What to do if you’re being bullied at work

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Have you ever been bullied at work, or noticed someone else being bullied? Perhaps you feel singled out for negative treatment by a particular colleague. You might be constantly criticised - in private or in front of others - even though you’re perfectly competent at your job. Maybe you’re always the butt of one person’s jokes. Or perhaps you notice everyone else gets invited on an informal work night out except you. 

Gone are the days of bullying being solely about a verbal tongue-lashing or a physical roughing up. It needn’t be face to face, or even seen or heard. It could be through email, phone or social media, and deliberate avoidance and exclusion also count.

Bullying, in whatever form, doesn’t just make you miserable and dread going to work. It can also end up affecting your mental health and physical health, and impact on your home life, too. Some extreme cases have even unfortunately led to post-traumatic stress disorder or even suicide.

Things are getting worse

Recent research shows that almost a third of people have been bullied at work. A survey carried out by YouGov by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as part of last year’s Anti-Bullying Week found that:

  • Victims of bullying are more likely to be women than men.
  • In 72% of cases the manager is the one doing the bullying.
  • For more than one in three people who report workplace bullying, it’s the reason they leave their job.

And the fact that many people fear reprisals so won’t speak up means that these figures are almost certainly set to worsen.

What should your employer do

Although there’s no law against bullying in the workplace, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 your employer must legally ensure your health, safety and welfare - which means taking to give you a positive environment to work in.

Bullying action plan

  1. Keep a record of everything that happens to build up a picture of how often the incidents happen, and what form they take.
  2. Talk to others to see if they’ve witnessed things happening to you - or if they’ve experienced the same treatment themselves. Finding colleagues who can support you as an ally will be helpful and a source of solace.
  3. Find out if your company has a specific policy that covers harrassment and bullying. If there’s nothing on the company website, talk to the HR department.
  4. Speak to your manager and take the record you’ve been making along with you (along with any other evidence from others you’ve gathered). Ahead of time, plan what you want to say so the key points come across. Try and focus on how the bullying behaviour makes you feel, and how it affects you.
  5. If nothing happens - either the bullying doesn’t stop or your manager fails to take meaningful action (or worse still, if your boss is the one doing the bullying), take your complaint higher up. Your employer should have internal procedures to follow, again which should be available from your HR department.
  6. Still not worked? Employment tribunals aren’t an option for workplace bullying, but you can bring a claim under discrimination or harrassment laws.

No one has the right to bully or harrass you at work, and if you’re receiving unfair treatment you should take steps to get it stopped. Not just for your own happiness and career, but also to prevent it happening to anyone else...

There’s more guidance on what to do if you’re being bullied here: https://www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment. You can also contact ACAS on at www.acas.org.uk or by calling 0300 123 1100.



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