Bullying and Harassment Policy

Introduction

Good personal relationships are a significant form of witness to the gospel. As we are called to honour God so we reflect our honouring of Him in our honouring of other human beings. We believe that all forms of abuse, harassment and bullying are intolerable in the Christian Church.

Within the life of the church there will be times of disagreement and difference and this can be a sign of health and life as much as a sign of weakness.  We are all unique individuals in the eyes of God and our personality, life experience, and our discipleship invites us to honour and celebrate that difference.

How we then conduct our relationships within the Christian community can assist the attraction to Christian discipleship or it can discourage. It is important for church members to recognise that many people who enquire or want to explore discipleship arrive at our churches with high expectations of the nature of the relationships they will encounter.

Statement of commitment

The Church is required by God to foster relationships of integrity, truthfulness and trustworthiness. The abuse of this obligation by harassment or bullying will not be tolerated as it undermines the love we should demonstrate for each other and our Christian witness to the world.

However infrequently it happens, all complaints of abuse, harassment and bullying will be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

Bullying and Harassment

What is bullying and harassment?

Any behaviour that could potentially undermine someone’s dignity and respect should be regarded as unacceptable.  If it is not challenged the person who is doing the alleged bullying or harassing may not understand how the behaviour is perceived and it has the potential to escalate and lead to significant difficulties for all concerned.

In establishing the links between “unacceptable behaviour”, “bullying” and “harassment” this broad definition may be helpful:

“any behaviour, involving a misuse of power, which an individual or group knows, or ought reasonably to know, could have the effect of offending, humiliating, intimidating or isolating an individual or group should be regarded as unacceptable in the church community, both to those who are paid or to members of the church. “Unacceptable behaviour” changes its label to “bullying” or “harassing behaviour” when it causes actual harm or distress to the person to whom it is addressed, normally but not exclusively after a series of incidents over a period of time. Lack of intent is not an excuse, but the degree of intent is relevant in terms of how the behaviour should be challenged and the issues subsequently resolved”

How can bullying and harassment be recognised?

Bullying is more easily seen when it is continuous, frequent, repetitive and part of an overall pattern. However some abuse is serious enough to be recognised even if the behaviour occurred only once and is therefore not defined as bullying.

Bullying may manifest itself in a variety of different ways, it is usually persistent, and often unpredictable, and can amount to severe psychological intimidation. It is insidious, and undermines the ability and confidence of the person suffering from it. It can lead to a variety of symptoms including fear, isolation, demotivation, poor concentration and symptoms of stress. Another consequence can be ill health leading to absence from work or a stubborn attendance when obviously unwell, and psychological emotional and physical harm can be done.

Examples of bullying behaviour

This list of behaviours is not exhaustive but gives a clear indication of the sorts of actions that may constitute bullying or harassment:

  • consistently attacking someone’s professional or personal or religious standing
  • isolating someone or deliberately ignoring or excluding them from activities
  • removing areas of responsibility without discussion or notice
  • setting out to make someone appear incompetent
  • deliberately withholding information or providing incorrect information in order to demean another
  • over loading with work and or reducing deadlines without paying attention to any protest
  • persistently picking on someone in front of others
  • spreading malicious rumours to third parties or discussing someone’s personal life without their consent
  • public humiliation by constant innuendo, belittling and “putting down”
  • frequent use of emails to an individual rather than face to face discussion to reprimand, insult or otherwise inform someone of their apparent failing, and/or copying this in appropriately to third parties
  • personal insults and name-calling
  • making false accusations
  • aggressive gestures, verbal threats and intimidation
  • talking/shouting directly into someone’s face
  • direct physical intimidation

Distinguishing bullying from reasonable behaviour

It is important to distinguish between bullying and behaviour that is reasonable in a particular context. For example there may be occasions where shortcomings in performance are being addressed and more incisive behaviour is interpreted as bullying simply because the recipient is unused to being challenged or asked to account for their actions.

Harassment, in general terms, is the unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women. It may be related to disability, race, gender, age, sexual life, religious belief (including theology or churchmanship), nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual and may be persistent or an isolated incident. What is important is that the actions or comments are viewed by the recipient as demeaning and unacceptable.

On the whole it is safest to take the view that if a person complains that they are being bullied or harassed, then they have a grievance which should be dealt with, regardless of whether or not their complaint accords with a standard definition. It is important to understand why they feel as they do and look for a solution to the problem and/or an improvement in the relationship. If we are to model a loving church community then the way that we deal with such situations and incidents will demonstrate our belief in repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Standards of behaviour

Those with pastoral responsibilities recognise the importance of being good role models in the way that they interact with those for whom they have pastoral care and/or managerial oversight. A culture of support and empowerment where there is consultation and real discussion of problems and their solutions is one which should discourage bullying and harassment. They recognise that training in this area is important and commit themselves to this.

All Hope Church employees should appreciate the importance of good relationships in their church life and discipleship, and that poor behaviour can set back the mission of the church. They undertake to challenge poor behaviour, seek help when this does not stop and participate in any investigation or mediation to end the problem.

Confidentiality

It is Hope Church Policy that these matters are to be treated with absolute confidentiality and that no action will be taken without the willing consent of the person who feels he or she has been a target.

Fair procedures

Complaints of bullying or harassment may with the recipient’s consent be brought under the Grievance Procedure, which has been developed by Hope Church to deal with grievances of various kinds.

False accusations

False accusations are a serious matter. The behaviour of anyone who is found to have made an unfounded, deliberately malicious complaint or allegation will be regarded with the utmost seriousness and where possible formal action taken.