I remember being at school and there was a girl who decided that she didn’t like me and started bullying me. It was tough, walking to school, I’d feel sick, I stopped sleeping, I was miserable!
One day it came to a head and I started to stick up for myself, like any true bully, once her weaknesses had been exposed, she climbed back into the hole she first crawled out of and started leaving me alone. I figured once I’d left school and started work, that would be the end to any bullying I might face. Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a similar situation with a woman who decided to spread all sorts of rumours about me, exclude me from stuff and generally go out of her way to be awful. Eventually I decided enough was enough and after my pleas fell on slightly deaf ears, I decided to leave and set up my own business.
But is what happened to me workplace bullying or just a case of a two people who simply didn’t get on?
At the moment, there is no legal definition of workplace bullying, but experts believe that bullying involves negative behaviour which is targeted at an individual or a group of individuals. This behaviour is repeated and persistent.
Negative behaviour includes any of the following;
- Ignoring / excluding you.
- Setting you unachievable tasks
- Spreading rumours or gossip.
- Making belittling remarks.
- Deliberately withholding information.
- Making you look stupid in public.
- Undervaluing your contribution and never giving you due credit.
The impact of workplace bullying can be huge and in certain cases can start to affect the victim’s home life. It can cause anxiety, affect someone’s ability to do their job, stop them sleeping and generally cause health issues.
Yet still many people feel that they can’t talk about it or ask for help in case it leads to them losing their job. However, if you do feel you are being bullied, then you absolutely should bring it up! You really shouldn’t suffer and your employer has a responsibility to protect you, something they can’t do, if you don’t talk to them. Your workplace should have in place a bullying and harassment policy. Have a look through it, as that will tell you what your first steps should be and what your organisation considers bullying.
The odd comment or disagreement with a colleague doesn’t constitute workplace bullying, but if you notice someone is consistently treating you poorly or acting negatively towards you, then start to keep a log of what and when it happens. Having proof is important. It might be, that this person doesn’t realise that they treat you in this way. The next step should be to have an informal chat with your manager, or a designated colleague to speak about your concerns.
If your company doesn’t have a policy in place, then again your first step should be chatting to your manager or colleague. It might be that the situation can be resolved informally, by sitting down with a manager and the person who you believe is treating you unfairly. They might not realise they’re upsetting you.
Mediation might also be an option. Asking a neutral third party to sit down with you and discuss the situation fully. There might be a trained mediator in your company.
If there is no resolution, then legal action is an option, but it can be a complex and often expensive process.
If you do feel you are being bullied in the workplace, then you really don’t have to suffer in silence, there are a number of places you can get help. ACAS is a good starting point and if you feel the situation is affecting your health, then please contact your doctor. Our blog about health and wellbeing at work might provide you with some tips that will help.