Monday, 15 December 2014

Workplace Bullying

Many bullies are expert abusers, and might make their victims doubt if what's happening to them is bullying, or feel that they are at fault for the  bully's behaviour. However, there is no excuse for bullying. If there are genuine grievances, about your behaviour, attendance or competency for example, then employers must provide proper channels for dealing with it.
Bullying can include:
  • excluding or ignoring people, and/or encouraging others to do the same
  • giving them unreasonable workloads compared to others in the same role
  • taking responsibilities or work away for no reason
  • making unreasonable or unwarranted criticisms
  • sarcastic, aggressive or rude behaviour, even if it is disguised as jokes
  • spreading rumours
  • threatening their job, denying training opportunities or promotion prospects without any basis or reason
Bullying can be carried out by an individual or a group and it can take place in person or indirectly such as email, phone, or social media. Bullying itself is not a legal issue but harassment is, under the Equalities Act of 2010. Bullying can be considered harassment if it is about
  • age
  • gender (including gender reassignment)
  • sex (including sexual innuendo or advances)
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
Being bullied is very distressing and debilitating. Workplace bullying can have an impact your work life balance, home life and relationships as well as your performance and attitudes to work. Victims of bullying can become more withdrawn and worried, or displace the frustration and become irritable or angry at home. Those who are being bullied at work may therefore have problems identified as stress, anxiety, low self esteem or confidence, depression or anger management among other things.
If you are being bullied at work, begin by finding out if your employer has a formal anti-bullying policy. If so this will advise you what steps they want you to take. If not your options include:
  • make an informal approach to the bully first, perhaps with the help of a colleague who is willing to act as mediator. Some bullies simply don’t realise that their sense of humour, or management style is intimidating and will respond to a request to change their behaviour. Others know exactly what they are doing but you may feel it’s worth a try. If you choose to do this, it’s important to prepare for this encounter, and to stay calm and polite throughout. Assertiveness skills, which we will cover in a later blog, can be very helpful.
  • keep a diary, and see the GP about your symptoms to provide evidence if things should go to court or arbitration
  • contact a Trade Union rep or ACAS who can provide legal and other advice
  • speak to your line manager or HR department and ask them to intervene. If the bully is your line manager or HR rep, go up a level
  • if all this fails, there may be a legal case to answer. The Citizen's Advice Bureau, Trade Unions, ACAS etc can help you decide
For some people this all sounds very worrying, or too much to face. But bullying, like other forms of abuse, thrives in secrecy. Consider contacting myself or someone like me who can help build your confidence, and undermine the emotional damage done by the bullying, As you start to cope better, reduce your stress and become more confident you might feel more able to take action.


Author: is a professional stress management coach, specialising in working with individuals and smaller employers to minimise stress and maximise feeling in control.
Debbie is has also written about helping people with IBS in the Hypnotherapy Handbook which is available from
Find out more about Debbie's services on  or phone 01977 678593

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