Many might think that Bullying seems very much like a playground issue, but the truth is it’s a
major problem in our workplaces too.
There are various types of bullying ranging from bosses unfairly dismissing employees via email to line managers making decisions without following proper procedure; The National Bullying Helpline, indicates the latter is more common than you’d like to think.
While the majority of people consider workplace bullying to be verbal, that’s not to say physical bullying is unheard of either.
There are known about cases where physical assaults have taken place, from blocking an person's exit to physical beatings.
What is workplace bullying?
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) describes workplace bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviour, abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees and which may cause them to suffer stress”.
Harassment can occur face-to-face, by letter, email or phone. Examples of bullying behaviour include:
Criticising competent staff, taking their responsibilities away or giving them trivial tasks to do.
Shouting at staff.
Spreading malicious rumours about another member of staff.
Persistently picking on people, or undermining them, in front of others or in private.
· Blocking promotion.
Regularly and deliberately ignoring or excluding individuals from work activities.
Setting a person up to fail by overloading them with work or setting impossible deadlines.
Consistently attacking a member of staff in terms of their professional or personal standing.
Regularly making the same member of staff the butt of jokes.
A survey by the TUC revealed that nearly one third of people have been bullied at work; with women experiencing it more than men.
The highest prevalence of workplace bullying is among 40 to 59-year-olds, where 34% of people are affected.
Really very disturbingly, in nearly three-quarters (72%) of cases, bullying is carried out by a manager.
How to know if you’re being bullied?
“If you think you are being bullied, you probably are,”
Professionals agree that if your health is suffering as a result of being bullied, or if you are a bystander of bullying, you have a duty to report it to your employer.
Sometimes bullying can result in stress and ill-health. People who are being bullied might experience anxiety, headaches, nausea, ulcers, sleeplessness, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, tearfulness, loss of self-confidence and, in extreme cases, thoughts of suicide.
Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees.
If a victim’s assertions go unheard, employers and bullies risk facing fines, compensation and in some cases even a jail sentence.
What to do if you’re being bullied at work?
If you are being bullied at work, initially you could try to sort out the problem informally according to gov.uk.
Advice from mental health charity Mind is that you should calmly explain the situation and your feelings to the person.
It would be wise to talk through your approach with someone who you can trust and who will give you honest supportive feedback.
The TUC has published official guidance on what to do if you feel you are being bullied at work.
It suggests that you:
Talk to someone and get some support.
Keep a diary of the bullying - make reference to times, dates and circumstances. “Your diary will constitute evidence at the end of the day and will help your employer investigate matters,”
If you can, tell the bully that you find their behaviour unacceptable and ask them to stop.
Tell your manager (or more senior manager) and show your evidence.
Always take a union rep or a friend with you to any meetings about a formal complaint.
If your employer fails to challenge workplace bullying, you can make a formal complaint via the company’s grievance procedure.
If that doesn’t work, and you’re still being harassed, you can take things further to an employment tribunal.
TUC “Employers must do all they can to support victims coming forward. This means having a zero-tolerance policy and ensuring people don’t suffer in silence.”
“Bullying can be hugely damaging to staff and creates a toxic working environment. Anyone worried about it should seek appropriate support and guidance, to get their voice heard and their interests represented.”
Wellbeing Practice can provide emotional support and help signpost you to appropriate organisations such as the National Bullying Helpline .