

      If someone does not pass the e-learning they should revisit the learning before retrying the test. If someone is still struggling, a conversation with their line manager or a trusted colleague might help provide some more insight. There is also a face-to-face Unconscious Bias course, which provides a deeper look at the possible ways in which bias can be present and the impact it can have.

  24. Comment by DG posted on

    I work in MOD. When looking at the Code of Conduct for CS, it would be useful to include the RN, Army and RAF in discussions, not only for ideas be to see where we are already aligned. MOD aspires to work in a Whole Force way, but that is difficult when we have such different Terms and Conditions of Service.
    Aligning codes of conduct where possible and practical may help to break down some of the barriers within our workplace, as I was surprised and saddened to hear a colleague recently arrived from another department say that they feel like a 3rd class citizen in the way our military colleagues treats them.

    • Replies to DG>

      Comment by David Fenton, Deputy Head Civ HR Policy, MOD posted on

      Hi DG. The same code of conduct applies to all who work in Defence. Although our Civilian workforce and our colleagues in the Armed Forces operate different terms and conditions of service, many of our people work in joint environments and we have a joint policy on bullying and harassment. We also have a joint policy on Raising A Concern and a Corporate Standard on acceptable behaviour. The Permanent Secretary and Chief of Defence Staff issued a joint statement before Christmas stating that there is zero tolerance for misconduct cross Defence. No-one should feel like a third class citizen and anyone wanting to report a specific issue should ring our helpline.

  25. Comment by KD posted on

    While the "percentage" reporting BHD remains unchanged since 2009, with a reduced workforce, the actual "number" of victims of BHD has risen by a shocking 15%.

    With no shortage of reports, surveys and diversity initiatives, victims still report "fear of consequences"; "no action" and ineffective/contributory HR processes, as the real barriers to change.

    The message across the Service MUST be that discrimination and harassment is UNLAWFUL and a serious breach of the Civil Service Code.

    EVERY report of BHD should be escalated to Internal Governance as potential Gross Misconduct without fear or favour of an alleged perpetrator's seniority.

    Then and only then will the growing number of victims feel the Senior Civil Service is on their side and and not merely apologists for bad practices and bad mangers.

    • Replies to KD>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi KD

      Many thanks for the suggestions, very much appreciated.

      On your point about the actual numbers, the People Survey data shows a decrease for 2017 when compared to 2009, so it would be helpful to know what data source you are quoting from.

      As you will know, there are two relevant People Survey questions - one asking individuals if they experienced discrimination in the preceding 12 months and the other asking if they experienced bullying & harassment in the same period. The analysts who manage the Survey advise that the number of respondents to the first question is 5% lower in 2017 compared to 2009, and 14% lower for the second question.

      This is admittedly against the backdrop of there also being a lower number of respondents to the survey itself, so it is not easy to directly compare the numbers - hence us using the percentages as the main comparator. And as I have said in an earlier post in this thread, any level or form of BHD is unacceptable and needs addressing. Nonetheless, there is nothing from the People Survey - and nothing I am aware of from any other source - which supports the statement that there has been a 15% rise.

  26. Comment by Anon posted on

    I contacted a HCO to make a complaint against someone that was bullying outside of the workplace but because the person I filed the complaint about was a HCO herself nothing was done about it. I feel that we took the appropriate action and it took a lot of courage to report her to be let down by the system. I won't bother again

  27. Comment by Anne posted on

    I have experienced bullying and discrimination a few times throughout my time with the civil service ,but it is definitely on the increase

  28. Comment by Hussein posted on

    Its really very sad that in 2018 we are still discussing bullying, harassment and discrimination in the workplace as this should have been eradicated a long time ago. Treating staff with respect should be the norm.

    To be honest with the shift in attitude where we only reward managers who deliver their department's agenda regardlessly of their behaviours. Maybe we should just chin up and grow thicker skin and be content we have a job.

  29. Comment by Russell posted on

    I have applied for 20 jobs on promotion in the last 3 years and not had one interview. I have been an EO for 10 years and have managed export licences, delivered presentations to industry, ran projects, done briefing for Ministers and organised industry events - all successfully and meeting (and often exceeding) my targets.

    From reading the comments here, it is making me think that I am blacklisted in the sift as I do challenge things that I feel are wrong.

    • Replies to Russell>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Russell

      Since 2015, all departments have carried out anonymised recruitment - which in particular means that at sift stage the names and other identifying information for the candidates is not visible / available to those carrying out the sift. So it should not have been possible for anyone to assess your applications based on anything other than what was on the paper in front of them. If you would like any more information on this, please get in touch via (as per the post above).

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by Russell posted on

        Hi Andrew,

        Thanks for the link. Whilst it has probably been the case where some of my applications have not made the grade as the competition was stronger, I have known of instances where a forthcoming vacancy has been flagged up to people that the Sift Manager wanted for the position. I am not aware of this happening for vacancies that I have applied for but cronyism is still very much alive and kicking in the Civil Service.

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by Daniel Stapleton posted on

        Andrew, perhaps you don't do much sifting and are unaware that it's sometimes possible for one or more sift panellist's to guess who the applicant is from their job history and work examples themselves. The only exception being when the applicant is from another government department.

        It's also the case that there is no independent review, moderation or appeal against the decision of a sift panel.

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by Philbert posted on

        Andrew, in many internal recruitments it is reasnably easy to identify people from their anonymised applications, just on the content of the application itself and the nature of the competencies provided. This is especially true in cases where individuals are applying for promotion on the same time. This happens a lot more than you probably are aware of, I have witnessed many applications over recent years where applicants from different areas have been rejected on level transfer only for individuals to be promoted within the team itself. These were for roles where specialisy knowledge/skills were not required. Until we move to a process where everybody in the application process is totally removed from the work area where the job exists, then cronyism will continue.

  30. Comment by another Terry posted on

    To what extent is bullying , harassment and discrimination by third parties, for example customers, agents, or indeed Ministers, being considered?

    • Replies to another Terry>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Terry

      This is very much part of what we are looking at.

      As Sue's blog says, the Civil Service position is zero tolerance for any form of bullying, harassment and discrimination from any source. To make that feel real for colleagues, its important we look at how we handle - and enable staff to feel safe and supported to come forward about - issues in relation to the full range of third parties. If you have any further thoughts or ideas on this, please do share them via the survey or by emailing (as per the post above).

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by another Terry posted on

        That is excellent news.

  31. Comment by Another victim posted on

    I have completed the survey and welcome any action taken to address this.

    This is the first time I have ever left a comment but I felt compelled to speak out. I was bullied as a new manager by a known bully back in 2001. She made my life intolerable for 5 months when all I tried to do was a good and professional job. I had the largest team on the Unit. I had witnesses and a mentor but despite them making a senior manager aware I was forced to go off sick. I had 11 months off work and was extremely ill with it all. Whilst I am back at work and fully functioning this has affected me significantly.
    I have not had any work issues since but recently I find myself in a similar position but unable to do anything and I do not want to be off sick again.

  32. Comment by Gert posted on

    My experience was awful. I became aware of a campaign by one person against me, when I was the receipient of a nasty aggressive verbal assault which was witnessed by other colleagues. It took a week to get my Line Manager to deal with it. I was asked to move which I refused and said the perpetrator should move. Then it became obvious this person had been 'plotting behind my back' for some considerable time and sent a message to me that was intended for another colleague to read. This message highlighted the whole campaign and was threatening. The perpetrator, had a long history of bullying, aggresion and demeaning people. He has since retired and I have had to work to restore my reputation since. I have not got over it and have a great distrust of any system no matter how well meaing it intends to be.

  33. Comment by Kevin Oliver posted on

    As always, an insightful and effective blog.

    I have tried to do the survey, but half way through DWP internet blocks me. Why should a Civil Service survey be blocked by a Civil Service departmental security program?

    Exit interviews are an under used resource. The question is always asked "why do we have such a problem holding on to staff?" and then we take no notice of the results of these interviews. Lets do less box ticking and more meaningful action.

    • Replies to Kevin Oliver>

      Comment by Dawn Kane, DWP HR posted on

      Hi Kevin

      There are no known restrictions on DWP systems which would prevent you from completing the survey. My colleagues and I have completed it successfully using internet explorer. We do encourage you to keep trying. If the problem persists can I suggest you try accessing the survey through Mozilla Firefox instead. It can also be accessed from personal devices such as a tablet or laptop.

      Exit interviews are a valuable source of information and DWP are currently looking at how we can improve both the take up levels and the content of the exit survey to enable us to get some good insight into why people leave us.

  34. Comment by Talal posted on

    Hi all,

    Considering this is an issue that unfortunately transcends across the Civil Service, it maybe worth exploring whether there is appetite for a cross departmental independent investigation service. For e.g. if the claim of BHD is in one government department. The investigators should come from a different government department to ensure that the process is completely independent.

    We have a cross civil service mediation service (though government departments tend to use their own mediators). Perhaps we should do something similar for investigations.

    But it needs to go further than this. I believe the investigators need to have real 'teeth'. If on the balance of the evidence they find that BHD was committed than the offender must be dismissed. Otherwise the line of 'zero tolerance on BHD' is just empty management rhetoric.

    It will be interesting to see how many investigations lead to successful dismissals and how many lead to no case to answer.

    It would also be intriguing to analyse the figures of how many cases are resolved through the mediation service. Though people should use this service much earlier in the piece before the resentment sets in permanently.

    • Replies to Talal>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Talal

      This is another issue / suggestion which has come up in the work we have done so far, and definitely something we are looking at.

  35. Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

    Hi Polly,

    I totally agree. We are very interested in the views and experiences of former as well as current civil servants. As you may have seen, the survey allows people to identify themselves as being in that group (if they are happy to tell us so). Through that, we know that some former colleagues have already filled it in.

    The exit interviews point is also a good one. We already have some information from that route, and I will make sure we have fully explored what is out there.

  36. Comment by Polly posted on

    I think it vital that ex civil servants who have experienced this, and left because of it, should also have an input. I am aware of 3 in one team in less than 12 months. Exit interviews exist and these should be obtained and reviewed accordingly.

  37. Comment by Aidan O'Donnell posted on

    The figures from the People Survey were shockingly high, but unfortunately not surprising. In my 20 years in the CS in a number of Gov Depts I have never heard of anyone being disciplined or tackled for harassing or bullying anyone, which in itself tells a story. We have come along way in generally becoming more inclusive, which is great, but the profile of this issue needs raising sharply. I welcome the review, but have concerns on how comprehensive it can be given that it is intended to be completed by the end of February. It would also would be useful to know what the terms of reference are for the review. I have completed the survey, and for what it is worth, the questions are well targeted. I look forward to reading the review and, more importantly, see what action we take.

    • Replies to Aidan O'Donnell>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Aidan

      As Sue's blog says, the aim is to conclude the review and report back by the end of February. That is not a hard and fast deadline, but does reflect a genuine desire to make progress and move promptly from reviewing the evidence into taking the resultant actions. A lot of work has already been done prior to the launch of this blog and survey, including lots of helpful suggestions from staff networks and unions, which have helped us make sure we are taking as comprehensive a look at this as possible.

      The terms of reference are deliberately short and simple, and are as summarised in the blog. Sue's review is looking at whether there are areas where we need to strengthen our cross-Whitehall arrangements for tackling harassment and misconduct - in particular, the policies, processes and practices for how we handle concerns where they are raised, and what more we need to do to tackle the blockers that are stopping people speaking up. That said, if other issues are raised through the survey or other routes, we will also want to look at them.

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by S posted on

        Hi Andrew,

        It's a real positive if there is senior will to finally properly address the culture of BHD so prevalent in the Civil Service but it feels that the most strategic solution to this is just being missed. Much can be gained by a process that is independent and impartial and that can only truly be achieved by taking the investigation out of the hands of Civil Servants within their own departments. A cross government unit to investigate and strong sanctions for those found to have committed BHD is what is finally needed would most likely be most effective; it changes culture, ensures consistency and professional investigation and would also enable a central view to be gained of where and what particular BHD patterns are in each organisation.

  38. Comment by Raj Kanwal posted on

    My concern is that it if the BHD rates have stayed the same since 2009, then BHD must be close to being institutionalised in the Civil Service, if not already. Too often the victim of BHD is removed from their workplace whilst the person who is the cause of their condition is left in place, why not reverse this scenario? As soon as the victim in such cases is moved, is it really surprising that they immediately and instinctively feel that they are the ones who will suffer whilst the "guilty" party continues in their job free to carry on as before. The victim will rightly feel they are not being believed as they are the ones having to move. It is important to remember that it is often the victim of BHD who is likely to be on anti-depressants, taking sick leave, not performing to the required standard, this is rarely the case with the person conducting the BHD. Also, if we do dismiss someone from the service for BHD, we should name them and if that means changing procedures/guidelines, then so be it. We need to see action being taken, those who bring such misery upon their colleagues also need to see that action has been and will be taken. Only then, will we have a realistic chance of tackling this issue head on and begin to spread the belief in the service that such behaviour is unacceptable, whatever your grade/status. Feeble words disguised as recycled policy initiatives are no longer enough.

    • Replies to Raj Kanwal>

      Comment by BHD Survivor posted on

      You have hit the nail on it's head but would this even be considered....I know the answer and so does everyone leaving comments. It's just one of those initiatives which are launched every year and publicised. I know of so many cases where the offenders are not even told off as investigators from the line management chain cover it up as a training need.....guess what for a manager who has been in dept for more than 35+ years. BHD cases have more than likely failed due to the just empty rhetoric about "zero tolerance".

  39. Comment by Anon posted on

    I have to agree with these comments. In my previous job I was bullied by the team leader. I eventually raised it with the Deputy Director (which took a great deal of determination) after I was shouted at, but he told me that 'she may not have been aware of how she was coming across', 'have you thought about changing your own behaviour?' and 'you should discuss these concerns with her'. He even made a joke about how because I was a 'big guy' I shouldn't feel bullied. I followed his steps and had a very awkward meeting with the bully to discuss my concerns. She said nothing, just staring at me, and afterwards produced a set of notes of the meeting that said that 'we have discussed how we can both make the environment more constructive', completely ignoring what I had said. A few months later I was given a brutal performance review. This is why people keep quiet. You are punished for speaking up.

  40. Comment by I posted on

    Thank you. This review is very welcome. I am pleased to see the focus on whether the processes for dealing with concerns could be improved and how staff who raise concerns can be better supported.

    Your request for input from people across the departments and agencies is also welcome and encouraging. Please could you confirm to whom input (other than through the anonymous survey) should be sent?

    • Replies to I>

      Comment by The Blog Team posted on

      Hi l, thanks for your timely enquiry. If you have personally experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment, we would still urge you to complete the anonymised survey.

      However, if you - or any other civil servant - would like to contribute to the review beyond taking the survey, please send your ideas, thoughts and suggestions for improving how we tackle these behaviours to:

      Your messages will be forwarded to the review team.

      The Blog Team

  41. Comment by Neil posted on

    "We have zero tolerance for any form of bullying, harassment and discrimination from any source" -
    This statement is untrue. When issues are raised people just get moved around - usually its the victim who has to move. The 'bully' stays in place or occasionally gets moves and carries on, I have yet to hear of anyone either being fired or even a demotion because of their actions. 'Zero tolerance' - hardly.

  42. Comment by Nick posted on

    I met a wheel chair user last night who used to work for the civil service . She was forced to leave when her office closed as the office she would have been expected to travel to did not have accessible parking and public transport wasn't very good and no longer exists from her village , this was over 10 years ago.
    The mass closure of civil service sites accross the country and concentration into city hubs closes off opportunities for those who are unable to travel long distances and discriminates against those for whom public transport is not a viable option. There are many forms of bullying and people can and do feel bullied by organisational changes, which doesn't make them highly motivated. The constant pressure to do much more with much less can lead to behaviour which can be seen as harrassment .

    • Replies to Nick>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Nick

      This issue about how office closures or relocations impact on colleagues with disabilities is an important one, and one which has been raised elsewhere with both Philip Rutnam (as CS Disability Champion) and Jonathan Jones (as CS Health and Wellbeing Champion).

      Both have been clear that disability accessibility should be a key consideration in design of new buildings and in office moves in general. Philip Rutnam has additionally said that where it is not possible to raise or resolve these issues at a local level, colleagues are welcome to contact him via and he will connect them with their departmental Disability Champion.

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by winston smith posted on

        The 'building our future' programme in hmrc was questioned at a PSC meeting and it was said that impact on staff had not been taken into account.
        But the subject of bullying has been talked about for years; something needs to be actually DONE, not discussed

  43. Comment by The truth posted on

    The assumption is that bullying exists only down grades. However, I have had situations where staff are unnecessarily aggressive as a pre -emptive approach to prevent me raising any performance issues. Equally, I have ben subject to extremely aggressive behaviour by TU reps within attendance management meetings. Bullying statistics have to be taken with a pinch of salt to some extent as some think that even the setting a realistic target or not being able to agree a specific leave period is "bullying".

    • Replies to The truth>

      Comment by Brewer posted on

      The Truth:
      Taking bullying statistics 'with a pinch of salt' has resulted in bullying and other unacceptable behaviours being ignored and consequently becoming endemic with the CS. The statistics illustrate that there is a serious problem within the CS that until now hasn't been effectively dealt with.
      Depending on the context, the examples you've given could be interpreted as bullying behaviour.

  44. Comment by Nothing has changed! posted on

    Bullying, harassment and discrimination rates have stayed the same since 2009! Maybe part of the problem is in the way we investigate such allegations through our internal grievance procedure. I don`t know what percentage of grievance claims are upheld (and maybe we should be publishing such figures on a regular basis) but based on anecdotal evidence I suspect not many. Could it be that our internal grievance procedures are not robust or impartial enough? Maybe it’s time we thought of appointing people from outside our home department or even outside the civil service to investigate such claims.

    • Replies to Nothing has changed!>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      This is a point many people have raised with us as part of this review. Our procedures are designed to be robust and impartial, but it is also clear that that is not how they always feel. This is something we will need to address.

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by N posted on

        100% needs to be handled by an outside party. Higher managers protect their own managers and business areas so the person being harassed or bullied is not listened to and it is not investigated properly meaning people are getting away with treating others in the most despicable way!

        • Replies to N>

          Comment by Another survivor posted on

          I have witnessed that

        • Replies to N>

          Comment by Mahesh Patel posted on

          I work in HM Land Registry and can confirm from what I have seen recently in my office, bullying is taken seriously and managers are not immune from investigation.

          Our operations manager also highlighted in a memo to everyone that the number of incidents of bullying that had been reported last year were a concern and looked to address this, whilst reminding staff of their duties and obligations to other employees. This was/in the process of being followed up by an information session for all staff with the two harassment advisors in our office.

        • Replies to N>

          Comment by 64 posted on

          Absolutely agree re higher management backing the management chain below them. I complained when a highly personal issue (that I had told my manager in complete confidence during a difficult time in my private life) was used against me in my end of year report. It had nothing to do with my work, and if I'd had even an inkling of what was to come, I would never have confided in the that person. I took the issue up the management chain as per protocol, and at each level my manager was backed to the hilt; there wasn't even an acknowledgement of the distress caused to me by such a personal thing being brought out into the open. It taught me never to trust management, and brought home to me that there's no point in challenging; the old guard will always stick together.

      • Replies to Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR>

        Comment by Cassandra posted on

        Andrew - I don't think it's about how we feel - it's rather more objective than that. It may be that the processes appear to be good (they do) but their quality is totally dependent upon how they are operated, the behaviour of those involved and the culture in which they sit. PMR was actually a very good process, but the way it was operated, forcing the guided distribution in flagrant disregard both for the guidance and the discriminatory effect, had a profound negative effect on engagement. The same is true of grievance procedures. Instead of an honest attempt to get to the truth and use it as a source of organisational learning, what actually happens is that the wagons are pulled into a circle and all efforts focused on repelling the complaint, ignoring evidence which does not fit this aim. That is a cultural problem - the general understanding (except in the case of the complainant) is that a complaint is an unwarranted attack on the Department and therefore a Bad Thing, which must be disposed of. There also appears to be a cynical policy of ensuring that the process takes longer than the window for making a claim in Employment Tribunals. Although I believe that the process is honest and ethical in its intent, in its practice it is totally lacking in integrity.

        • Replies to Cassandra>

          Comment by Another survivor posted on

          I agree with Cassandra. I have also discovered that those 'no so independent' individuals conducting the hearing on a formal complaint are unaware of the department policies they need to apply. And this is at deputy director level... I guess they don't need to as their aim is to deflect the complaint with some sort of excuse.

        • Replies to Cassandra>

          Comment by Simon B posted on

          Wholeheartly agree, any complaint is an attack, try and wait the the complainant out and if that doesn't wash tell them "we've looked at and we are absolutely fine, we followed the process", ignoring the fact that the process was part of the reason for the greivance!

        • Replies to Cassandra>

          Comment by Graeme Rogers (MoD) posted on

          quality is totally dependent upon how they are operated . . . see comment left on 26 Jan, the whole process is a charade if the end result is a whitewash decision letter.

          all efforts focused on repelling the complaint . . . try responding to a disciplinary charge to the effect that it was inappropriate to raise the charge in the first place: result here being for managers to narrow down the discussion to exclude any consideration beyond the fact that the evidence undeniably supported the charge (and I do think it inappropriate to use disciplinary as a vehicle for re-writing policy behind the backs of those who originally created it: this provides managers with a route by which to bully junior staff into accepting their own substitute for the said policy).

    • Replies to Nothing has changed!>

      Comment by Cassandra posted on

      I've asked for information on this through FoI.

    • Replies to Nothing has changed!>

      Comment by Another survivor posted on

      Totally agree

    • Replies to Nothing has changed!>

      Comment by SAR posted on

      Well I can tell you over the last 3 years in HMRC there have been around 140 grievances with less than 20% upheld or partially upheld (this could actually be 0 upheld and a few partially upheld clarification is being sought)
      My personal experience shows that the procedure is long winded and designed to only use evidence that can be used to not uphold the complaint.
      The actual process is a form of bullying and until this is sorted and SCS are held accountable it will continue.

  45. Comment by Bill J posted on

    I think most people completing the People Survey know the difference between bullying and discrimination and the two often go hand-in-hand.

    I know of managers who discuss who will and won't get through "sifts" for job vacancies, managers who will use "performance management" policies to slap down a disobedient underling or who will engage in intensive monitoring to make someone's work life as miserable as possible.

    How can anyone speak up and speak out when they what's in store for them if they do and when managers can always rely on the get out of jail free card by justifying their bullying behaviours as "just following procedures" ?

  46. Comment by Mistreated survivor posted on

    We have quite a way to go in creating a culture where the Civil Service is a good place to work. In my experience, higher grade bullies are not effectively dealt with as they 'deliver'. This is delivery at any cost and it usually does in increased stress and sick absence. PMR used to be about 50% of what you do and 50% the way you did it. This does not apply to higher grade bullies and is not to be confused with firm but fair management. And why do people not speak out - simply put it is recognised sadly that there is no point as bullies are protected by the ones above them. It is a very sorry state of affairs - let's hope that at last, we can bring this bullies to account and create a safe working environment.

  47. Comment by H Hird posted on

    As a disabled civil servant (I am visually impaired), I would find it helpful to separate out issues that relate to bullying and harassment and those that relate to discrimination, as I think sometimes grouping the three can paint a misleading picture.

    For example, I frequently feel discriminated against by the default expectations of 'improving' business practice , e.g. the adoption of software that has not been designed to be inclusive, and many other aspects of the 'digital by default' agenda which can make working life increasingly challenging for some visually impaired people (and there will be more of us as the workforce ages...).

    But this is quite different from feeling harassed or bullied - albeit just as hard to tackle for different reasons!

  48. Comment by BHD Victim posted on

    I feel that challenging a bully in the first place needs a lot of determination and confidence in yourself but having myself witnessed no action being taken against the perpetrator makes these policies and guidance worthless. To be blunt....the policies and guidance are not worth the paper they are written on as they are not followed and I have a prime example of that. Unless the senior managers take it on the chin and actually do something about BHD, nothing is going to change.

    • Replies to BHD Victim>

      Comment by Another BDH Victim posted on

      The fact there has been no change in the reported levels of BDH since 2009, is harrowing and a clear sign of failure.

      Apologists may argue (without any evidence), that the numbers mostly comprise employees disgruntled about pay or performance markings but these are the assertions that used to be made by deniers of domestic and child abuse.
      This culture of denial must end.

      Victims of BDH know that the weapon of choice for bullies is our own procedures and guidance. The bullying and discriminating manager has exclusive access to HR and their own senior managers. The victims are treated as unwanted interlopers in these mysterious exchanges.

      The fact is that most managerial bully/discrimination is invisible beneath a veneer of 'professionalism' made more impenetrable by the bully's defences of HR and senior managers.

      It has to change so that BDH can be exposed and challenged before a victim is forced to use formal procedures for redress, which they see as geared against them.

      If Senior Management is honest and committed to achieving equality and diversity it needs to quickly find a way to really listen to the experiences of victims those that do not have a great experience to share.

      Sue's survey is a start but just one of many in a history of perceived inaction. Those silent voices who reach out year after year in our People Survey need real action and need it now.

  49. Comment by Annette M Ross posted on

    There are four separate issues being rolled together here; bullying, harassment, misconduct and discrimination. People will therefore have answered 'yes' to the question posed in the People Survey for a number of very different reasons which, from experience, will have included such things as feeling bullied by a performance management system and/or feeling discriminated against because of unfair pay. We therefore have to be careful that we understand what lies beneath the results to ensure that the actions we take are the right ones to deliver significant improvements. And I say 'we' deliberately because we have a collective responsibility here.

  50. Comment by Jules posted on

    I have had to email myself the link and do it from my home computer as the survey doesn't work on our MOD work systems, past the first page.

    • Replies to Jules>

      Comment by David Fenton, Deputy Head Civ HR Policy, MOD posted on

      Hi Jules. You've probably discovered that the survey can be accessed from any personal device such as a laptop or tablet. It's great that you are taking the time to complete the survey though. For policy makers like myself, evidence such as that from surveys helps us to develop better policies for all our staff. So I really encourage people to complete it.

  51. Comment by Daniel Stapleton, HMRC posted on

    My experience is that challenging bullying behaviour in a grade senior to one's self is an unpleasant experience where the act of having even challenged the bullying behaviour puts oneself in a greater position of vulnerability that existed before making the complaint.

    • Replies to Daniel Stapleton, HMRC>

      Comment by Annette M Ross posted on

      Hi Daniel. I am sorry that this has been your experience and, if you do feel vulnerable, I would urge you to speak to someone in your line management chain as soon as possible. We absolutely need those subject to any inappropriate comments or behaviours to speak up and to speak out without fear. I would absolutely encourage it but I appreciate that it can be a tough decision in the first place, which is why it can really help to have support; a colleague or a trade union rep for example. If it provides any assurance to HMRC readers, there are lots of people like me across the Department who take an active and independent role investigating internal complaints and grievances sensitively, thoroughly and professionally. From experience, the decisions and recommendations are reached through proper review and consideration of both the facts and evidence presented.

      • Replies to Annette M Ross>

        Comment by Daniel Stapleton, HMRC posted on

        Thank you for your reply. My experience is past history and I do not feel vulnerable. I believe my actions were correct at that time and no alternatives were open to me. Consequently if necessary, I would challenge bullying behaviour again (at any grade). However, my expectation is that my experience in doing so would be similar to my previous experience and a necessary 'price' to have to pay, albeit one that should not need to be paid. I choose not to be a member of a trade union and can't imagine there would be any colleagues queuing up for an unpleasant experience with a 'price' to pay.

  52. Comment by Paul Carter posted on

    I think addressing the bystander effect would help. If you witness banter or bullying you have a responsibility to challenge the perpetrators, or at least tell someone who can take affirmative action. I know it can be hard to challenge a peer or senior manager but you have to do something. If you can support the victim as well that may give them the confidence to make a stand.

    A good article, thank you

  53. Comment by yes posted on

    Where I work the bullying champion says managers can't be bullies, so that's ok then.

  54. Comment by Pip posted on

    I would echo the comments made by colleagues about the fairly rampant bullying that goes onto in some departments and teams. Almost a cultural norm in some places, but there are places where I have worked that are a credit to their organisation.
    I disagree with Andrew's comments about the levels of BHD remaining broadly constant over years. I think they are increasing; a changing of wording in the staff survey questions can elicit a different response every year.
    Unfortunately trying to get managers to take action to address and deal with bullying is I’m afraid like getting Turkeys to vote for Christmas. Some might think it’s a good idea but most will nod their head politely and not do anything.

    • Replies to Pip>

      Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

      Hi Pip

      Can I just check / clarify which changes you had in mind on the BHD People Survey questions? I have checked with the analyst colleagues who are responsible for managing the Survey, and they tell me that the primary BHD questions - i.e. the ones asking whether respondents have experienced bullying & harassment / discrimination within the preceding 12 months - have stayed the same in all surveys since the first one in 2009. So we are able to do an apples and apples comparison when looking at those results over time.

    • Replies to Pip>

      Comment by Another survivor posted on

      I agree with Pip that the levels of BHD are increasing. It is more likely to end up in a team were BHD is an issue these days.

  55. Comment by Grace posted on

    Please could someone signpost to where I can find the bullying, harassment and discrimination toolkit published in 2016?


    • Replies to Grace>

      Comment by Susie Scarlott posted on

      Hi Grace, the toolkit was developed by Civil Service Employee Policy as a resource for all departments. The toolkit is hosted on the OneHR web portal to which HR colleagues will have access, so someone in your HR team should be able to provide you with a copy and also let you know how it is being used in your department. If you can't find the toolkit via your HR team though, please let me know and I'll try to find another way to get the toolkit to you.

      • Replies to Susie Scarlott>

        Comment by Grace posted on

        Hi Susie,

        Thanks for your help. I actually work in HR but am not able to find it on OneHR - are you able to point me any further in the right direction?



  56. Comment by Bhavna Parmar posted on

    yes. Bullying is a growing issue at work or at home and now comes in many different ways. Such as receiving text. Naming calling or picking on someone is a form of bullying as well and everyone needs to know that its not acceptable. Words hurt and plays on your mind and then you end up questioning yourself and start believing its true.

  57. Comment by Andrew Kean, Deputy Director, Civil Service HR posted on

    Thank you to everyone for your comments so far. My team is supporting Sue Owen in carrying out the review referred to in her blog, and I thought it would be helpful if I responded.

    As those comments illustrate, tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination (BHD) across our teams and workplaces continues to be an important challenge, and one that Sue and all other Civil Service leaders are committed to tackling.

    As Sue's blog acknowledges, the People Survey - which is our best set of data on this issue - tells us that the levels of BHD have remained broadly constant over all the years since the survey started in 2009. While this does not suggest things are getting worse, it also does not suggest they are yet getting better - and any level or form of BHD is unacceptable and needs addressing.

    As Sue has reiterated, we are committed to zero tolerance of any form of BHD in the Civil Service. But we also know from the feedback received so far that this is not yet how it feels in all workplaces. Some of you have told us about instances where cases were reported and tackled, which is positive and what we would hope to see happen. But others have told us about cases which they did not feel were tackled properly, or where they did not feel safe to report the issue in the first place.

    This review is a genuine attempt to look at what more we can do not only to tackle BHD but also to give colleagues across all Civil Service organisations confidence that that is happening. We want everyone to feel that they can raise concerns about any incident of BHD, as it is only then that we will have the chance to identify and tackle it.

    Capturing your views and experiences via the survey is an important part of this work and will really help us in making sure we are addressing what you are finding to be the real problems and blockers on the ground. So while comments on this blog thread are welcome, I would very much encourage all colleagues to click through to the survey and use that to tell us what does and does not work for you. Over 1,400 colleagues have already done that, which is fantastic, and we hope to get many more.

  58. Comment by The Purple one posted on

    I totally agree with Igor. Being in the Home Office for 17 years now - I have seen lots of discrimination in terms of job selection and promotion. Yes I agree there has been efforts to make things better but unfortunately it is institutional. I have hardly ever seen the best person selected for a job and it is always at a cost this is proven later on down the road. There has however been improvements generally in tackling bullying and harrassment as stated above but we are not home and dry yet.

  59. Comment by Andi Hargreaves posted on

    Great blog Sue and thank you for encouraging everyone to speak up. It will not happen until people feel safe to do so and see that action is taken to allow everyone to bring their whole selves to work and challenge appropriately when necessary. Lots of departments have tried lots of things and this is a really tangible step in creating a safe environment that values everyone, whoever they are and whatever their background.
    At DIT we are taking our scores very seriously and have a number of approaches to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination whether it is ongoing or historic. We want to make that step change.

  60. Comment by Bullied Lady posted on

    I'm an E1 and I was bullied by my C1 line manager which eventually plunged me into deep depression. My GP put me on anti-depressants and signed me off for a month. During that time, my line manager constantly phoned me at home, calling it "a duty of care" but because of that, I was taking one step forward and two steps back. He then forced me to go into work to attend a meeting with him during my sick leave and gave me a warning for taking 5 weeks of sick leave. If this is human resources policy, then it needs addressing.

    • Replies to Bullied Lady>

      Comment by Another survivor posted on

      I know how you feel. In the past I had to take sick leave to have a break from the working environment to preserve my sanity

  61. Comment by Nicci posted on

    It should never be acceptable to be a bully, but the HO pays too much attenstion to certain types of bullying by using the cop out phrase of protected characteristic. To the end receiver the torment is no worse if based on colour, age, sex, class, educatioon, fatness, choice in clothes etc, if need be policies need to be changed to reflect the facts that bullying can be connected to minor lifestyle choices etc.

    • Replies to Nicci>

      Comment by Victoria Deakin posted on


      Thanks for your post. The Home Office’s policy statement on bullying, harassment and discrimination makes it clear that we value the diversity of our workforce and will not tolerate any behaviour that is deemed to be bullying, harassment or discrimination – as you point out, bullying can take many forms and is not necessarily related to protected characteristics.

      Victoria Deakin
      Home Office HR

  62. Comment by Igor Blimey posted on

    There is no concept within the Civil Service of appointing the best person to do a specific job; therefore, discrimination is institutional. Until there is totally open recruitment, deployment, redeployment and promotion across the Civil Service which demands the appointment of the best person to each and every job, the discriminatory hegemony will continue.

    • Replies to Igor Blimey>

      Comment by Andrew Vaughan posted on

      I can only say what I see in my part of DWP

      I dont see the institutional discrimination talked about. Like any big employer the Civil Service needs to improve, but thats not surprising.

      I see a lot of energy going into addressing discrimination particularly around mental health, ethnic and LGBT issues. I welcome it and am encouraged by what I see.

      As a gay man with a disability and who has experienced mental health issues, I have been lucky to work in such an open minded and supportive workplace.

      • Replies to Andrew Vaughan>

        Comment by Colin Herring, HR Employee Services Direcotrate posted on

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts Andrew. I've worked in DWP for over 30 years, and I agree that is has changed massively into the supportive, inclusive employer you describe. That's not to say we always get it right - obviously we don't - but the commitment and will is there at all levels.

        I now work in HR policy, so I know of the range of measures implemented and in development to help us improve further, but the most important thing, I think, is the massive change in the diverse make-up of our workforce at all levels. Having more and more people employed at all levels, influencing, deciding, suggesting, etc., who truly believe in diversity and inclusiveness, and who strive to be aware of the risk of unconscious bias, is what makes the difference in the end... the day-to-day micro behaviour by a huge and growing majority.

        • Replies to Colin Herring, HR Employee Services Direcotrate>

          Comment by another Terry posted on

          I don't that's the issue. It is not about how diverse the working environment is at all. It is about the fair and proper treatment of workers according to the law , Civil Service values and dare I say common human decency.

  63. Comment by Graeme Rogers (MoD) posted on

    Of those who experienced bullying or harassment, only 36% reported it and only 20% felt that the issue they raised had been resolved. - How many of those who reported but did not obtain resolution received a whitewash reply along the lines of Thank you for your correspondence but your line management have reached the decision you take issue with and therefore I agree with them? (A stock answer which makes no mention of the issue never mind makes any attempt to address it).

    It is what those who receive the report of unacceptable behaviour actually DO with the report that will determine the outcome of this initiative, not how hard the message is pushed or how many routes of reporting are offered. As long as there is no come-back to the whitewash final decision letter (meaning that those who issue such can do so with impunity) I fear that progress will be difficult.

    • Replies to Graeme Rogers (MoD)>

      Comment by David Fenton, Deputy Head Civ HR Policy, MOD posted on

      Thanks Graeme for your comments. MOD recognises that bullying, harassment and discrimination have no place in the Department - or indeed any workplace. Our people should feel safe and valued in their work, and the Department is committed to better supporting our people with the policies and enabling support required to make Defence a great place to work. We provide an independent investigation service and appeal routes including to the Nominated Officer and Permanent Secretary. We have also recently introduced a SpeakSafe confidential phone line to support staff with any BHD concerns. We have also re-iterated in our Corporate Standards our zero-tolerance stance. But we recognise that there is still more we can do and we are looking at ways to ensure consistency and fairness in all decision cases; and working to develop line management capability across the Department.

      • Replies to David Fenton, Deputy Head Civ HR Policy, MOD>

        Comment by Another survivor posted on

        The key issue is how to implement the changes effectively. I have not seen managers following the Management Chapter introduced few years back. Some didn't even know it existed.

      • Replies to David Fenton, Deputy Head Civ HR Policy, MOD>

        Comment by Billy King posted on

        David, some good points but as you say there is more to do. Unless the Department starts to reduce the levels reported constantly in Staff Surveys year on year and show that it actually is making a difference then it really can not still hang its hat on a "Zero" Tolerance Policy. This is coupled with the alarming rate of higher level civil servants reporting issues of bad behaviour, which I understand is against the Band B Grade 7 cohort as alluded in a previous post here. If the Department is to continue with its infatuation with promoting fast trackers with no staff management skills then urgent action needs to be taken to give them suitable training.

  64. Comment by Riman2009 posted on

    Sounds like the trend is getting worse! I feel that, one can never list all the instances that demonstrate bullying and harassment in the workplace. Some managers take it as, 'managing staff' when in fact they are exerting unnecessary stress on a stressed out workforce. (Think of all the extra work you have had to do in the last few months, because there was nobody else assigned to do it!)

    • Replies to Riman2009>

      Comment by Another survivor posted on

      In a previous job, my manager was the sole cause of my stress. My senior manager also played a role in the shadows. They nearly ruined my career prospects. I moved jobs and was lucky enough to have landed in a normal team. My current manager and colleagues are great. It makes all the difference. It feels like heaven!

      Over the years I have seen loads of good managers leaving the civil service through voluntary schemes. We have since been flooded with loads of new recruited managers that do not know how to deal with people.

  65. Comment by Russell posted on

    We keep seeing these kind of articles with the usual warm and woolly words about "how the Civil Service is committed to tacking bullying and discrimination in the workplace" but I would like to know if anyone found guilty of doing these has ever been punished.

    From my experience they don't. I underwent a sustained amount of bullying by G7 in my last job which was widely known throughout my directorate, but I still had to leave the department in order for it to end. For good measure, he stayed in his post and retained his grade.

  66. Comment by Jayne posted on

    I think bullying in the CS is endemic and there seems to be no departments that are free of it. I also feel that bullies are encouraged as they are often management favourites.
    Our District Manager has a hold on it and she has done a good job but that is the first time I have seen bullying challenged positvley in many years.

    • Replies to Jayne>

      Comment by Steve Maudsley posted on

      I'd love to hear what kind of actions / communications your district manager has taken to get 'a hold on it' Jayne. Maybe there are things there that we can all learn from.

      • Replies to Steve Maudsley>

        Comment by Jayne posted on

        Hi Steve, she went round every office in her district and gave a presentation about it which put the message across that such behaviour would not be tolerated.
        Many of us had an ongoing problem with a manager and that person is no longer with us.
        Our DM is the best.

        • Replies to Jayne>

          Comment by HMRC staff member posted on

          Jayne, your comment 'I think bullying in the CS is endemic and there seems to be no departments that are free of it. I also feel that bullies are encouraged as they are often management favourites.' sums up my experience so well.

          It seems to me that bullies are seen as people who 'get the job done' in the 'you can't make am omelette without cracking a few eggs' mould. So a blind eye is turned to their behaviours because more senior managers (i.e. SCS) are concerned that without them the job would not get done.

          I've also heard many times, including last week, that the bullying behaviour is 'strong management' and people are complaining because they don't like to be effectively managed. When people are called names in meetings, ascribed negative traits based on their gender, or more serious active undermining of people and their careers is undertaken behind their back because they are 'outside' the favoured group, then this can never be 'strong management'. SCS need to get to grips with this and end their support for people they know are bullies because they are worried about meeting their own short term performance targets.

          • Replies to HMRC staff member>

            Comment by Jen also in HMRC posted on

            I too agree that it is seen as 'strong' management and condoned by Senior Leaders, and it seems to be positively encouraged by like minded people.
            From my 27 years in the CS there seems to be some sort of collusion that keeps the perpetrators seemingly untouchable as they continue (generally up the grades) by belittling and undermining others.
            This generates unbelievable stress, which if you challenge it gets brushed aside, and victims are told to toughen up, or subtly to find another job.

    • Replies to Jayne>

      Comment by Jimbo posted on

      Claiming that bullying is endemic in the civil service is garbage. The Civil Service is milquetoast and most manager react like they've been shot at the slightest mention of bullying.

      There are undoubtedly some who do it, but it's not endemic and it does you zero credit suggesting that it is.

      If you want something to puzzle over about employee treatment - consider this. Front line staff (and I used to be one) are the people that tax payers care about. They do the work that tax payers care about. They are the face of the Civil Service. We also treat them poorly, expect the most work and pay them the least.

      That's always baffled me.

  67. Comment by Brewer posted on

    I welcome any initiative to make the workplace a nicer place to be. I've completed the survey and I encourage others to do likewise. Where I work it's unsafe to challenge managers and bullying seems to be on the increase. Not nice.

    • Replies to Brewer>

      Comment by D posted on

      "Where I work it's unsafe to challenge managers"
      I think that is, unfortunately, a common issue in the Civil Service. I've been bullied by an SCS in a previous role, and felt completely powerless to raise it formally because it felt like signing my own death warrant in the organisation. So I left. I had no other option.

    • Replies to Brewer>

      Comment by Mr Grumpy posted on

      When I reported harassment and bullying I was told it was not a perfect world and accept that it would never be perfect and I would only make myself ill worrying about it.
      The person concerned had already been reported and apparently been warned several times so totally ineffective BHD policy which nobody carries out.
      My observations are that BHD is usually carried out by people who have spent too many years in the same department without been challenged.
      As stated by someone else it seems to be LM favourites who get away with it and can do no wrong. Senior line managers appear to be unable to see through the charade put up by these people who are usually YES people.
      The CS likes yes people at the expense of loyal hard working staff and therefore turn a blind eye to the BHD for a quiet life therefore loosing some of its most talented people. Let’s not make waves is a favourite line for LM's.