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Bullying & Harassment - Informal Options

Page updated 16 June 2022

It is good practice that all informal resolution avenues should be considered and where appropriate, exhausted before a formal process is instigated. As set out in the Code of Practice on Bullying 2021, a prompt and informal problem-solving approach offers the best potential for addressing allegations of bullying effectively. 

Why use informal options?

The objective of dealing with issues informally is to try and resolve them swiftly and effectively with the minimum amount of distress to all parties. Proceeding to a formal process should not be viewed as automatic as set out in the Code of Practice on Bullying 2021, and it is important that individuals are aware of the emphasis placed on informal options as a means of resolution. An important reason for this is to support the professional relationship going forward. Further advice can be provided by the Dignity & Respect Support Service. It is recognised that there may be instances where informal options may not be appropriate. 

What options are available to me?

If you feel that you have been subjected to bullying or harassment, one option is to make the person causing the alleged offence aware them that their behaviour is unwelcome and request that it stops or changes. If you think you are unable to contact or approach the person by yourself, you may have someone accompany you as a source of support, such as a colleague/trade union representative or a student or member of the Students Union or a Dignity and Respect Report and Support Advisor. Alternatively, a Dignity and Respect Report and Support Advisor may approach the person on your behalf. It may be the case that the person causing the alleged offence does not realise that they are perceived to be behaving in a manner which is negatively affecting someone else and this approach can often resolve the situation. Whilst this is not a defence, the unwelcome behaviour may cease if they are made aware of it.

The following can be used as a guide to try and resolve the matter informally using this approach and you can seek further guidance from the supports that are available to you as outlined above.

  • Ask to meet with the person causing the alleged offence in a location where you can speak confidentially.  You may want to bring a support person/friend with you.
  • Resolving matters informally can be more successful when having a face-to-face conversation with someone rather than sending an email or text message as sometimes the tone can get lost in the message, however it may the case that making contact in writing is the best approach for you. 
  • Writing down the behaviours/incidents, dates they occurred and the impact they had on you can help to prepare for the meeting with the person
  • Start by giving examples of the type of behaviour that you feel is unwelcome and how it makes you feel i.e. “when you addressed me in that manner in front of other people, I felt embarrassed” 
  • Try to avoid labelling the behaviour as “bullying or harassment and instead focus on how that behaviour made you feel. i.e. embarrassed, uncomfortable, undermined. 
  • Ask for the behaviour to change or to stop. 
  • Allow appropriate opportunities to respond.
  • If you feel comfortable, you can explain that this type of behaviour is contrary to the Policy.
  • Each person should keep a written record of their interpretation of the meeting.

You can seek support from your Manager (for employees)/or Head of School, Associate Dean, Programme Co-ordinator (for students). The role of the Manager, Head of School, Associate Dean or Programme Coordinator can be very important in working with those involved in an issue in a proactive manner to provide options and potential pathways for resolution of issues in a positive, solution focussed manner.

If the person causing the alleged offence is the Manager / Head of School, Associate Dean or Programme Co-ordinator, then you are advised to contact the manager/person at the next level. If you are unable to raise the issue within the line management levels, you can contact any of the other supports outlined above.   

You can also approach a Dignity and Respect Support Service Advisor to support you in taking steps to resolve the issue. This role is described above. This role provides ongoing support and information but can also work with you proactively to help resolve the issues. This may include accompanying you to approach the person causing the alleged behaviour or potentially engaging with the individual on your behalf.  If you decide to make a formal complaint, the role will support you throughout the formal investigation process as well as aftercare support. This role is also available to provide support the person reported.

Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process that allows you to resolve an issue with another individual, including bullying and harassment, in a mutually agreeable way with the help of a neutral external third party, a mediator. The aim of the mediation service is to resolve disputes at the earliest possible opportunity and to encourage all involved to resolve their differences without having to go through a formal complaints process. Mediation can also be used following an informal or formal intervention to help restore the working relationship. The mediation option is available to both employees and students.

It is important to note that attending mediation does not preclude any other form of dispute resolution, such as a formal investigation. As an employee, you should discuss the option of mediation with your immediate manager in the first instance.  If there is a conflict of interest in discussing the issue with the immediate manager, the employee raising the issue should discuss the option of mediation with that person’s line manager or contact the Dignity & Respect Support Service for further advice.  For students, the person raising the issue should discuss the option of mediation with their Student Adviser in the first instance. Mediation is a service where the costs are covered by the University and therefore removes any financial burden on a local School/Unit.

Further information on mediation can be obtained from the Equality Diversity and Inclusion website mediation section.

Students, employees and visitors to UCD can also report issues of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct anonymously through the (opens in a new window)UCD Report and Support tool if they do not feel able to come forward to engage in an informal means of resolving the issue or do not wish to make a formal complaint at this point. Direct intervention will not take place on foot of this report, however the information provided through the Report and Support tool will be valuable for the University as it strives to create a culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and is free from discrimination. The information will be collated and analysed to enable UCD to take steps to support the elimination of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

Learn more about the Report & Support Tool

Moving from formal to informal options

On receipt of a formal complaint a screening panel is convened. The screening panel (gender balanced) consists of 4 people in total:

  • 3 primary senior nominees from HR, UCD Legal Office, the Office of the Registrar
  • 1 externally appointed independent third party.

The Screening Panel reviews formal complaints and may also recommend, on receipt of a formal complaint, that informal options may be the most appropriate means of resolving the issue(s). If this arises, a member of the Screening Panel will meet with the parties involved separately to discuss this further.

If an individual reports an issue that has not progressed to a formal complaint and is exploring informal resolution options, precautionary measures may be considered (excluding neutral suspension). An appropriate person in the local structures independent of the situation will determine if precautionary measures are required. Further information on precautionary measures can be obtained from the Dignity & Respect Support Service. If a formal complaint has been made and the Screening Panel recommends informal options, precautionary measures may also be considered in these instances (see Formal Complaints Procedure). As per the Code, enough time needs to be allowed for the informal option process to be successful and behaviour change to be realistically achieved over the longer term. 

Formal Complaints

Information on the formal complaints process can be found here.

Contact UCD Dignity & Respect

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: 01 716 7716 | E: respect@ucd.ie | Location Map(opens in a new window)