how to deal with workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is an issue that’s present in organisations sector-wide. It can happen to anybody, regardless of the type of work you do or company you work for. In this article, we provide practical guidance on what to do if you are being bullied.

According to research carried out by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, a quarter of employees (24%) believe workplace bullying and harassment is overlooked by their employer. 

What’s more, the same study also found that 15% of workers have experienced bullying in the last three years, while 4% say they’ve been sexually harassed at work. Meanwhile, 8% have experienced other forms of harassment. 

There are many different forms of bullying, face-to-face and written communications, such as email, social media or phone. Because of this, it can be difficult to point out, with some instances of bullying easily falling under the radar. 

some examples of workplace bullying 

Workplace bullying is a widespread issue that’s present in organisations sector-wide. It can happen to anybody, regardless of the type of work you do or company you work for. Examples of workplace bullying include: 

  • unfair treatment, exclusion or victimisation 
  • ridiculing or demeaning someone, such as picking on them or setting them up to fail 
  • spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone, particularly on the grounds of age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief 
  • overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position 
  • unwelcome sexual advances, such as touching, standing too close and making decisions on the basis of sexual advances being accepted or rejected 
  • deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading them and constantly  criticising them 
  • preventing people from progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities 

ways to deal with workplace bullying  

If you or a colleague is being bullied, it’s important that you: 

talk about it 

Speak to someone who may be able to help, such as somebody in your HR department, your union representative or a health and safety officer. They should be able to tell you if your employer has an anti-bullying or anti-harrassment policy and what their grievance procedure is. Should you need it, our legal advisors at Law Express can also provide you with expert legal advice over the phone. 

It’s important you find out what your rights are in relation to workplace bullying. Once you know more about where you stand, you can then decide what to do next. 

If possible, talk to your friends and work colleagues about what's been happening to you. You may find you're not the only person who's being bullied. At the very least, talking to others about what's happening will help make you feel less isolated. 

see your GP 

People who are being bullied can suffer from a range of health issues, including headaches, anxiety and poor sleep. If you think your health is suffering because you're being bullied at work, don't ignore it. Talk to your GP about it. 

keep a record 

Write down all of the bullying incidents that happen to you, including when they happen and who is involved. If you decide to take things further by starting a formal complaints procedure, for instance, this information will be extremely important. 

be assertive 

According to the mental health charity Mind, learning some basic self-assertiveness skills can make you feel better about yourself if you're being bullied because bullying can really undermine your self-confidence. 

Ask your employer if there are any assertiveness training courses available that you can sign up to or look for courses you can do yourself online. In the meantime, take a look at these useful tips in our self-help guide, How to be assertive, not aggressive

"I was working at a firm, but I was really unhappy there. The hours were silly, and although I was putting in a lot of effort, I was repeatedly told I was under-performing. My superiors made it very clear they didn't think much of me, and the more they criticised me, the more anxious I became. It was a toxic environment and really impacted on my mental health."

Heather

caba client

go direct

Depending on the situation, you may want to avoid being alone with the person who's bullying you. But if you feel you can cope with it, talk to them directly – or ask someone you trust to talk to them for you – and tell them how their behaviour has affected you. 

Decide exactly what you're going to say before you speak to them, as it could help you stay calm. You may even discover that your bully has no idea how much their actions have been distressing you. 

make a formal complaint

On the other hand, you may feel making a formal complaint is the only way forward. Find out if your employer has a complaints procedure in place, which should tell you who you should make the complaint to and how it will be dealt with. 

For more practical advice and guidance on dealing with stressful situations in the workplace read our guide 'Managing stress at work'

how we can help

As an occupational charity, we help the ICAEW community thrive by equipping individuals with the practical, emotional, or financial tools to manage whatever’s in front of them, from everyday situations to exceptional life-changing circumstances.  

Our vision is that everyone in the ICAEW community can fully participate in life. 

All of our services are free, impartial and strictly confidential.  

If you are being bullied at work and need some legal support or emotional support or counselling, get in touch with us. We’re here to help.  

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