How to Handle Workplace Bullying at a Charity
Stories of workplace bullying at charities are alarming, and show that our sector isn’t immune from such behaviour. Bullying is a very serious issue, and it’s vital to address it wherever it arises. So what should you do if you find yourself the victim of workplace bullying at a charity?
What counts as bullying?
There’s no legal definition of bullying. But it’s usually described as repeated behaviour intentionally designed to hurt someone, either physically or emotionally.
Examples of workplace bullying at a charity could include:
- somebody spreading false rumours about you
- your team disregarding your comments during a meeting
- your line manager treating you noticeably differently to their other reports – for example by allowing others to go on a training course, but not you
- persistently being given heavier workloads than your colleagues
- not being included in social events.
If you’re being treated unfairly or differently because of who you are, based on factors such as your age, gender or sexual orientation, this counts as discrimination under the Equality Act.
What you can do
1. Speak to the person who’s doing the bullying
Acas advises that in some cases, the person doing the bullying might not even be aware of the negative impact of their actions, so its good to start by checking this. You should explain how their behaviour makes you feel. Stick to the facts and be assertive.
If you feel unable to speak to them in person, you can put all of this down in an email. If this doesn’t work or if you feel uncomfortable doing either of the above, it’s important that you speak to someone at work about what you’ve been experiencing.
2. Speak to someone at work who you can trust
Speak to your boss, another manager, a trustee or somebody in the HR team. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of the bullying. That way, you can present a factual record of the incidents that have occurred over time. Be sure to include details of how the bullying made you feel, any witnesses to what happened and any evidence that you’ve managed to gather, including screenshots, emails or social media posts.
It’s also worth contacting your trade union representative for support. You have a statutory right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union official to the hearing of your grievance, if it comes to that. If you don’t already have a representative, there are several trade unions covering the charity sector. These include UNISON, Unite, the GMB and UVW.
What your employer should do
Your workplace should have a bullying policy which outlines how any incidents of bullying are handled. Even if there’s no policy, your employer must protect you while you’re at work. This is their legal duty.
In the charity sector, there’s often no specific HR team and both resources and time are scarce. Gov.uk advises that if the action taken by your workplace is insufficient, and the bullying isn’t resolved, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. If this still doesn’t work, you can take legal action at an employment tribunal.
If a serious bullying incident takes place, your charity should report this to the Charity Commission. But if you’ve spoken to managers and trustees and nothing has been done, you can make a report to the Charity Commission yourself.
Who else can support you if you’re being bullied at work?
There are many sources of support out there if you’re dealing with workplace bullying, so don’t suffer in silence.
- The National Bullying Helpline offers legal guidance and emotional support to victims of workplace bullying. Reach out to them via their website or call them on 0300 323 0169.
- Acas has useful resources related to workplace bullying, including a Bullying and Harassment at Work guide for employees.
- SupportLine is a confidential telephone helpline offering emotional support with a page dedicated to workplace bullying.
- The Mental Health Foundation provides a list explaining what help is available and which organisations can offer support.
- You can access the Equality Advisory and Support Service helpline here.
Don’t let bullying affect your career
None of us should have to put up with workplace bullying at a charity. That’s why it’s paramount that we all address it when it happens. However, it’s important to do this in the right way – where possible, start by speaking directly to the person responsible. Gathering evidence is also key so that you don’t end up in a ‘he-said-she-said’ situation.
Finally, if it does happen to you, and the problem persists, it might be time to start looking for a new position in an organisation which truly values you and your work.
This post was originally published in 2021 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current jobseeker experience.