It can be hard to accept when you realise that you are being bullied at work, especially if the treatment is childish and irrational. Bullying comes in many forms, more often psychological intimidation, and power games, but also sexist comments, racist remarks, discrimination or harassment, and occasionally even physical violence.
People react in different ways to bullying and harassment. It’s natural for you to want to avoid engaging with the bully. Conversely you might feel obliged to deal with the bully. Many people would prefer just to brush it off, rather than let it get to you (or be seen to let it get to you). But when the bullying doesn’t stop, the effect can be immense. Bullying and harassment can have profound consequences for mental wellbeing and confidence, which can end up spilling out of work and into your private life.
Bullying can impact on health in many different ways including anxiety, stress, depression and hypertension. Some experience feelings of guilt and fear, even though they are the ones receiving the bullying. Noticing the impact bullying at work is having on you and taking the decision to stand up for yourself and take action is the first step to dealing with it.
Steps to Deal with Bullying in the Workplace
1. Stand Up For Yourself – Be strong. Remember that personal remarks have nothing to do with your ability. Obtain a copy of your employer’s bullying and harassment policy.
If you can deal with the problem informally then do so. The bully might not realise how their behaviour has affected you or be acting that way deliberately and sometimes bullies retreat from those who are strong and stand up to them.
If you feel unable to talk to the person in question yourself you could get a colleague or manager to do it for you. Some places of work actually have staff who are trained to help their staff with harassment or bullying problems.
2. Start a Diary – Keep a log to collect evidence. Make sure that your diary is kept at home so it cannot be stolen or used against you.
Whilst it is important to detail individual incidents of harassment by writing down what the bully says and does, it is vital to detail the number and regularity of incidents.
The more evidence you collect the harder it will be for your bully to deny. Try to write down what happened in an incident when every detail is still fresh in your mind. Collect all relevant memos, letters and emails.
3. Get Witnesses – Tell people and build a support network. This could be your manager, supervisor, a trade union representative or a member of HR.
They might be being bullied too and could corroborate your evidence.
However, remember that there is a possibility that they will side with the bully so be prepared for this. They might even try to rationalise the way in which they have been harassing you, which could be hurtful.
4. Make a Formal Complaint – If the problem cannot be solved informally you will have to make a formal complaint.
This can be done by raising a grievance. Follow your employer’s grievance procedure if they have one set in place. Employers are expected to observe set grievance, disciplinary and dismissal procedures in the UK. A formal grievance procedure generally starts by raising a complaint in writing.
If it is your supervisor or line-manager doing the bullying then you should go a level above them to their manager or to your HR department. You may wish to reflect and consider your decision overnight.
You do not need to submit written evidence or witnesses, but these can support your grievance. To obtain an objective view of how you come across you can use an Employment Lawyer to review the evidence. They can help you draft your grievance, or insert key legal points and take out unfavourable elements before you send it.
5. Take Legal Action – If the problems still persist, an Employment Lawyer will be able to advise you on taking legal action against a bully at work or suggest alternative solutions.
Lawyers can advise you on negotiation with your employer and can even conduct the negotiation on your behalf. This can be extremely useful if the decision maker at your workplace is the bully.
If you are being bullied or harassed at work you can contact Slater and Gordon Lawyers any time of day or night. Our Employment Solicitors can work with you to find a solution to your problem. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will call you back at a time that is convenient to you.