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How To Cope With Bullying in the Workplace

​Dealing with a workplace bully can be one of the most difficult challenges which a professional can face in their career. Along with it being a miserable place to work, it can make you lose confidence in your abilities to do the job in question.

A recent study found that 6 in 10 people have witnessed or suffered bullying in the workplace with 68% claiming it was ‘subtle’ behaviour such as leaving someone out of a group occasion.

Bullying in the workplace could be in person or online; in fact, bullies often feel a lot braver when they can hide behind a computer. This could have exacerbated situations during the Covid-19 pandemic as millions of professionals were forced to work remotely.

If you have been made to feel frightened, humiliated, offended, intimidated or degraded by someone at work, it is not acceptable and there are things which you can do to alleviate the situation. You have the right to be treated fairly and respectfully in the workplace.

Under UK law, bullying is not against the law - however harassment is so it is important to distinguish between the two. Although it’s not the law, your employer should have internal policies in place which are designed to stamp out workplace bullying.

Examples of bullying include another person spreading malicious rumours about you, unfair treatment, being regularly undermined or being denied the opportunity to access training or promotion opportunities.

Examples of harassment include unwanted behaviour which targets you due to your age, sex, disability, race, religion/beliefs or sexual orientation. You could also experience being treated differently due to pregnancy of maternity/paternity leave.

Under no circumstance is it acceptable to be targeted in this way, in or out of the workplace.

What to do if you’re being bullied

If you feel like you’re being bullied and you can’t sort out the problem yourself, your first port of call is speaking with your manager.

If the grievance is about your manager, you should take the issue to the human resources (HR) department.

Opening a conversation up about it is the first step towards resolving the problem. Some employers will have staff who are specifically trained in this area and they will be able to give you advice on how to deal with the situation.

You should be advised on what action will be taken and what support you will receive during this period.

What to do if the bullying is affecting your health

If you feel like the bullying has spiraled out of control and it is affecting your physical and mental health, you should visit your GP as a matter of urgency.

After dealing with a traumatic experience, you might find that you need to speak with a professional counsellor to acknowledge and work through the situation.

What to do if your employer doesn’t help

Sometimes a manager or HR department can dismiss bullying claims as ‘personality clashes.’ If you strongly believe that this is not the case, the next port of call is to speak with your trade union (if you have one) and follow their advice.

If you haven’t started a diary yet, you should definitely start one now. Include details on what happened, the time and date, how the incident made you feel, information on any witnesses and screenshots if the incident occured online.

By tracking the situation, you will be able to reopen the discussion with your manager and give them a clearer picture of what is happening.

If you are still not receiving the support you need, you should make a formal complaint using your employer's grievance procedure. Your manager will be forced to acknowledge and investigate the situation further at this stage.

If the problem persists past this stage, you could make a stand and take legal action. A lawyer who specialises in employment law will listen to your case and advise on the best course of action.

This could result in taking your employer to an Employment Tribunal for breaching their duty of care towards you.

If you were forced to leave your position because your employer did nothing to help, you could make a claim to an employment tribunal for constructive dismissal.

It’s important that you have evidence to show that your employer did nothing to help you. We would advise that you keep a diary of every meeting which you had, who was in the meeting and the outcome of the conversation. After any meeting, you should ask for the minutes so you have it in writing what was discussed.

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