Four steps to help deal with a workplace bully

online bullying, cyber bullying
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Amanda Augustine, Career Advice Expert, TopCV

This week is national Anti-Bullying Week, an initiative aimed at increasing awareness of bullying in all settings – be that in the classroom or the boardroom.

Significantly, this annual event follows a recent survey by TopCV finding that 81 per cent of the UK workforce has felt bullied by a boss at some point in their career. It’s a phenomenon which is unfortunately more common in adult life than we might like to think.

Bullying can take many forms, both online and offline. While bullying itself is not against the law, it is a form of abusive behaviour – be that verbal or physical. If a colleague or boss is behaving in an intimidating or offensive way, it could be classed as harassment ‒ which is illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

There have been numerous drives to promote inclusivity in the workplace, but the recent findings from TopCV suggest we still have a long way to go.

Below are some proactive steps you can take to deal with a toxic workplace situation. But remember, while these tips can help you manage the situation, it’s your company’s responsibility to create a positive and safe work environment for you.

Tell them how you feel

Never stoop to the bully’s level. Doing so will only provide ammunition to use against you. Instead, first try addressing the conflict head-on. While difficult, this can often be the simplest step to resolve the issue. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting the bully face-to-face, there are still ways you can let them know the impact their actions are having on you. The first is by email. After a specific incident, try sending them a short, concise message that explains what happened and how it made you feel. Be mindful to phrase it in such a way that removes any blame from them. You don’t want to sound accusatory in the first instance.

Keep track of the evidence

There may come a time when you want to share what’s been happening on a formal level. While it may seem like nit-picking, you’ll find it helpful to keep a record of what has been going on. For example, you should save any emails, text messages or other forms of communication as proof. It’s also worth noting down the times and dates of specific incidents that occur face to face, and the names of anyone who witnessed the bullying and could corroborate your account. Creating this sort of log will give you solid examples you can use to build a discussion with the right person, should you decide to take it further.

Speak to your boss

You may feel the need to request a meeting with your line manager. Have your ‘incident log’ at hand so you can clearly highlight the persistency and frequency of the bullying. Include evidence from others in the office, if you can. If you’re worried about being emotional in the meeting (and don’t worry if you are), make notes beforehand to ensure you don’t forget to mention anything important.

Escalate a complaint if necessary

If the bullying continues after you’ve spoken to a senior manager, you should escalate a complaint internally by following your employer’s internal procedures.

  1. Your first step should be to contact your human resources (HR) team. They should be able to provide impartial, confidential advice to all employees, without repercussion. You may not want to make a formal complaint initially, but you always can use your conversation with HR to scope out the process.
  2. Your employer may also have a company grievance policy in place – check your handbook or intranet for further information. There are also laws around workplace bullying, so make sure to read up on your rights.

As an additional port of call, you can also contact the ACAS (Advice, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). This public body aims to improve workplace environments. Give them a call if you need help and don’t feel comfortable speaking with a HR representative.

Bullying is especially likely to occur in stressful workplaces which are lacking strong leadership, and if your workplace fosters a culture that rewards aggressive, competitive behaviour. Bullying can cause the onset of a whole host of issues including stress, burnout, depression and increased absenteeism, and can damage self-esteem.

Educating people about bullying, through awareness weeks such as Anti-Bullying Week, is a positive step forward, and will hopefully create a safer environment for victims to come forward. In the meantime, we would all do well to live by the theme of this year’s campaign, “choose respect”.

Amanda AugustineAbout the author

Amanda Augustine is the career advice expert for TopCV, the largest CV-writing service in the world. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with over 10 years’ experience in the recruiting industry.

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