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How to Deal With Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace
We often think of bullying as something we turn our backs on when we leave the playground. After all, we’re adults now and no one picks on us – right? If you’re reading this then you probably know from experience that isn’t the case. Bullies are everywhere.
So what is bullying and harassment?
The terms are often used interchangeably and seen as behaviours including:
· Constant and unnecessary criticism of competent staff or staff being given trivial jobs to do
· Shouting at staff members
· Ignoring or excluding staff members from work activities
· Setting staff members up to fail by giving them tasks beyond their capabilities without the right support or giving impossible deadlines
· Making the same person the butt of jokes all the time
· Blocking promotion
· Picking on people either in public or in private
· This may happen to a group or to individuals.
The list is endless but the key is that you feel the bully’s behaviour is unjustified and constant or frequent.
Bullying can seriously affect your health and for an employer this can mean lost resources as unhappy or sick employees are less productive. In addition they won’t speak well of the company to friends and potential customers, so it’s in everyone’s interests to stamp it out.
Know your rights.
Everyone has a right to a safe working environment, respect and dignity, and employers have a duty of care to provide this.
Laws will vary nationally and sometimes within States so check your local area legislation so that you know where you stand legally. Hopefully you will never need to use the information in a legal challenge but it’s one of the first stages of helping you feel empowered to deal with what’s happening in your workplace.
More information and help
What you can do.
1. Firstly decide in your own mind that enough is enough. It may help to talk to someone outside the workplace, perhaps someone who can help you to be objective and see where and what the problem might be. Bullying is an emotive issue and it’s easy to get caught up in an emotional spiral that stops you being clear-headed.
2. Speak directly to the bully. Bullies don’t like being confronted: stick to the facts; be calm and firm but not aggressive or emotional. Simply tell the bully that their behaviour has to stop. The other person may not even realise what s/he has been doing and be devastated that this has happened. Be prepared to forgive if this is the case, but make sure it doesn’t start again.
This isn’t easy to do but it is advisable to take action sooner rather than later. Bullying erodes self esteem and confidence which will make it much more difficult later on.
3. Tell a friend or colleague that this is happening. Bullying and harassment often happen behind closed doors so other people may also be suffering in silence.
4. If you can, try not to be alone with the bully. Have a witness and stay in a group of colleagues.
5. Keep a diary of what happens to you. How does it make you feel? Are you becoming unwell because of this? A diary can help with the stress of the situation as well as being a record of what’s going on.
6. Tell your manager or supervisor and if the manager or supervisor is the bully then tell his/her manager. Also tell this person about any medical help you are seeking as a result of the stress of bullying. If necessary make an official complaint.
7. Get union help. Your union (and if you’re not a member of a union, become one) will be able to give you support and advice for your own situation and industry even if the union isn’t recognised by your workplace. You can talk to a union rep in confidence and make an official complaint via them if the bullying/harassment doesn’t stop. If you have to leave your job due to the treatment you’re receiving, they will be able to help with an employment tribunal.
Workplace harassment and bullying can be devastating to people’s lives, especially in an age when jobs are scarce, but remember that you control your life. Have courage, get help and act sooner rather than later.