The Chartered Management Institute has published a new guide to help organisations try to sort out bullying at work.
Launched in association with conciliation body Acas and union Unison, Bullying in the Workplace: Guidance for Managers, calls on UK groups to monitor and deal with the problem of bullying " because of the negative impact it has on employee health, self-esteem and organisational performance".
It also highlights the need for employers to be aware of the potential legal implications if they fail to identify, and act on, the problem.
The guide outlines the factors that contribute towards an organisational bullying culture and urges managers to be clear on the procedures for dealing with complaints. It also calls on them to put preventative anti-bullying measures in place.
It tells bosses to look out for signs of misuse of power or overbearing supervision; undermining by overloading colleagues with too much work; constant criticism; blocking promotion or denying training and development opportunities; and intimidation.
Mary Chapman, CMI chief executive, said: " Bullying is not only morally indefensible, it is an undermining influence on staff morale which, in turn, adversely affects an organisation's performance.
"It is imperative that managers recognise their duty of care to their employees, both in their own behaviour and by developing the knowledge and policies which reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring in the first place."
To communicate the message that bullying is unacceptable, the guide recommends developing clear and concise policies.
Areas to consider including are a statement of commitment from senior management; examples of unacceptable behaviour; clear indications that bullying is a disciplinary offence; appropriate details about procedures; involvement of trade union and HSE representatives; assurances that complaints will be dealt with confidentially.
Acas chief executive John Taylor said: " Organisations need to bear in mind their culture and management style when developing a policy because setting a positive example goes hand-inhand with formal procedures. Bullying is less likely to happen in organisations where respect and tolerance for others starts at the top."
The guide outlines what to do if bullying does occur.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "The first priority must be to deal with the bullying and you must have clear transparent procedures that both parties can have confidence in.
"However dealing solely with the consequences of bullying is not good enough - it wrongly focuses attention on individuals rather than the culture that has allowed the bullying to go on."
The guide, which can be downloaded at www.managers.org.uk/ bullying, will be followed by the launch of research.