Did you think bullying was limited to the school playground? Sadly, bullying affects many people’s working lives. A recent survey from Monster.com involving a survey of over 2000 employees found that 75% had been the victim of bullying or had witnessed it taking place. Over half of those surveyed said they had been bullied by a boss or manager.
This is an issue which is on the rise, so what can you do to tackle the problem if you are a victim of this kind of behaviour?
Here we are looking at workplace bullying, but it is worth mentioning that some behaviour can be classified as harassment, and this is against the law and is defined in the Harassment Act of 2010. This involves unwanted conduct affecting a protected characteristic such as age, gender reassignment, race, religion, disability, sex and sexual orientation.
On the other hand, bullying has no legal definition and the closest we have is the definition from ACAS, which mentions “offensive, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person being bullied”. The Health and Safety Executive also stresses that this has to be a part of a pattern of behaviour, persistent and over a period of time. This is in contrast to harassment, where one incident will suffice as evidence of this behaviour.
This is why it is important to keep a diary or a contemporaneous record which will prove to be invaluable if you need to show how the persistent behaviour has affected you over a period of time.
Bullying can be evidenced by overbearing supervision, constant criticism, exclusion from office meetings or events such as lunches, missing out on important emails and overworking or being subject to unreasonable deadlines.
So what should your first steps be if you think you are being subjected to bullying? First of all, you should try to sort out the problem informally, however intimidating that might seem. Bullies often back off when confronted directly with their behaviour. If that does not work you should talk to your line manager, the HR department or a trade union representative.
If that does not produce a satisfactory resolution, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. The final step may be an employment tribunal.
Remember, employers have a duty of care to prevent bullying in the workplace. If your working relationship with your employer has broken down and you are forced to resign, then you may be able to make a constructive dismissal claim.
Before taking this step it is important to take legal advice. You will find plenty of information online at sites such as Employment Law Friend constructive dismissal claim, wherein actions are discussed in some detail. You will also need to notify ACAS within three months if you intend to pursue an action.
Naturally, if your health is affected by this behaviour in your workplace, you should speak with your GP who may decide that you are unfit to return to work due to anxiety or stress. Always remember that your employer should have policies and procedures in place to address bullying in the workplace.