Advice for individuals
Bullying at work can take many forms – some can be directed at you personally, others relate to work activities
There is no legal definition of workplace bullying. However, experts believe that bullying involves negative behaviour being targeted at an individual, or individuals, repeatedly and persistently over time.
Negative behaviour includes:
- Ignoring or excluding you
- Giving you unachievable tasks or ’setting you up to fail’
- Spreading malicious rumours or gossip
- Giving you meaningless tasks or unpleasant jobs
- Making belittling remarks
- Undermining your integrity
- Withholding information deliberately
- Making you look stupid in public
- Undervaluing your contribution –not giving credit where it is due
Harassment, can relate to unlawful discrimination, which can be on the grounds of race, sex, disability, age, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. The Prevention of Harassment Act (1997) covers harassment more generally.
How can bullying or harassment make you feel?
Bullying can impact on your health, for example:
- It can result in psychological health problems such as depression, anxiety or low self-esteem
- It can result in physical health problems such as stomach problems, or sleep difficulties
- If you’ve witnessed the bullying of a colleague, this can also be very upsetting and can impact on your health.
- Your performance at work can be affected.
What can I do?
It can be extremely upsetting to be on the receiving end of what you perceive to be harassing or bullying behaviour, or to witness it. You may feel you are being overly sensitive or it may lower your self-esteem. If you are not sure how to tackle this very awkward subject there are a number of things you can do and many sources of support and information.
- Consult your organisation’s bullying and harassment policy
If your organisation has a policy, it should tell you what your first steps should be. The policy should include definitions of what your organisation regards as standards of acceptable behaviour. It should also advise you on how to start to address the issue – the first step is normally an informal discussion with your manager or a designated colleague to explore your concerns.
If your organisation does not have a policy, try the following:
- Speak to someone you feel comfortable talking to about your concerns.
This may be your manager, a colleague, a TU or staff representative, your employee assistance programme or other sources of support such as the helplines listed below. You could describe the behaviour you’ve been experiencing and get their opinion of whether it may constitute bullying or harassment. You may also want to mention your concerns, anonymously if necessary, to any stress working groups that your organisation has in place.
- Resolve the issue informally.
Many issues can be resolved informally. This may involve you, with the support of a colleague or manager, approaching the person whom you believe is treating your unfairly or inappropriately. You could describe the unacceptable behaviour and explain how it makes you feel and how you would like it to change. It may be that the perpetrator does not realise their behaviour is upsetting, so they need to be given the chance to modify their actions.
Mediation by a neutral third party can often be helpful in resolving difficult issues such as bullying or harassment. There may be trained mediators within your organisation, or contact one of the organisations listed below who may be able to provide such services.
- If informal resolution has not worked, follow a formal complaints procedure.
Your organisation will most likely have a formal complaints procedure. You need to follow this. If your complaint is upheld, your organisation may pursue a number of options.
- Legal action
Taking legal action is a complex process. Both you and your employer should take expert advice and legal representation.
Where can I get more help?
You are not on your own. There are a number of sources of help and advice. Searching the internet will identify a number of useful websites. For example:
Advice for both employees and employers