Bullying in the workplace

Bullying at work can occur in many different ways, it can be very distressing and affect your mental health.

Man sat in front of a computer screen with his hand to his head looked worried.

Bullying is a common concern within the legal community; many callers to LawCare’s helpline complain of being bullied at work. Bullying at work can occur in many different ways, it can be very distressing and affect your mental health.

  • What is bullying?

    Bullying in the workplace is a type of abusive behaviour where an individual or a group of people create an intimidating or humiliating work environment for another. This can make those subjected to it anxious, depressed, and it can have an impact on family life too.

  • Examples of bullying
    • Excessive monitoring of work, being ‘micro-managed’
    • Exclusion with negative consequences
    • Verbal abuse or insults
    • Repeatedly manipulating the person’s job specification and targets
    • Blame for things beyond the person’s control
    • Menacing behaviour, intimidation or aggression
    • Being treated less favourably than colleagues, including constant criticism of work.
    • Being targeted due to gender, age, race, for example, or derogatory comments relating to these
    • Being excluded, given ‘silent treatment’
  • What bullying is not

    Many organisations fail to see the effect that a bully can have on an individual and will try to position bullying in such a way that it is not an issue.  You may hear managers describe bullying as many things, but it is not:

    • A personality clash – if you are being regularly excluded, belittled or intimidated, you are not clashing with someone, this is bullying
    • Character building – negative remarks and behaviour towards you will not build your character; the effects can be very distressing and affect your mental health.
    • Leadership style – dominant or aggressive managers may try and pass off this behaviour as their management style, but if you feel threatened, this is bullying
    • Provoked – bullying is never your fault
  • The effects of bullying

    On you: Bullying can make you feel anxious and humiliated, and can make you frightened, demotivated and unproductive as well as feel physically ill. You may feel very low and anxious about going into work and facing the individual or group that are causing you to feel this way. You may feel like you have no option but to leave the organisation you work for.  

    On the organisation   Bullying reduces productivity, affects performance and causes relationships in the workplace to deteriorate.  The cost to the business can include low morale, poor staff relations, difficulty recruiting new staff, a culture of hiding mistakes and a potential loss of valuable staff.

  • What to do if you're being bullied
    • Keep a diary of all incidents, noting dates, times, any witnesses and the impact of the bullying behaviour on you.  Keep copies of relevant documents e.g. malicious emails or texts.
    • Your workplace may have a procedure for dealing with bullying. Check the staff handbook or intranet for guidance on the steps you should take next, which may include speaking to your HR department.
    • If you feel comfortable and safe to do so, talk to the person who is bullying you informally and explain the impact their behaviour is having on you. They may not have been aware that you perceived their behaviour as unacceptable. Let them know that if the situation does not improve you will be taking an official route to resolve it. Try not to let the situation become threatening or confrontational. Keep detailed notes of the conversation and “debrief” with a supportive friend or colleague if you can.
    • For many informally talking with the person who is bullying you is not an option, in which case take this up with your manager or supervisor and ask them to help you take the necessary formal steps to resolve the issue.
    • If you are feeling low and anxious seek help from your GP. Counselling or medication may help.
    • If the issue has not been resolved by the steps above you may feel that you are left with no option but to resign. If this is the case it may be open to you to claim that you have been constructively dismissed. To succeed with such a claim you should exhaust all internal remedies or procedures, and seek specialist legal advice preferably before leaving.
  • Good practice for organisations

    Organisations should have detailed policies on bullying and behaviour in the workplace which should be applied at every level by management and communicated to all staff. If a member of staff reports bullying, take the complaint seriously and work with the individual to find a solution.

"You really helped me when I was being bullied and did not know where to turn. You made me feel sane again, as I was beginning to wonder if the way I was being treated was normal."

If you're being bullied contact us for free, confidential, emotional support on 0800 279 6888

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