Bullying in the workplace

Extract from 'Bullying' compiled by MSF, the Union for Skilled and Professional People with acknowledgement to Andrea Adams' book 'Bullying At Work', Virago Press 1992.

'When Managers of any description overstep the acceptable bounds of authority and when they terrorise staff with their tyrannical behaviour towards others, the psychological effect has been professionally likened in many cases to that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So where bullying is tolerated by any organisation, employers must be made aware of the potential damage they are doing to employees' health, morale, productivity and, indeed, the image this represents should it become publicly known that those supposedly responsible for staff well-being, care so little for their employees that they allow an oppressor to run riot with peoples' lives from within. It is amazing to me that any organisation is prepared to condone an atmosphere of infectious fear simply through its inaction.

Demeaning and devaluing men and women when they go to work is hardly an effective way of managing human beings, especially if they no longer enjoy doing their jobs. We all know that if we enjoy our jobs we tend to work well. A failure to recognise bullying at work is certainly an expensive mistake for management at a time when, presumably, none of us can afford to be ignorant. Bullying is bad for business. It also involves: A risk of being taken to court or industrial tribunal by a disaffected employee, a threat to the corporate image of the company.'

Bullying in the Workplace can place an intolerable strain on the emotional and physical health and well-being of an employee who is subjected to bullying by an employer or colleague at work. This can cause loss of confidence, loss of self esteem, tiredness an inability to sleep, lack of appetite, panic attacks, depression and a dread of going to work.

Bullying in the Workplace can take many forms including:

  • Constantly criticising an employee, often in front of other employees.

  • Spreading nasty rumours and remarks about an employee.

  • Using bad, obscene, aggressive, threatening language to an employee.

  • Shouting at, intimidating and harassing an employee.

  • Taking away responsibility from an employee unnecessarily.

  • Asking the employee to do trivial and menial jobs which the employee is not responsible for.

  • Withholding important information from an employee which the employee needs to have as part of their job.

  • Isolating an employee by ignoring him/her and excluding an employee from conversations and communications which are relevant to his/her area of responsibility.

  • An employer passing off an employee's ideas and work as his/her own.

  • Expecting an employee to produce work in an unrealistic and/or impossible time-scale.

  • Blaming an employee for the employer's mistakes.

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What can you do if you are being bullied in the workplace?

  • Talk to others within the workplace - colleagues, supervisor, personnel department, trade union representative. Take advice on the options open to you to deal with this e.g. by making a formal complaint through the grievance procedure.
  • Find out whether your place of work has an Anti-Bullying Policy in operation.
  • Keep a diary of all incidents with dates and times and copies of any notes, memos etc. from the bully which you feel constitute bullying, intimidation, harassment etc.
  • Write to the bully clearly saying that you find their behaviour is unacceptable and amounts to bullying and set out the reasons why you believe this. Keep copies of any letters you send to the bully.
  • If it is possible to tape conversations where you are being bullied then do so.
  • Try to look at ways of being assertive and standing up to the bully.
  • If other colleagues witness any incidents where you are being bullied ask them whether they would be willing to write a statement relating to what they witnessed.
  • If you have to take time off sick due to being bullied at work ask your GP to record this on your certificate.

Talk to someone. When a person is being bullied they often feel very isolated, vulnerable and alone. It is important to speak to someone in order to gain support for yourself and to lessen the sense of isolation. There are some organisations listed below which may be useful to you.

Remember people often bully others through jealousy. Victims of bullying are often popular with their colleagues and good and efficient at their work. People who bully are invariably cowards which is why they often intimidate others to join in with, or endorse, or turn a blind eye to the bullying. People who bully others often lead sad, unfulfilling, shallow and meaningless lives and have nothing more constructive to do with their time than bully and make those around them feel uncomfortable.

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Agencies which provide support and information

  • SupportLine:
    01708 765200
    Telephone Helpline providing confidential emotional support to Children, Young Adults and Adults on any issue. Particularly aimed at those who are vulnerable, isolated, at risk groups and victims of any form of abuse. Also provides details of counsellors and support groups across the UK.

  • ACAS:
    0300 123 1100
    For information and advice on employment rights/bullying at work.

Useful websites

Useful book

Bully In Sight. Overcoming the Silence and Denial by Which Abuse Thrives: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge and Combat Workplace Bullying by Tim Field - Publishers Success Unlimited: ISBN 0952912104
Click here to read more or buy this book

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