Workplace bullying: What it is and practical steps you can take

Understanding exactly what constitutes workplace bullying and what you can do about it

What you need to know about workplace bullying

From what it is to helpful tips to how to deal with it, here’s what you need to know about workplace bullying

Workplace bullying

It’s important to understand what constitutes workplace bullying and what doesn’t. We help you figure out if you have reason to take it further and if so, practical steps you can take.

What is workplace bullying? 

There are various forms that can be considered workplace bullying. These include a colleague directly shouting and intimidating an individual as well as attempts to undermine an individual - an example of this would be holding important meetings that you need to attend on days you are not in the office. 

While it’s worth being aware that some comments made to you are just throwaway remarks, that are not meant to come across negative, for it to constitute workplace bullying, it would be a “sustained effort to diminish an individual”. This can be emotionally damaging, having a lasting impact on the individual’s confidence.

What can you do to if you are a victim of workplace bullying?

There are a number of practical steps you can take to help solve the issue. 

1. Talk about it head on
Bullying can exist through secrecy and the ability to continue without being confronted in any way. It can help to face the issue head on by talking about what is happening and to find ways of telling the ‘bully’ to stop. If you feel able to, try telling the ‘bully’ to stop doing whatever it is that is upsetting you. There’s always the possibility that the ‘bully’ does not realise the effect they are having on you. If they are acting intentionally then they also need to be made aware of the distress they are causing and be given a chance to stop before any formal action can be taken. It can be easier to address the ‘bully’ if you have a trusted supporter with you. The way to deliver the message is by describing the behaviour in as neutral a way as possible and how it affects you. A good example would be: “when you hold team meetings on my days off, I feel excluded from the team”.

It’s also worth getting some advice from your workplace union if you have one. 

2. Take notes 
Make sure you record every incident, however small it may seem at the time. It’s common for bullying to run over weeks or months and it is the build-up of events that can make an individual feel overwhelmed. If you record dates, times, locations and any witnesses present along with the details of the incident itself. It makes it easier if you need to take formal action.

3. Talk to the right people

Don’t let the situation force you to feel isolated. Choose someone you trust to discuss the issues with, ideally someone you consider to be balanced and objective. Someone who will help you see the whole situation from different angles. 

4. Inform a senior member of staff
It’s important that a senior member of staff, whether your line manager or member of the HR team, are made aware of the situation. This is important to ensure that you are following the procedures should it be necessary for formal action to commence.

There are lots of ways for bullying to happen. These are some of the most common:

  • Being criticised and having responsibilities taken away without reason
  • Being the butt of jokes and picked on in front of others (or in private).
  • Being ignored and excluded
  • Blocking promotion or progress in the role. 
  • Making threats about job security without substance.

Workplace bullying: What it is and practical steps you can take