Support for bullying at work Posted by Justine Clarabut on 17 October, 2019

Bullying is behaviour that can make someone feel intimidated or offended.

There are multiple forms of bullying which can be physical or mental, direct or indirect, and is usually repetitive, over long periods of time.

“The difference between a bully and a mistake is with the intent: the bully wants to wound, to have power over, to humiliate, and destroy.” – Sherry Benson Podolchuk, Author

Most people will think that bullying happens in the school playground. Unfortunately, it also occurs amongst adults and bullying at work happens probably more than we realise. Being bullied, at any age, can be debilitating and incredibly distressing. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can develop as the victim finds it harder to go to work for fear of being subjected to harassment or abuse.

Harassment is unlawful

Bullying itself is not against the law, but if a colleague or manager is behaving in an intimidating or offensive way, it is classed as harassment. And harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010

Harassment is classified as unwanted behaviour that is directed personally towards someone, such as their age, sex, gender, religion, marital status, disability and so on. It can be face-to-face or in the form of letter, email, phone or social media. This type of behaviour causes intimidation through unfair treatment, undermining, spreading malicious rumours and denying opportunities to name but a few.

What should employees do if they are bullied or harassed at work?

  1. Try to resolve the problem informally. First of all, ask the bully to stop their behaviour. Inform them that steps will be taken via a more official route if it doesn’t stop.
  2. If this isn’t an option, then management or HR should be informed.
  3. An official complaint through the employer’s grievance procedures can be made, should the bullying not stop.
  4. Helplines such as ACAS are able to give advice.
  5. Some companies may have Employee Assistance Plans which are completely confidential and usually offer a 24/7 telephone helpline.
  6. If the problem continues to persist and none of the above provide a solution, then legal action can be taken at an employment tribunal. This is worst case scenario and one that is usually taken in cases of severe misconduct.

Employer’s obligations to protect their employees

Employers have a legal obligation to protect their staff from abusive behaviour within the workplace. It is important for employers to have anti-bullying and harassment policies as they can help to prevent such problems. Here is an essential guide for employers to help deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace.

‘Change starts with us’ #antibullyingweek

This is the theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Week which takes place in England from November 11th to the 15th. It is a campaign to raise awareness and prevent bullying in schools. It is also a chance to take a look at bullying and harassment amongst adults too. Offer support to anyone that you think maybe going through a difficult and challenging situation.

To end with an inspirational quote:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” Eleanor Roosevelt

References and further reading