Research perspectives

Charity workers say bullying allegations “handled unsatisfactorily”

Nearly all charity workers (97%) who reported being bullied feel that their complaint was not handled satisfactorily, an investigation into workplace bullying in charities has found.

In the report, In plain sight, jointly published by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo) and the Centre for Mental Health there are six recommendations designed to help charities address bullying cultures,

Over 500 people took part in a self-selecting survey about their experiences, with researchers conducting 20 in-depth interviews. Whilst the report emphasises that it cannot draw any conclusions about the prevalence of bullying in the sector, it says that where it does occur it has a severe impact on individuals.

The survey found that 58 per cent of people reported bullying issues, with only 3 per cent of cases described as “satisfactorily addressed”. Two thirds of cases were not resolved and 29 per cent were resolved unsatisfactorily. After the bullying took place, 67 per cent said that they left the charity. A majority of respondents said that the bullying came from chief executives and other senior managers.

Recommendations include nominating one trustee and one senior manager to lead on staff workplace wellbeing; having policies and procedures that reflect a commitment to promoting safe cultures; banning the use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent people from speaking about their experience in a therapeutic setting; calling on the Charity Commission to clarify existing rules and guidance; getting charity leaders to initiate a sector-wide discussion to identify ways to improve sector guidance, such as the Charity Governance Code; and exploring how to better collect and analyse data about workplace culture and the experiences of people with protected characteristics.