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When talking about bullying in the workplace, most people tend to overlook its reality. Taking the form of name-calling, physical abuse or potentially cyberbullying, bullying in the workplace is a form of abusive behaviour towards an individual or group of people creating an intimidating or humiliating work environment. The effects of bullying can have drastic effects on victims, causing them to become anxious, depressed and have effects on both their work and home life. As an employer or employee, it’s important to understand the signs of bullying and what can be done to resolve the situation. Let’s take a look at what it is and how you can deal with bullying in the workplace.

What bullying is not

It is likely that you may hear many different opinions on bullying in the workplace, with many employers failing to see legitimacy or the effects that bullying is having on their staff. Often, bullying can be framed in a way to make the situation not seem like an issue. Bullying in the workplace can often be referred to as a clash of personalities or a form of character building. If you are systematically belittled, excluded or intimidated, you’re not just clashing with someone, and this can be highly debilitating and can have serious effects on an individual’s emotional wellbeing. 

Often, bullying in the workplace is passed off as a leadership style with overly aggressive or dominant managers overlooking the effects of their style of management. Bullying in the workplace can also be blamed on victims with many perpetrators saying they were provoked, which more often than not, isn’t the case. It’s important to note that if you feel that you are being bullied, all incidents are relevant because they tend to establish a pattern. 

Protection by law

Bullying in its own form is not against the law, but if you, a colleague or a manager is being harassed in an intimidating or offensive way through bullying in the workplace, you could be protected under the Equality Act 2010. Examples of harassment include any unwanted behaviours in regards to aspects of your life and identity from your age and gender to your beliefs or disabilities.

Taking control

If you are being bullied at work or feel uncomfortable, there are several things that you can do to ensure you take the right steps in resolving the issue. Getting to know your company’s policies on behaviour and bullying in the workplace is a great place to start. Secondly, documenting any incidents of bullying in detail will help you further down the line, this can be dates and times, names of witnesses and if online, screenshots of harassing material. If you’re not ready to report any evidence or concerns about bullying in the workplace, it could be an idea to talk to someone you trust about your problem. Whether it’s another colleague, a friend or family member, sharing your concerns will help your situation. If you want to find out more, you can seek help from organisations such as ACAS, The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

Next steps

If you feel that you are a victim of bullying in the workplace, you can start by trying to solve your problem informally. If you feel safe and comfortable speaking to the person that you feel is bullying you, it can be helpful to do so. Sometimes, informing bullies that you will be taking an official route to the situation may be enough to stop their behaviour reoccurring. 

For many who are suffering from bullying in the workplace, informal solutions aren’t always the best option. As an employer, it’s important to understand the steps you or your staff may need to take when dealing with bullying. Being there to offer support and a helping hand as they go through the motions is the best thing you can do for your team. As an employer, you can help your staff reach out to higher levels of management, your HR department or their trade union to make them aware that you believe harassment is going in the workplace, allowing your staff to take the necessary steps towards resolving the issue. If a member of your staff still isn’t satisfied that their situation has been appropriately dealt with, they may seek to make an official complaint through the usual grievance procedures. 

For severe cases, it can be necessary for employees to take legal action at an employment tribunal, which is usually only in the most severe cases of misconduct. As an employer, you have a legal obligation to protect your team from abusive behaviour and bullying in the workplace. 

At Protectus, we understand the importance of putting your team’s best interests at heart. Whether it’s in or out of the office, we can help you to offer your team support through valuable solutions such as an Employee Assistance Programme, where your staff will have access to 24/7 support to aid their wellbeing. Get in touch to see how you can truly take care of your team.