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This Anti Bullying Week why not help put a stop to it by cluing yourself up on the signs of workplace bullying and harassment so that you're better prepared to help someone who needs it, or even to help yourself. 

Anyone can be a victim of bullying and it certainly isn't unique to school pupils on the playground. Workplace bullying is a very real issue and can take many forms and while most companys have policies in place to prevent harrassment, the signs of bullying aren't always obvious and can sometimes go unnoticed.

There is no legal definition for bullying, however the government categorises it as repeated, intended to hurt someone either physically or emotionally and often aimed at certain specific groups e.g. race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Bullying can take many of forms, not all of which are easily visible, these can include physical assault, teasing, threatening, name calling and cyber bullying (which refers to bullying that takes place via mobile or online).

According to the Government website:

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on someone
  • regularly undermining a competent worker
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

Bullying and harassment can happen:

  • face-to-face
  • by letter
  • by email
  • by phone

Individuals should see if they can resolve bullying informally first, perhaps by confronting the bully and making it clear that what they're doing is hurtful and unacceptable. In some cases, the person responsible may not even realise that what they're doing is hurting the victim and the issue is easily resolved. However if it's not possible to resolve the problem informally you may need to report the problem to a manager or HR.

Although bullying isn't legally recognised, harassment is unlwaful under the Equality Act 2000 and should always be taken very seriously, if you see harassment taking place or are being harrassed yourself it is important to report it to someone.

So what is the difference between bullying and harassment?

Bullying becomes harassment when it is specifically related to one of a person's 9 protected characteristics which are: 

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender (including gender reassignment)
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation
What can you do about it?

Harassment needs to be reported immediately and can be formally dealt with by managers and HR as it is unlawful and breaches the Equality Act 2000. 

Just because bullying isn't recognised by law does not mean it can't be dealt with and you and your colleagues certainly don't have to put up with workplace bullying. Here's what you can do about it:

  • Keep a diary of each incident that happens and when, a written record will help you to build a case and it'll make it harder for the bullies to deny their behaviour when confronted.
  • Do some research into your bullies behaviour and how you can respond to them effectively. It would also be advisable to research your company policies and see if there are any policies which cover bullying in the workplace as this will better inform you of the correct procedure and your rights.
  • Speak to other colleagues and see if they have witnessed anything, they may be able to give advice or they may wish to stand up for you when necessary and back you up if needed.
  • Speak to your manager or a member of management whom you feel comfortable talking to, arrange a meeting and take in your diary of examples to show them to better exemplify how bad the situation is. 
  • If necessary you may wish to escalate the complaint if  the manager with whom you've spoken doesn't do anything about it or if their solution is ineffective.
  • If you witness a fellow member of staff being bullied you may wish to report it to management on their behalf or talk to them to see if you can support them in any way. 

For further advice, resources and support on workplace bullying, have a look at ACAS's bullying and harassment page here.