What is bullying?
There is no legal definition of bullying but experts agree that bullying is conscious behaviour that is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting and happens repeatedly and persistently over a period of time.
Types of bullying in the workplace could include:
- Being called names
- Deliberately being ignored or excluded
- Constant criticism or ‘putting down’
- Spreading rumours about you
- Setting you up to fail
- Aggressive behaviour – shouting, intimidation and threatening behaviour
- Using a position of power to make you feel threatened or undermined
- Making threats about job security or blocking your progress
Signs of workplace bullying
When a mix of people from different backgrounds or experiences come together, interacting with each other is not the same as when we are hanging out with a group of friends or family who generally share similar views and behaviours.
People will have different ideas on a range of issues including what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. This can lead to situations where people feel like they are being bullied or not realising that their actions are making someone else feel like they are being bullied:
When two people are teasing or making jokes about each other and both parties seem to be giving as good as they get, this could be simply a good-natured way two people who know each other choose to interact. If the joking and teasing are only one-sided and are repeated, then this could be considered bullying.
There may be heated occasions in a workplace where different personalities clash and someone becomes aggressive. If the aggressive behaviour is a one-off incident and doesn’t continue, this would not be considered bullying. After all, we don’t always know what is going on with someone else and why they might have reacted this way on this particular occasion.
- Isolated incidents
Being excluded from an activity, aggressive behaviour, arguments or telling a joke involving a colleague can all be upsetting if you’re on the receiving end, but in isolation, these things aren’t necessarily considered bullying. However, if this behaviour happens often or is carried out to gain power or control, then this would be bullying.
If someone upsets you but this isn’t normal behaviour for them, try not to take it personally. You don’t know what’s going on in their own lives and it could be an ‘out of character’, one-off incident. It’s only if the behaviour carries on that it would be classed as bullying. It’s also important to understand that, at work, you have professional relationships with people and while it’s great to get on well with those you work with, in reality, you’re going to work with people you wouldn’t choose to be friends with. Remember that everyone is different and interacts in different ways.
How to deal with workplace bullying
Unfortunately, bullying affects lots of people and happens in many situations, including workplaces but it’s the way it’s dealt with which makes the difference between life being tolerable or misery. Being bullied, feeling threatened or intimidated is not acceptable. The good thing is that you’re not alone, we’ve got your back. Let’s start by giving you some tips and advice on how to deal with it:
- Get to know your company’s policy
Your employer should have a policy on behaviour in the workplace – find out all the details you can, including processes and the steps you can expect them to take.
- Start informally
If you feel safe enough, the best thing you can do is to first talk to the person who is bullying you. In some cases, they might not be aware of how their behaviour is affecting you.
- Make management or HR aware
You might not feel comfortable approaching your bully, instead, you’ve got to make the relevant people aware of what’s going on. Whether it’s management, HR, or your trade union, they’ll be able to take steps on your behalf to resolve the issue.
- Keep a diary
This helps show a pattern over time and could be used as evidence. Make a note of the date, time, place, who was involved, what happened and if there were any witnesses. Keep any emails, screenshots of social media posts or photos/videos.
- Talk to someone you trust
They might not be able to solve the problem but it will help you not to feel so alone during this stressful situation. This could be a friend, family member or workmate.
- Make an official complaint
If you feel like your problem hasn’t been taken seriously and the bullying hasn’t stopped, you can make an official complaint. Your employee handbook will detail this process.
If you are being bullied and need help or someone to talk to, call us free on 08081 311 333 or chat with us online - we've got your back.
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"The issues pretty much started from day one. It was a workplace with a culture of people joking and taking the mickey out of others, and, as the new person, I was easy pickings for them. But it was horrible and continuous, so I lost all my self-confidence. I hated going into work as I knew it was going to be another day of being humiliated in front of others."