Workplace bullying in the UK is more common than you might think. The world of business is fast paced and very competitive and these high-pressured environments can cause questionable decision-making. Bullying can make working life miserable and can make you feel depressed and ill.
When we think of bullies, we tend to remember the ones we knew at school. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop there for everyone. For some, the bullying continues into adult life and into the workplace. Bullying in the workplace can cover a vast range of topics including Bullying, Harassment, Stress and Constructive dismissal.
Bullying is generally described as:
A behaviour from a person or group that’s unwanted and makes you feel uncomfortable, including feeling: frightened or intimidated, less respected, or insulted. It is characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.
Some examples of bullying/harassing behaviour include:
- spreading malicious rumours, or insulting someone by word or behaviour (copying memos that are critical about someone to others who do not need to know, ridiculing or demeaning someone – picking on them or setting them up to fail)
- exclusion or victimisation
- unfair treatment
- overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position
- unwelcome sexual advances – touching, standing too close, the display of offensive materials, asking for sexual favours, making decisions on the basis of sexual advances being accepted or rejected
- making threats or comments about job security without foundation
- deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism
- preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities.
If you feel as though any of the above apply to your situation, then you may be being bullied or harassed at work.
Did you know? Bullying itself is not against the law. Harassment however is unlawful and you can take a claim to an employment tribunal. But in a workplace, employers are actually responsible for preventing bullying and harassment, and they should have procedures in place if this is to happen.
It is important to remember that none of this is your fault if you are being bullied.
So why do bullies bully?
- One reason could be that they are doing it for attention – that sounds very childish but, they may be doing it because it makes them feel more important or powerful.
- The bully may even be jealous or envious of who they are bullying.
- The employer may condone what the bully is doing, believing it gets results. For example, this can be seen in sales roles where employers are trying to get more sales.
- They harbour a strong need to control and dominate others.
- Underlying issues they have been dealing with for years (personality traits).
So what can you do if you are being bullied?
Firstly, it is important that you start collecting any evidence you can regarding the bullying, so when you speak to someone you have examples you can show them.
One step you can take if you are feeling confident enough to do so is talk to the person you believe is bullying you. You may find that the bullying is not deliberate and they did not realise they were making you feel bad. So talking to the bully and explaining how they have made you feel may be a good step to take.
However, if you do not feel comfortable talking to them directly, you can speak to someone about how you might deal with the problem informally. This person could be:
- an employee representative, such as a trade union official
- someone in the firm’s human resources department
- your manager or supervisor
- If the bullying is affecting your health, then please speak to your GP and they will be able to advise you on the next steps you can take.
You can also seek advise from the following places:
These places will be able to point you in the right direction and will give you useful tools and guidelines that you can follow.
We have also discussed this topic in our podcast this week, so feel free to listen here.