OK, it's time to get serious for a moment. Bullying in the workplace is a sensitive and difficult issue, but the rules surrounding it can be hazy and open to interpretation.
It can be easy to dismiss if it's not you who's the butt of jokes, but if you feel you’re being bullied at work, you should get familiar with your employer’s policies on the subject. Consult your HR department for advice prior to making an official complaint and ask a solicitor for advice relevant to your specific situation. Yep, it really is THAT serious.
Anti-bullying charity the Andrea Adams Trust advises anyone who believes they are a victim of workplace bullying to keep a detailed record of all occurrences. Keep a diary of every incident —verbal or physical, and save hard copies of reports or emails you consider harsh or offensive. This evidence is vital if you want to make a formal complaint.
The most common questions raised on the subject are covered below:
What is bullying?
You’re probably being bullied if you’re suffering abuse, physical or verbal violence, humiliation or having your confidence deliberated undermined. Bullying can be any of the following:
- Being picked on all the time
- Regularly being treated unfairly or differently from your colleagues
- Being humiliated in front of your colleagues
- Being blamed for problems that aren’t your fault
- Always being given too much to do
- Regularly being threatened with the sack
- Being unfairly passed over for promotion or training
- Suffering physical or verbal abuse
Is there legislation to prohibit bullying?
Yes. Protection from bullying and harassment in the workplace is provided under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and gives civil and criminal protection to the victim. In addition, victims of bullying can claim under the discrimination laws if the harassment takes place on grounds of their race, sex, disability, age, religion or sexual orientation.
Are employers doing anything about bullying?
Employers take instances of workplace bullying much more seriously these days. Many have implemented a policy of zero tolerance which can be found in employee handbooks or on intranets.
How do I know the difference between a bully and a tough manager?
Your manager should be ‘tough but fair’. They may criticise you, but it should be constructive criticism aimed at motivating you to improve. A manager who enforces targets or ideas without discussion could be deemed a bully; the same goes for deliberate criticism conducted in front of other members of your team and designed to belittle you.
Advice and support
Sometimes even following a formal grievance procedure doesn’t solve a problem.
If you’re a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) also offers free, confidential advice, or you could contact the National Bullying Helpline on 0845 22 55 787.
You can think about legal action if your employer hasn’t helped you, which could lead to an Employment Tribunal. If you’ve left your job because of bullying, you might be able to claim unfair (constructive) dismissal. But you must get professional advice before taking either of these steps, from a lawyer or other professional who specialises in this field.
- Discrimination law
- Employment contracts
- Sick pay
- Working hours
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Disclaimer: the information on these pages is provided for your information and reference only. Before making any important decisions regarding your employment or any legal matter, you should consult a qualified professional adviser who can provide specific advice based on your individual position.