June 6, 2022
People spend a large proportion of their life at work, and so they want it to be a comfortable place where they feel at ease. And while a lot of people really enjoy their job and love their workplace, a lot of people also don’t. 37% of people have experienced some form of bullying at one stage of their working life, and given that this can often escalate into a very serious situation, both employees and employers need to know how to deal with the situation and ideally how to prevent it.
Bullying in itself is not unlawful, but the Equality Act 2010 does make it illegal if it spirals towards harassment in terms of violence and intimidation. However, any form of bullying can be harmful to the individual concerned, so let’s first look at bullying from the view point of the employee.
How should an employee deal with bullying in the workplace?
There is a popular misconception that bullying only happens at school, but unfortunately, people who have this characteristic don’t always lose it or grow out of it. Bullying therefore can come from fellow colleagues, or a manager or supervisor. In each case it can be a traumatic experience for the victim and can contribute to an employee being absent from work, leaving their job, feeling depressed and anxious and can have harmful effects on mental health.
Bullying can be experienced face-to-face, by e-mail and over the phone, and it can come in any of these forms:
- Abuse or harassment
- Asked to do unfair or meaningless jobs or being overloaded with jobs
- Spreading malicious rumours
- Being repeatedly undermined publicly or ignored
- Being denied training or promotion opportunities
Common reasons for bullying tend to centre around age, sex, disability, race or religion. But if you feel like you are being unfairly treated or discriminated against, and this could constitute bullying, you should start to keep a diary of such instances to record as evidence. You should then try to talk to a trusted colleague who is independent of the bully, and take legal advice on how employment law protects you. You should not be ashamed of what is happening to you and you have every right to take the matter further, so make yourself aware of the company’s human resources (HR) policies towards bullying and grievance before you take action. This action should take the form of a tiered approach, moving upwards at each stage if the previous stage hasn’t worked
- 1. Try an informal chat with the person or persons bullying you, to explain why it is not OK. It may be that the person is not aware of their effect on you and will therefore change their behaviour immediately.
- 2. Talk to your manager or supervisor about the issue. If the ‘bully’ is your manager or supervisor, talk to the HR department.
- 3. Speak with HR and ask to initiate the grievance procedure
- 4. Talk to a trade union representative if you have one
- 5. Raise a formal complaint which could escalate to an employment tribunal
How should an employer deal with bullying in the workplace?
Bullying in the workplace can create a toxic atmosphere where morale is low, you experience high staff turnover and there is very little respect for managers or any form of hierarchy. None of this will help productivity and efficiency in the workplace, so it is important that a business has strong policies on bullying.
That’s why an employer should have formal anti-bullying policies in place, and grievance procedures so that employees know they have a mechanism to protect them. Of course management can be guilty of bullying themselves, and if this is innocently and unknowingly it is a form of poor management which can be addressed with training.
Techniques to help employers manage and prevent bullying:
- Show a strong commitment to anti-bullying with clear statements from the top
- Give managers at every level clear responsibilities and clear disciplinary procedures to deal with bullying
- Provide emotional support for victims of bullying, which could include counselling and mediation in some cases. This can include clear structure in the organisation where everyone knows their line manager and who they can turn for support
- Promote regular and transparent communication throughout the organisation
- Be open to flexible work hours and work patterns to help bullying victims feel more comfortable at work
- Have strong policies on equality and diversity
- Have systems in place to reward employees and show recognition
- Have an appraisal system in place to offer two-way feedback, set objectives and where issues can be raised confidentially
Professional advice on bullying from legal experts
Our employment law and human resources experts at Spencers Solicitors have many years of experience in dealing with cases of bullying, from both the victim’s point of view and that of the employer who has to deal with it. We can help advise employees who might have been subject to bullying, while we can also guide an employer in how to set up formal policies, how to enforce them and how to deal with issues of bullying. Get in touch with Spencers Solicitors today and we can help you manage bullying for the benefit of everyone.