What to Do if You’re the Victim of Workplace Bullying
You might have read the recent coverage about workplace bullying in our sector which sparked the twitterstorm #notjustNCVO, prompting many responses and examples of incidents in various organisations.
These stories are alarming and show that our sector is not immune from such behaviour, and that the situation needs to be addressed. Although Twitter has moved on from this conversation, it’s important that we continue to speak up. So how should you behave if you find yourself the victim of workplace bullying?
A definition of bullying
We’re all familiar with the word ‘bullying,’ probably from our school days, when we were taught that it’s wrong and that it leads to fear and upset. Interestingly, there’s no legal definition of the word, but it is usually defined as repeated behaviour intentionally designed to hurt someone, either physically or emotionally.
Examples of bullying at work 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, e.g. 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.
What you can do
1. Speak to the person who is 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 or somebody in the HR Team. Acas also advises that it’s a good idea to keep a record of the bullying so that you can present a factual record of the incidents which 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. There are several trade unions covering our sector, including UNISON, Unite, the GMB and UVW, so get in touch with them if you don’t already have a representative.
What your employer should do
Your workplace should have a Bullying Policy which outlines how any incidents of bullying should be handled. Even if there is no policy, your employer must protect you while you’re at work. This is their legal duty.
Gov.uk advises that if the action taken by your workplace is insufficient, and the bullying is not 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.
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 the website or on 0300 323 0169.
- Acas has a number of 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.
- The Equality Advisory and Support Service helpline can be accessed here.
Don’t let bullying affect your career
None of us should have to put up with bullying, which is why its paramount that we all address it when it happens. However, it’s important to do this in the right way and to start out by speaking directly to the perpetrator where possible. Gathering evidence is also key so that you don’t get yourself into a he says/she says situation. And 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.