To be effective in your position at work, you need to feel happy and comfortable. Of course, this is unlikely to be the case if you are having to deal with workplace bullying or harassment. For many people, experiencing bullying in the workplace leads to a sharp decline in job satisfaction and the condition of their mental health – with some people eventually leaving otherwise-suitable roles to seek more amicable working environments.
Many people are unaware of what actually constitutes workplace bullying, not to mention the steps they can take if they find themselves experiencing this harmful behaviour. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Workplace Bullying?
While bullying does not have a legal definition, there are clear patterns of behaviour that are found from one situation to the next. ACAS, the public body whose purpose is partly to improve working life and employment relations, defines bullying as “unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting”. Bullying can also come in the form of an “abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm”.
In general, bullying is also defined as an ongoing pattern of behaviour, rather than isolated incidents. The bullies can take the form of superiors and peers alike.
Examples of Workplace Bullying
Here are some examples of workplace bullying to look out for, though this is far from an exhaustive list.
- Insults, rudeness, and attempts at humiliation.
- Threats of dismissal.
- Constant, overbearing criticism.
- Spreading false rumours about individuals.
- Exclusion from events.
Bullying can take place in many other forms. It can sometimes be hard to determine whether or not you are experiencing workplace bullying and, as accusations of workplace bullying are so serious, you need to be sure about what has taken place before you move ahead with your claim.
Remember, bullying behaviour does not necessarily have to be directed at you to be damaging. Attempts to insult or humiliate an individual behind their back would still be considered a form of bullying.
How to Handle Workplace Bullying
You might feel powerless when someone is bullying you at work, but there are steps that you can take to put the situation to bed.
- Keep a Diary of Events
Before you take your claim of bullying to anyone, it is advisable that you keep a diary of events that have taken place where you felt bullied or harassed. This is useful because it will help you keep a level, clear head when you are dealing with an upsetting topic.
It will also lend considered weight to your case, since it will prove that there is a pattern of behaviour when individual incidents might otherwise seem trivial or inconsequential.
- Speak to the Bully
Although this is unlikely to be something you are keen to do, it could be effective. In some cases, workplace bullies’ belligerent or inconsiderate behaviour is something they are scarcely aware of. It could be that they are completely unaware of how they are affecting you with their actions.
This is, perhaps, only a suitable option in situations where the workplace bullying has not progressed to a more serious level. You have the option of bringing a colleague or superior with you to this meeting if you are uncomfortable confronting them alone.
- Speak to the Relevant Authorities
It is understandable if you would rather not speak to your bully directly. If you feel that way, then one alternative is to go to the people within your organisation who have the power to effect change.
You can speak to your line manager or go directly to your organisation’s human resources department to explain the situation and how it has been affecting you. Since many bullies operate discreetly, bringing these issues to light is certain to come as a relief.
These parties should take the necessary steps to end the situation as quickly as possible.
- Seek Help From Third Parties
It could be that when you speak to your line manager or human resources team that they do not take enough action to end the bullying you’re experiencing – or they might ignore the situation altogether.
You might think that you are out of options, but there is still one final avenue to explore. By speaking to a third party – like ACAS or the Citizens Advice Bureau – you can get the support you need. It is likely, though, that following more formal procedures could make for an uncomfortable working environment at the process’s conclusion. As such, this is usually recommended as a last resort.
Taking a Stand
Experiencing workplace bullying is horrible. Many who find themselves in that position feel that they have no choice but to put up with this harmful treatment, but that is not the right approach.
Your job performance and mental health could both be impacted by workplace bullying, and it could eventually lead to you quitting your job altogether. By following the steps laid out above, you can seek a resolution that leaves you with a happier, more harmonious working life.
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