Bullying and harassment in the workplace is worryingly common.
What is bullying and harassment?
According to a recent study, bullying and harassment in the workplace is worryingly common with 75% of participants saying they had been the victim of or had seen others being subject to bullying and harassment at work. It impacts on the health and wellbeing of the victims and their loved ones and has a negative effect on the economy with millions of working hours being lost through sickness absence for work related stress. So if you’re one of those unfortunate people who are being bullied at work what can you do about it?
What is bullying and harassment?
The first thing is to recognise what bullying and harassment is. The ACAS guide on bullying and harassment at work defines bullying as: “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”. It provides the following examples of bullying:
- Spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone by word or behaviour; copying memos that are critical about someone to others who do not need to know;
- Ridiculing or demeaning someone – picking on them or setting them up to fail;
- Exclusion or victimisation;
- Unfair treatment;
- Overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position;
- Unwelcome sexual advances;
- Making threats or comments about job security without foundation;
- Deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism;
- Preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities.
Options for dealing with bullying and harassment
If you can identify with the examples mentioned above then you should not suffer in silence. As a first step you should raise the matter with your employer. This could be done informally or you could put your complaint in writing. Many employers, particular larger ones, will have a written policy against bullying and harassment and you could make a complaint under such a policy or raise a grievance under any grievance policy. You should set out in detail what action or behaviour you are complaining about, when it occurred, who was involved, how it makes you feel and what you want your employer to do about it. You should gather your evidence by contacting witnesses if any to provide supporting statements to corroborate your account.
Sometimes a formal complaint or grievance can lead to the employer dealing with the matter and putting things right. However unfortunately many times employers will string out the grievance process but have no intention of upholding the complaint nor do anything to address it or even worse believe you to be a trouble-maker and consider how to manage you out of the business or get rid of you in some other way. In this scenario there are two options: stay and fight for your rights or leave.
If you stay you should keep a diary to log your complaints to keep a good record of what you are being subject to. Again you should gather all evidence and speak to witnesses as events occur. You could also contemplate legal action.
Legal options to combat bullying and harassment
You may be surprised to learn there is no single law directly prohibiting bullying and harassment per se in the workplace in the UK. Limited legal protection exists in other laws, the main ones are: