An update on workplace bullying and harassment

*Feedback on our event: thanks to the colleague who provided the link to the Politico article on the EESCany delays in addressing harassment complaints were only to better help staff.‘: it looks like there are toxic environments throughout the institutions. We will follow up with another event in the near future. Here is the link to the HWN presentation.* Have you ever been harassed? Or have you ever had the impression you might be harassed? Have you ever witnessed something that didn’t sit right with you and didn’t know what to do? What exactly is harassment or bullying? Note that in the Commission the terms ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ are used to mean the same thing: an often-present phenomenon in all personal, educational and professional contexts. Bullying does not just happen in school and it’s never just one event: the effects are cumulative and can be so subtle that sometimes it can take people 6-12 months to even realise that they are being bullied.

We all see these interactions and we doubt ourselves, we don’t know how to respond: was that harassment or just a misunderstanding? Do we speak up or keep quiet? Should we just ignore it? Is this a one-off or a pattern of events? [*]

Together with our colleagues from the Harassment Watch Network (HWN) we aim for this event to be a safe space to debate this sensitive topic, showing the pattern of harassment, the communication tools and the legal grounds. We can protect each other if we know how: bullying thrives in isolation and silence.

Let’s come together to talk frankly and openly about harassment, about the roots of the current systemic issues, what can (not) be done now and how to fight for meaningful change.

To put this in the wider context, the Commission:

  • officially has a ‘zero tolerance to harassment’
  • has recognised only 2 cases of harassment in the last 15 years
  • estimates 2% of staff being involved in disputes with the cost (2008 figures) of a dispute put at €50,000, giving an annual figure of ‘ at least €30 million’ [**]

Conclusion: bullying is a huge drain on resources when left unaddressed.

The new HR strategy includes a new anti-harassment decision but only a draft is available as of 17.11.2022. The DG HR, Survey on respect in the workplace Report of the results, 31.05.2022 shows a limited snapshot of the situation as reported in 2021.

For further information on this matter, and how to address it, please read all you can: check our out resources on Harassment/bullying and remember that you are not alone!

For any other questions, do not hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below.

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[*] We found the bystander intervention training (part of the EU Learn Diversity & Inclusion 12-day Learning Challenge) to be very useful for this.

[**] ‘Saving resources: The 2008 activity report of the Mediation Service pointed out the non-existence of figures and studies which would enable it to quantify the cost to the institution of conflicts in professional relationships and stated:

“The Mediation Service is aware of this, but proposes that reference be made to the figures published by the Justice Ministry of one Member State. According to its figures, in any organisation between 2 % and 5 % of staff are involved in at least one dispute a year, with the cost of a dispute put at €50,000.

Although we must be careful when making an extrapolation for an Institution with a staff of over 30,000, we can advance the estimate that the annual cost to the Commission as a direct consequence of staff disputes, based on a 2 % dispute rate, is at least €30 million”.

It is enough to multiply the estimated cost of a dispute (€50,000) by the number of cases resolved to see that the activities of the Mediation Service save the institution millions of euros annually. However, it is not the short-term savings that matter most but the recovery of human resources in the long term.’ (2015 Annual Mediation report, p. 10, point 10)






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