Bullying and Harassment at Work

Bullying at work can present itself in a number of different ways. It can be the more obvious name calling and even physical abuse, as well as cyberbullying but really it includes ‘any behaviour of an individual or a group of people which creates an intimidating or humiliating work environment for another.’ The behaviour is carried out with the purpose of ‘harming their dignity, safety and well-being.’ Bullying often makes those subjected to it anxious, stressed and depressed. Often the victim’s family life is affected.

Harassment at work is currently against the law (it is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010), but unfortunately bullying has not yet been classed as unlawful.

Bullying itself isn’t against the law, but harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following:

*gender (including gender reassignment)
*marriage and civil partnership
*pregnancy and maternity
*religion or belief
*sexual orientation


Usually bullying at work isn’t as obvious as name calling and physical abuse, usually it’s more veiled and hidden and can involve:

*Derogatory or negative remarks made to a person over a period of time

*Systematic undermining or belittling

*Exclusion from work activities/social events

*Undermining someone’s professionalism or competence to them or in front of others

*Overly aggressive, threatening or dominant management styles

*Being made to feel bad if you are ill

*Making fun or joking about others

*Treating someone differently because of their personality or situation

*Management refusing to help or support staff

*Creating an excessive workload for a staff member

*Blocking promotion or progression

As people spend much of their life at work and the current climate means it can be difficult to find another job it can severely affect people’s lives and ability to enjoy life. It’s often difficult to switch off from what happens at work and it can often spill over into your family and social life. Bullying is a very serious matter and often leads to anxiety, stress, depression, long term sickness, severe depression and in some cases suicide. It can seriously affect family relationships and lead to a person becoming isolated.

Often support isn’t good enough and people suffer in silence for too long, and end up going on long term sick or having to leave work. Talking to the person who is doing the bullying is often out of the question, so going to your line manager or HR is usually the only option to deal with the situation. Many people are scared to take things any further for fear of losing their job or being overlooked for promotion. Recent research shows that 30% of workers  would not report bullying in the workplace because it isn’t taken seriously.   17% worry they would lose their job if they reported it and 30% worry that reporting bullying would make the situation worse.


If you are being bullied please speak to someone about it. Don’t bottle things up.  You can talk to:

* an employee representative, such as a trade union official

• someone in your human resources department

• your manager or supervisor (if someone else is doing the bullying)

(Some employers have specially trained staff to help with bullying and harassment problems. They’re sometimes called “harassment advisers”).

If speaking to the above people doesn’t work, then you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. If necessary get advice on the grievance procedures applicable to your organisation. If bullying continues after grievance has been started you should consider legal action and go to an employment tribunal (a solicitor can advise you about this). You can also speak to advisors at the Citizens Advice Bureau and ACAS.

If the bullying is affecting your health, visit your GP. You may need counselling or medication to help you the a difficult period. You can also learn relaxation techniques to help you to stay calm in difficult situations, but the situation needs to be dealt with. It is not your fault that you are being bullied. Don’t be ashamed to speak out. The more people that speak out, the more bullying in the workplace will be seen as unacceptable and has no place in modern society. Keep a record of everything that’s going on in case it goes to tribunal. Buy a notebook and record dates, times and what was done or said.

Bullying at work isn’t against the law but harassment is. Hopefully in the future it will be included in legislation so that it become illegal to bully anyone else at work. It is essential that all staff are trained on what constitutes bullying, not just managers. Education and awareness is key to stamping out bullying in the workplace.

Have you been bullied at work? Did it cause you to have time off sick or quit your job? If you would be willing to write about your experience, we can feature your story on our blog. The aim of the blog is to help people going through workplace stress and depression and provide hope and inspiration that they will get through the difficult situation and emerge stronger and more resilient.

For more information on bullying and harassment at work, please go to the Government website which has information about the law and guides for employees and managers/employers for dealing with bullying and harassment at work.

There is also more helpful information at workplacebullying.co.uk


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