How to deal with bullying in the workplace

Whether you have experienced bullying in the workplace or you think you have seen someone else being bullied, it’s important to know how to respond to it.

Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

Remember that anyone can be a bully – man or woman, manager or junior – although statistically bullies are most likely to be male and in a managerial positon.

No matter what form the bullying takes it can be very distressing for the victim, so it is something that should be sorted out immediately. Here’s how to deal with bullying in the workplace – we start with defining what exactly is meant by ‘bullying’.

What is bullying?

Bullying can take a huge number of guises but it’s generally seen as any attempt to undermine, control or upset someone. It is not usually an isolated incident – bullying tends to result in a sustained period of abuse and can damage your self-confidence and self-worth.

There is no set circumstance that defines bullying, and it’s usually the case that if you feel that you are being bullied, you probably are.

Some common examples include:
  • Directing physical or verbal abuse at you
  • Making fun of you
  • Undervaluing your work and effort
  • Humiliating you in front of others
  • Constantly criticising you unfairly
  • Ridiculing your ideas
  • Leaving you out of social situations

This list is by no means exhaustive and often bullying will involve many different behaviours. It’s also true that some bullies may not realise their actions are hurtful and may see them as a natural part of the work environment. But it is important to remember that they are not and it is your right to work without being bullied.

Don’t ignore the situation

The first thing to note is that you should simply try to ignore the situation and hope that it will go away. If you do not confront the bully or take action to make them stop their behaviour, they will assume that what they are doing is acceptable – this is essentially giving them more power. If you feel you are being bullied it is often necessary to come up with a plan to deal with the situation. The longer that you feel as if you are a ‘victim’ the more challenging it will be to overcome the problem, so act as soon as possible.

Don’t get emotional

Allowing your emotions to get the better of you is unlikely to do any good in the situation. Getting upset or angry will show the bully that they have power of your emotions and it will most likely make them continue their behaviour. When bullying occurs or when you are trying to deal with it, do you best to stay calm no matter what is said. Not reacting to a bully’s treatment may even show them that they have no power over you, but this won’t be enough to stop the behaviour in all situations.

Make someone else aware

One of the best things that you can do if you are being bullied is to make other people aware of the behaviour; this could be your manager or a co-worker. Not only will this mean that you will have someone to support you but it also means that you may have a witness to the behaviour that occurs. When you have supportive people around you, it can make it easier to overcome the bullying.

Document the behaviour

It’s important that you should document all of the bullying behaviour – including what happened, when it happened and who witnessed it. This will be extremely valuable later on if you decide to take the problem to management, HR or even further.

Seek help and advice

Depending on the situation it may be possible to confront the bully and let them know that their behaviour is inappropriate and unacceptable. But for some workers this is simply not possible due to the circumstances of the bullying. In any case you should seek advice from your manager and then your HR department. When bullying becomes a serious problem in the workplace it can be necessary for management to get involved to resolve the situation.

Take legal action

If your attempts to deal with the bullying through the company are not taken seriously or are ineffective then it could be worth seeking legal action. If the bully is breaking the code of conduct or contravening working rights, it is possible to take legal action against your company for failing to deal with the situation properly. You should seek advice from a solicitor experienced in dealing with these kinds of cases.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer who sought the advice of South East England law firm George Ide for the information contained in this post.

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