As a working adult, you shouldn’t have to tolerate a physically dangerous or mentally toxic work environment. Everyone deserves to work in a safe, friendly, harassment-free work environment, regardless of any external factors. Unfortunately, bullying and harassment are all too common in workplaces in the UK and around the world. It happens between managers and their subordinates and even among colleagues. If you’re being bullied or harassed at work, you have rights and you should exercise them.
Recognising Bullying In The Workplace
In childhood, bullying commonly takes the form of name-calling, physical violence, mean tricks or pranks. As adults in the workplace bullying remains essentially the same but takes on a slightly different approach. It is no longer child-like and it often requires serious intervention to stop.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace is typically defined as any environment that exhibits abusive or humiliating behaviour meant to intimidate, humiliate, or otherwise hurt an individual, often resulting in physical as well as emotional symptoms of discomfort or illness. Those who are bullied or harassed may experience feelings of nervousness, upset stomach, headaches, or general unease when in the workplace.
The main reason it is difficult to stop is because many managers or supervisors fail to acknowledge the seriousness of these offences, sometimes calling them a “harsh management style” or saying they are “more direct and honest than some are used to.”
However, regardless of what they may believe, the truth is there is no management style in which physical or mental abuse is taught or encouraged. Any time someone shouts, threatens, or physically attempts to intimidate or harm you, it is an instance of workplace bullying.
Bullying is far more than physical intimidation and name-calling. In this cyber age, bullying also involves intimidation via e-mails, social media, and other forms of online harassment. Despite rising social awareness and the recent global outcry, sexual harassment still sometimes happens in the workplace as well.
Effects Of Workplace Bullying And Harassment
Bullying in the workplace can have far-reaching consequences, not just for the workers but for the organiaation itself.
A workplace in which bullying occurs can go from peaceful and productive to disruptive and unproductive. It’s difficult to stay focused when you are stressed and wondering when the next onslaught will happen. Those who can will look for a way to get out of the situation as soon as possible, even it means quitting overnight.
For those who can’t however, workplace bullying can be an unending source of tremendous stress. Quitting their job can affect how they deal with finances, their children, and others in the family but staying on can take a toll on their overall health and well-being, and even affect their quality of life. People who are chronically stressed often suffer from sleeplessness, anxiety, headaches, digestive problems and a host of other physical and mental issues.
There are things you should do if you have started to feel afraid to go to work every day because of bullying.
What You Can Do About Workplace Bullying
No matter how desperate you may be for the job or how much money you make at it, no one should put up with workplace harassment or bullying. First, familiarise yourself with workplace policy regarding harassment, and what steps are in place to protect workers from this type of environment. If necessary, make a copy of your workplace policy and highlight the portions your harasser has violated.
Document every instance of harassment you have experienced, including names, dates, and if possible the time. Do not leave out any details. Keep any e-mail, image, or instance of social media harassment that you have experienced that you consider to be bullying, no matter how painful or uncomfortable it is.
Try to solve the problem informally at first. Sometimes what some colleagues consider to be playful teasing may be much more serious, and they simply don’t realise the consequences of their behaviour. Very often, simply telling someone you don’t care for their behaviour toward you is the fastest way to get it to stop.
For others, however this adds fuel to the fire, and the situation may escalate. If this happens go to your Human Resources department and inform them about what is going on.
If you are being bullied or harassed by a colleague, you may also want to speak with your supervisor if you feel comfortable doing so. If your supervisor is the one committing the offences, go directly to Human Resources immediately.
In some situations, you may need to file a grievance and contact your trade union representative if you have one and their legal representatives for counsel and assistance with these types of situations.
Sometimes, however, legal action must be taken, in the form of legal counsel or sometimes with a union representative. Never let a workplace bullying situation get the best of you. If you are not satisfied with the situation, or if the situation has neither abated nor stopped you must contact an employment solicitor. Employment solicitors are experts in this field, and they will give you the best advice regarding your legal options.
It is also worth noting that if you have been a victim of bullying in the workplace you may also have a legitimate claim to compensation, the process of which is explained on this page.
When workplace harassment becomes a detriment to your health and well-being that is a sure sign that you need to do something about the situation. No one deserves to feel uncomfortable, upset or afraid when they go to work. There are always ways to remove any type of toxicity in the workplace, whether it is in the form of exposure to hazardous chemicals or exposure to bullying and harassment.
Don’t let workplace bullying keep you from doing work you love. Let a supervisor know, speak with legal or trade union counsel, or get expert legal advice from an experienced solicitor. Leaving the job should be your last resort, especially if it is a job you otherwise love or if leaving will have other serious ramifications on your finances and your personal and family life.