*The Central Staff Committee (CSC) harassment/bullying survey [*] preliminary results were presented in the March 2022 CSC plenary. The HR Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) survey (March 2021, optional section on harassment) results were presented via EU Learn 19.05.2022 [**]. A summary is in April 2022 CSC plenary. *
Workplace bullying/harassment/‘mobbing’ is a complex matter. What one person considers as proper behaviour, another may perceive to be harassment. In many cases, the lines are not sharply defined. Harassment can take various forms, such as: degrading comments (often in public), offensive behaviour, refusal to communicate, neglect, excluding someone or threatening remarks. *update 23.02.2022, it could also affect your career development review (CDR) evaluation*
So, how to know whether a situation in the EU workplace is harassment? According to the Staff Regulations, Article 12a: harassment is
‘any improper conduct that takes place over a period, is repetitive or systematic and involves physical behaviour, spoken or written language, gestures or other acts that are intentional and that may undermine the personality, dignity or physical or psychological integrity of any person.’
Note that with this definition anyone can be the target of bullying behaviour and that we all have the right to work without harassment. We mention this since it is often perceived that the term ‘harassment’ covers only ‘protected characteristics’ e.g. gender/pregnancy/sexual orientation/religion/age/disability/family status and that if a person has none of these then that person cannot be harassed.
Generation 2004 strongly believes every single staff member has to contribute to creating a culture of dignity and mutual respect of basic human values. However, often the only thing needed is simple and basic decency.
From our daily experience, the most vulnerable categories of staff are those without a permanent contract with the institutions. However, harassment also affects many colleagues with permanent positions, being the common factor that they all contact us to share their horror stories where they experience unfair treatment, harassment, neglect and inappropriate behaviour. These colleagues often request that we react strongly against any offensive behaviour and that we focus on sharing practical information useful for the victims.
Following on our experience and reflection on the matter we would like to share a couple of ways to deal with this phenomena, which hinders the performance of colleagues, our institution and ultimately the European Union as a whole:
- Colleagues under a situation of harassment are often not in a mental and/or physical condition to confront their harassers. However, other close colleagues can help either by ’speaking up’ about the situation, or by reporting their suspicions to the proper authority to ensure action is taken immediately to contribute to a healthy, enjoyable, and harassment-free workplace. Don’t stay quiet and keep a note of everything!
- Communication is often key! Sometimes a perceived harassment situation may spring from misunderstandings or from the harasser not being aware that their actions are hurting someone’s feelings. It is often not easy to spot such situations, especially if you are at the receiving end of a perceived harassment situation: sometimes months may have passed before it is seen that this is a pattern of poor behaviour and not individual oversights. However, an exchange of information, of concrete examples and of feelings can lead to mutual understanding and to the creation of a respectful workplace where employees are valued and respected no matter what their personal circumstances are.
For further reading on this matter, and how to address it, please keep reading and remember that you are not alone!
- Staff matters: Harrassment
- Our own list of resources under ‘harassment’ here.
- Harassment Watch Network (HWN): A bottom-up independent Staff Initiative on the yammer.
- Harassment Watch Network, 2020, Deficiencies of the anti-harassment policy of the European Commission and elements of a true reform: Working papers of the Harassment Watch Network, Volume 1
- Harassment Watch Network, 2021, How you can and you are being harassed through the CDR process. And how the current system encourages that: second analytical paper
- Understanding Workplace Bullying available online from Find-er
- EULearn: most are online and do not request line-manager approval
[*] The survey closed 25.10.2021, was based on the Leymann inventory of psychological terror (LIPT) (French version) and further inspired by the ‘draft branch bullying survey’ (p.19) of Tackling bullying at work. [**] There are no further sessions listed, nor is there the option available to show interest in future sessions. 06.07.2022 HR D&I survey results (including those from the optional section on harassment) are available under DG HR survey results: Reports/metrics.