In a bid to tackle oppressive workplace cultures, the Law Society is carrying out an independent research study on bullying, sexual, and other forms of harassment in the solicitors’ profession.
A confidential survey is being carried out with the help of external consultants Crowe, following ethical research guidelines, with the goal of providing an objective assessment of the current work environment as it relates to these matters.
Law Society members, both practising and non-practising, as well as Blackhall Place trainees, have been invited by Crowe via email to participate in this survey.
The goal of the Dignity Matters project is to help transform workplace culture.
The research will also provide recommendations to the solicitors’ profession on how best to tackle bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, and how to prepare for challenges ahead, as guided by the IBA’s Us Too? report recommendations.
The survey is not solely for those who have experienced oppressive workplace environments. It is vital that Crowe hears from everyone, including those who have not been affected, to fully establish an accurate depiction (positive and negative) of workplace culture.
Bystanders to harassment are also invited to contribute their views and detail their subjective experience.
Given the confidential nature of the survey, submissions do not need to meet any legal requirements under the definition of bullying or harassment. Participants will not be bound, in any way, by their answers.
Bullying at work is defined as repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.
The survey breaks down various types of bullying, such as:
- Being deliberately given too much or too little work, work not appropriate to the position, or manipulating job content and targets,
- Overbearing supervision, undermining of work output, or constant unproductive criticism,
- Exclusion or withholding work-related information,
- Verbal abuse/insult, including offensive jokes or comments, ridiculing, or demeaning language, shouting, or spreading malicious rumours,
- Inappropriate written material (text messages, emails, letters),
- Inappropriate visual displays, such as posters, emblems or badges,
- Misuse of power or position, including threats or comments about job security,
- Ongoing or public criticism,
- Jostling, shoving or any form of physical assault,
- Intimidatory gestures, posturing or threatening poses,
- Implicit or explicit threats, other than relating to the categories above,
- Isolation or exclusion from work or social activities, including work online/phone chat groups,
- Pressure to behave in a manner the respondent found inappropriate,
- Work requirements that impact on child/carer/other personal arrangements, such as early morning meetings, late working, requirement to answer emails while not at work,
- Difficulties surrounding maternity issues,
- Bullying or harassment via social media,
- Being treated less favourably than colleagues, including being blocked from promotion or training opportunities,
- Violence/aggression (actual or implicit/explicit threats), and
- Interview questions relevant to a discriminatory ground.
Data is key
Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.
This is not a forum through which to report distressing incidents, and respondents are respectfully asked not to identify any individuals or organisations. The purpose of this survey is to obtain data.
Crowe will review all responses and present aggregated findings to the Law Society. Individual survey responses will not be shared with the Society.
There will be open text boxes in the survey with the object of understanding this difficult topic more deeply.
The Dignity Matters survey is one part of an evidence-based programme of action to address bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in the solicitors’ profession, and to support a culture of dignity, respect and inclusivity.
A change programme to implement the recommendations will follow, upon approval by the Law Society Council.
As we go to press, a confidential email with a link to the survey is to be sent to everyone on the Roll of Solicitors, with instructions about how to participate. Law School trainees will not be contacted directly by Crowe.
However, they will be directed by the Law School about how and where to access the survey link online when the survey is launched. Clicking on the link will bring survey invitees to the individual survey.
A helpdesk will be made available by Crowe during the period the survey is open – it will be accessible via email and phone and will respond to technical queries only.
There are mental-health supports available for solicitors who experience distress on completion of, or while completing, the Dignity Matters survey.
Individual counselling is also available to Law School trainees through Law School Psychological Services.
Crowe and the Law Society appreciate that recollecting incidents of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment may be distressing, and encourage participants to seek appropriate support.
Your dignity matters
Solicitors’ voices have the potential to transform workplace culture and ensure dignity, respect and inclusivity. The Law Society is asking all of its members to be part of the change and have their say on dignity matters.
Julie Breen (Professional Wellbeing Project coordinator) is coordinating the rollout of the Dignity Matters survey. If you have feedback or questions, you can contact Julie at email@example.com.
Read and print a PDF of this article here.