Workplace Bullying

Perhaps your managers or colleagues have stopped communicating with you. You may feel a constant anxiety because you think you will be criticised or blamed for things going wrong.

Managers may raise their voice at you or swear around you. You may be unfairly criticised despite a good work history. Perhaps you are being assigned impossible tasks and set up to fail or you may be micromanaged.

After the work, you may feel too ashamed to tell your family or friends. Our clients find that their hobbies and passion do not appeal any more and report health problems.

If you experience these things, do not ignore them. You might be a victim of bullying at workplace. This article will help you to find out the ways to deal with workplace bullying including how solicitors can help.

Bullying- what does it actually mean?

Bullying is a repeated behaviour that can affect the health and safety of the employee. A bully can be anyone; the boss, the boss’s boss, the colleague, an outsider visting the office or any other persons in the office. Generally such behaviour is non-physical in nature, which impacts the emotional balance of the employee the most. The common examples of bullying in the workplace are:

  • Unnecessary criticism.
  • Being set up to fail
  • Threatened with firing/demotion.
  • Unwelcome sexual advances like standing too close.
  • Being boycotted from the office group.
  • Unfair treatment.
  • Spreading rumours or personal information being shared.
  • Insulting someone on the basis of age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief.

Often, bullying may be hard to recognise. It should not be confused with the actions taken by management to improve the worker’s performance on a reasonable grounds. These actions may include:

  • Setting reasonable goals and deadlines.
  • Informing an employee about areas of improvement.
  • Increasing working hours during peak times of the business.

What should an employee do?

Many times, the employee accepts bullying as acceptable in the organisation. Even when recognised, an employee neither wants to accept the fact that he is being bullied nor wants to stand up for it. They think that it might make them appear weak in front of others or that they would be accused of overreacting. In rare situations, even when an employee wants to take a stand against bullying, his colleagues might not be ready to help, thinking that they would become the next victim.

Here are certain things that an employee can do to fight against bullying:

  • Recognise the fact that you are being bullied. It is always better to talk someone about the matter so that you could be sure that you are a victim of bullying. Once recognised, accept it. Do not run away from it. This would help you to take corrective action in the future.
  • Get advice from a person who could help you to solve with the matter (trade union representative, a HR manager or your own supervisor). Taking early professional advice can be of good value.
  • Sometimes, the bully themselves might not realise that others consider their behaviour offensive. If you can, talk to the bully and explain how it makes you feel. Keep a note. It might help the person to realise their mistakes and they might improve their behaviour.
  • Keep a written record of all the events and documents you might think could act as a proof.
  • If that doesn’t work, file a grievance against the bully as per the employer’s grievance procedure. Many employers have formed anti-bullying policies which specify the course of actions to be adopted by the employee in case of bullying occurs. At the grievance meeting you can be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative. Take advantage of this right – at the least, you will have an independent note-taker.
  • If the employer’s grievance procedure is not the solution, seek legal help. A complaint could be filed under the discrimination and harassment policy.
  • If the grievance doesn’t bring resolution then one option is to resign and find another job. If you do this you might want to bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal. Employees commonly do this where the employer has wrongly damaged the employment relationship with rudeness, with unfair disciplinary action or by changing terms and conditions in the wrong way. However it is not a straightforward area of law and you should take advice before taking this big step. You should only bring a tribunal claim after the grievance process is exhausted, including appeals.
  • It is always a good practice to get professional legal advice before filing the complaint but not to tell your employer that you have done so.

What should an employer do?

It is an equal responsibility of the employer to create a no-bullying environment. It should:

  • Form an anti-bully policy. It should clearly mention that bullying would be considered as  disciplinary offence. If found guilty, disciplinary action would be taken.
  • Provide examples of what would be considered as bullying.
  • Provide assurance of confidentiality and protection of the complainant.
  • Give a detailed description of the investigation which would be followed in case of the complaint, including the timescale.
  • Inform about the grievance procedures available to the employees both within the company and outside the company. Clearly explain whom to report to, especially when the bully is the immediate boss.
  • Mention how the company’s policy against bullying would be implemented, reviewed and monitored.

When clients of ours face situations like this we commonly advise them to resign and claim unfair constructive dismissal in order to put pressure on the employer to negotiate an exit strategy that lets them leave with a negotiated settlement.

We have been very successful in this strategy and have a well-trodden path for it that lets the employer make mistakes which we can capitalise upon. Where we do this we regard ourselves and the client as forming a strong team.