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Are you being Bullied at work

Updated on January 6, 2012

Bullying at work

There was a time when a friend and I were being bullied at work. The company was in some trouble and they had to get rid of staff. There wasn’t enough to pay out redundancies so they had to get rid of staff somehow, with as little expense as possible. So they started putting people on PIP’s - Performance Improvement Plans.

If I had been under performing in anyway I would’ve owned up to it. But I have and always will do my job 100%. Unfortunately for some reason still not known to me my friend and I were targeted and put on PIP’s

Fighting back

Basically it reminded me of school yard bullying. One Monday afternoon my manager rang me up and told me I would be having my PAD - Performance appraisal & development. At the end of the conversation he quickly mentioned that I would be also be meeting with HR. Alarm bells went off. Meeting with HR can only mean one of two things – I’m about to lose my job or I’m getting a promotion. The latter wasn’t on the cards. I asked my manger if there was anything I should know and he told me that he couldn’t discuss it with me over the phone. This made me extra paranoid, for the next few days I was unable to relax. So many things ran through my mind and it was really bad.

Thursday arrived and I was nervous as you’d expect. When I was summoned into the meeting room, their body language was quite alarming. My manager had his note pad on the desk with his arms on the table and the HR personnel sat with her arms crossed. What happened next was quite shocking. Some accusations came that I felt were unfair were pined on me. It had never been brought to my attention before so this was all news to me. My manager said I was unapproachable and unhelpful and my attitude towards my work was not a positive one.

It made me cry to be honest because I felt falsely accused and betrayed by it all. I wasn’t given a chance to defend myself. It felt as if I was in the school playground being bullied into a corner. It was awful and I’ve never experienced this in my life. The meeting was concluded on the note that I was being put on a PIP and that it would be reviewed in 6weeks. If I still hadn’t improved it would be extended for another six weeks and failure to improve after that my contract would be terminated.

At first I didn’t know what to say to all of it as I was stunned. I’d felt cornered and unprepared for it all. I also knew that if I agreed with what had been said when it wasn’t true, how would I know what would happen six months later? The following day I asked a colleague who had known me for some time for advice. It was the best thing I ever did. Because she knew me and had worked with me for three years, she too was shocked by the allegations. She made me aware that it was a form of bullying and trying to get me out of the job. She advised that I email all the team I work with and let them know what had been said. They had a right to know that this was being said about them. And I had a right to know if this was how they felt about me. The next thing that happened was amazing. The team I work with responded positively and none of them felt that way about me. This revealed a lot to me and I understood what they were trying to do.

Actions to take against work bullying

I’m not part of a union but if you are this would be the best first step. Get advice from a union rep. Because I wasn’t part of union I contacted ACAS, UK. It is an organisation that helps resolve employment disputes. ACAS were very helpful and understanding and they pointed out something I hadn’t even thought about.

Twenty four hours before the PIP meeting I was given an extra role. According to ACAS, someone who is put on a PIP should not be given extra responsibility. What they didn’t understand was, if I was under performing in my current role, why had they just given me extra responsibility. The next thing that was pointed out was that I hadn’t been informed fully what the meeting was about. I had only been told I was having a Performance appraisal development and not a PIP. I had been given misleading information. Also, I hadn’t been given the opportunity to defend myself.

My manger had refused to tell me who thought I was unhelpful and unapproachable, so how was I able to defend myself. In a court of law, you don’t show up without even knowing what you’ve been accused of. Nor do you stand before a judge and jury without the accuser. So that cleared everything up for me and I was advised of the next step.

The first thing you need to do is

Write a grievance letter to your HR. Because my manager and an HR member had put me on the PIP. I had to go to the head of HR. You have to follow the hierarchy within the company. So you go to the next in line above the person bullying you.

You should follow the company’s procedure as you will not be able to go to a tribunal without following these vital steps. I’m not sure about other laws outside the UK but this is the first step in the UK. In the grievance letter you should state everything that has happened and the reasons for the letter. What you’ve done to resolve the situation. Mention how you feel about the situation. At all times be professional and don’t bad mouth an employee no matter how hurt you feel. Make sure you have all your facts right. Also don’t accuse someone rather bring it to HR’s attention and let them decide the out come. You should receive a reply from HR within fourteen days. In my case I heard from HR within five days.

What HR will do

HR will first speak to the people mentioned in the grievance letter. After HR has heard the other side. HR should set up a meeting with you to discuss your grievance. This is the opportunity to say everything you need to say. Talk about how you feel and how you are being treated. This is very important as you might not get a chance again. Remember that everything you tell HR is in confidence.

After this, HR should get back to your within the week. I got to know the results within a couple of days. And I was happy with the result. The PIP was dropped and I got to have a normal Performance review based on my performance and not based on accusations. This also cleared the air between my manager and I and I’m glad that happened.

I wanted to bring to people’s attention, that work bullying can be so subtle; sometimes you might not be even aware of it or you wonder if you’re being bullied. If it doesn’t fee right then it’s probably the case. As with the likes of my friend I mentioned earlier. She accepted being put on the PIP that had nothing to do with her performance. She is an excellent employee who had given in because she thought it would go away. But instead she is under stress daily. She is bullied by her manager, any small thing she does is scrutinised and the more they push the harder it becomes for her. It’s become a self fulfilling prophecy. Because of the constant pushing she has become exactly what they said she was. Please, don’t let anyone bully you into a corner with fear that you might loose your job. It isn’t worth it. Weigh all your options and fight it or if it comes to the point where you can’t bare it; It might be time to leave.


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    • lin8t profile image

      lin8t 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks stessily, I'm so glad I did what I did because someone I know in the same situation ended up leaving due to stress related illness. Standing up to a bully sends a very clear message that it will not be tolerated. The more people stand up to it the better and it does stop. My work situation had become so much better after that.

    • profile image

      stessily 6 years ago

      lin8t, A lot of the meanest bullies are found in the work environment. I have never come across a job environment devoid of bullies; as an employee, I've noticed bullying of co-workers by their peers and managers, and as a customer I've observed bullying of employees by their co-workers and managers. It sounds as though the process which was available to you not only sounded good on paper but actually worked in practice.

      Congratulations on standing up against bullies.

    • lin8t profile image

      lin8t 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi MelissaVsWorld, thanks for your comment. It's sad that people have to go through this, it's very stressful and hurtful. I do hope that it will help others and they will be able to stand up to bullies.

    • MelissaVsWorld profile image

      MelissaVsWorld 6 years ago from Here, There, and Everywhere. USA

      Great Hub and very informative. Unfortunately, this is all too commonplace anymore, even here in the U.S. Many times employees are left defenseless and out of a job. I'm glad that you have been able to post this Hub to help others in similar situations, and I'm happy for you that all turned out well.