Written by: Francesca Allsop-Pick
Bullying can make your work life miserable. You can lose all confidence in yourself, those around you, and will certainly make you feel demotivated. It can make you feel depressed and ill and simply the thought of going to work in the morning can fill you with fear and dread. Bullying doesn’t always occur because someone is picking on your “weakness” sometimes it can occur because someone else feels threatened by your strength and ability in your job. So if this is happening to you, what can you do about it? Here are tips for dealing with bullying in the workplace.
Don’t be ashamed about what is happening. Speak out and share your concerns with others. You may find it is not just you it is happening too. Great comfort can be sort through others and simply letting someone know that this is happening can start to lift the burden of anxiety you currently feel.
Talk to the bully
Easier said than done but sometimes the bullying is not deliberate. The person in question may not be aware of the effect their behaviour is having and by talking to them you may find that they can change their behaviour so that you do not feel bullied or mistreated. Do this in a calm and friendly manner and explain clearly what it is that affects you and how you think they could change their behaviour. If you find this too difficult then ask a trusted colleague of they will do this for you.
When suffering at work it is vital that you seek assistance as soon as possible. Talk to someone about what is happening and how you feel things can be changed. If you are unsure about how to change the situation, they will guide you on what the options are. Start with your manager or supervisor but if this is inappropriate (for example if it is the manager that is doing the bullying) then consider talking to someone in the HR department. If you are a member of a trade union, talk to your rep. They are likely to have dealt with this kind of situation before and will be able to offer you reassurance and advice. Some employers will have specialist staff trained specifically in dealing with bullying and harassment and are sometimes called “harassment advisors”. If your company has these trained staff, then speak to them as soon possible. If the situation has become so intolerable and it is effecting your health, speak to you GP. They can offer a range of services including counselling, support and occupational therapy. No one should have to suffer becoming ill because of their work.
Again, this is an easier said than done statement but remember that you have not caused the bullying. The bully is simply acting on their own insecurities and are meant to intimidate and control you. If you can recognise that this is what they are doing, you can begin to take control of your emotions. Stay calm and don’t feel pressured into justifying your reactions and behaviours. Instead ask them to explain theirs.
Keep a diary
Very often a bully will stop their behaviours once they have been stood up to, but if this doesn’t happen start keeping a diary of what is happening. This will provide you with vital dates and times of when bullying occurs should you need to take the matter further. You can also note down the names of anybody who witnessed the events as they may become your ally’s at a later date. If you need to make a formal complaint you will be asked to provide instances of when the bullying has occurred so it is very useful to keep a diary as it is easy to forget when and how things occurred, particularly when you feel emotional and vulnerable.
Make an official complaint. If you have been unable to resolve the issues at work in an informal way, it may be time to start a formal procedure. Your employer will have a grievance procedure that you will need to follow and you will be able to obtain guidance about this through the Human Resources department.
The final step
If you have done all of the above and you are still suffering, it may be time to take legal action. This would involve an employment tribunal. It is important to note that you cannot go to an employment tribunal directly over bullying. The complaint would need to be made under the laws governing discrimination and harassment. You will need to seek independent legal advice if you feel you need to take further action. You may be able to access legal advice and support though your trade union if you are a member.
What is important to remember, is that help is available to you if you are suffering in the workplace. You are not alone and you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed. Whilst you are undergoing the bullying, try to make the most of your time away from work. Spend time with family and friends, take part in exciting activities or simply spend time relaxing at home. It is important not to let work and the behaviour of those at work consume your whole life. Keep active in order to distract your mind from the anxieties of work. In time the issue will be resolved and you will soon feel able to enjoy your work again.