“Workplace bullying – in any form – is bad for business. It destroys teamwork, commitment, and morale.” – Tony Morgan, Former Chief Executive, The Industrial Society.
No-one should have to suffer bullying, yet many people do. Studies show it’s a growing issue that has a negative impact on people’s careers, lives and wellbeing. 47% of UK workers have observed bullying at work – while one in ten have experienced being bullied in the workplace .
These statistics show that something needs to change. If you’re reading as someone who has experienced workplace bullying, hopefully you will find some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and feel able to move forward when you know how to approach this issue. It’s important to remember that everyone has the right to feel comfortable at work .
What is bullying?
There’s no legal definition of bullying. However, the Anti-Bullying Alliance has developed its own definition: ‘Bullying is the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face to face or online’ . This behaviour is a way of offending, intimidating, insulting, undermining, or humiliating others with malicious intent – resulting in physical and/or emotional harm .
Did you know that harassment is different to bullying? If you’re being harassed, you have legal grounds to respond. It’s harassment when the malicious behaviour is related to any of the following personal factors: age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy, maternity, race, religion/ belief, or sexual orientation . This changes the word used when reporting incidents, and the severity of the incident may help ensure the behaviour stops. The advice below may also be helpful.
What are examples/signs of workplace bullying?
One may be subjected to:
- Unfair criticism
- Receiving an unfair workload and/or trivial or degrading tasks
- Not receiving credit where it’s due, while another takes the glory for the work
- Unfairly held back from promotion and training opportunities
One may experience:
- Being spoken to in an angry, aggressive, or rude manner, including using unsuitable language
- Personal insults/remarks
- Cyber-bullying: abusive comments, photos, or messages online
- The spreading of unfounded rumours or lies
- Being regularly undermined or belittled
- Being excluded, intimidated, threatened, or assaulted
Bullying can happen to anyone, regardless of status. One example is upwards bullying: where a junior employee regularly undermines your authority by disrespecting you, refusing to complete tasks, spreading rumours, or purposefully setting you up to look as though you are bad at your job .
What are the effects of workplace bullying?
An individual/ group may feel:
- A loss of confidence
- Miserable at work
- Symptoms of illness
- Afraid of going to work
- The need to take time off work
What can you do?
Firstly, you’re reading this. You have taken the first step! Educating yourself on the facts associated with workplace bullying will help you better understand and approach the situation. This could be a sensitive situation for you and any others who are affected. Ensuring that you handle it appropriately can prevent future harm.
So, how can workplace bullying be resolved?
Keep a record
Write down the bully’s behaviour, including the date, time, any evidence and eyewitnesses. Keep these notes as a record in the event that you choose to take this further. Use the record as a reference when choosing to: speak up, seek advice, keep calm, speak to the bully or complain formally.
Let people know that you’re experiencing bullying in your workplace. Speak to people that you trust, in or outside your company. You may discover that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. Bullying is a genuine issue. Together we can raise awareness and empower each other to make a stand against it.
Speak to someone you work with who can advise you on the best way to approach the situation in your individual workplace. Your company may have specially trained staff to deal with this kind of situation, so find out who they are. Ask your manager or supervisor, human resources department (HR), or an employee representative, such as a trade union representative. Is the situation impacting on your health? Speak to your GP.
Stay composed when approaching this issue. It’s important to remember that threatening or hurtful behaviour is often a reflection of the bully’s weakness, rather than your or others’ abilities. The bully’s attempts to intimidate and control you are not okay, and they need to explain their behaviour – it’s their problem, and it needs to be resolved in a professional, calm manner.
Speak to the bully
Their bad behaviour may be unintentional. If you feel comfortable doing so, have a civilised and calm conversation with them about how their behaviour is affecting you or others. This may be a difficult conversation to have, so try to think about what to say beforehand. Consider what is happening and why you disagree with it. Having pointers in note form might help keep the conversation on track. Not comfortable having the conversation? Ask someone else to speak to them for you. Often bullying can be resolved simply by confronting the issue with the bully.
Already tried the advice above and nothing has changed? It’s time to make a formal complaint. Ensure that you follow your company’s grievance procedure when you do this. If you do all of this and nothing is done to resolve the issue, it could be worth taking legal action.
If you feel this is necessary, please seek professional advice on claiming an employment tribunal. Want to know more about the law regarding these issues? See: GOV.UK: workplace bullying and harassment.
Speak to someone, get advice, support and be listened to:
Call Support line on: 01708 765200 See: Bullying in the workplace (supportline.org.uk)
Find out more about your rights at work:
Find out more on how to approach the situation:
Dealing with problems at work | Acas
- Einarsen, stale et al. (eds) (2010) Bullying and Harrassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice. 2nd edn. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
- Download ‘Bullying and harassment at work: a guide for employees’ (PDF, 215KB)
- Our definition of bullying (anti-org.uk)
- Workplace bullying and harassment – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Workplace Bullying: Signs, Effects, and How to Cope (verywellmind.com)
- Bullying at work – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Workplace Bullying and Harassment | Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (hseni.gov.uk)
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