It’s an undisputed fact that bullying stops after secondary school. It’s only demonstrated when a group of your peers corner you in a toilet and shout in your face, or push you around. Right?
I’ve been doing a lot of research into bullying recently. I’m a pastoral coordinator in a secondary school, and bullying (or anti-bullying) has been my little project over the past few months. Despite research into bullying being child and school focused, I realised that actually, it’s applicable to adult life too; we are all able to be victims of bullying as an adult too.
Unfortunately, bullying is not a crime. However harassment is, and if your manager or colleague acts in a violent, aggressive, offensive or intimidating way, you may have a legal case under the Equality Act 2010.
What Counts As Bullying?
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (a charity committed to reducing bullying in schools) defines bullying in their video.
You might realise just from watching the video that you are experiencing bullying now. You might realise that you were bullied in your workplace in the past. It took me years to realise that I had been bullied in one workplace – a group of women had formed a clique, isolated me, made offensive comments about me and my life at any opportunity, and made up lies in an attempt to get me fired. Lovely.
Are You Being Bullied?
Unfortunately, women are statistically more likely to be bullied in the workplace than men, although that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen to men too. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if you are a victim of bullying, but within the workplace, there tends to be three major types at play.
This is the experience that you may overlook, but is incredibly unpleasant when you realise it is happening. No, it’s not the same as ‘not being friends’, it’s active, calculated behaviour, designed to make you feel alone, worthless and helpless. This is also more likely to occur between colleagues of a similar level within hierarchies.
- Members of staff form a ‘clique’ and actively stop you from engaging with them.
- Refusal to help you but willing to help others
- You are not invited (or are uninvited) to full staff social events
- Treating you as if you are not there
This type of bullying is more unpleasant. In most cases, it’s carried out by a more experienced worker or manager towards a less experienced worker.
- Shouting at you or humiliating you in front of colleagues
- Giving you jobs with unreasonable deadlines
- Removing jobs and responsibilities for no reason
- Telling you that your work is not good enough
- Making threats about employment security
The most unpleasant of all, in my opinion.
- Making comments about your body, sexuality or sex-life to you or behind your back
- Making lewd gestures
- Inappropriate contact during non-work hours
- Touching more intimate areas of your body eg. small of the back, or pushing back your hair for you
What can you do about Workplace Bullying?
No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable or hurt, least of all in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their staff, so a fancy office space is worthless if it’s undermined by poor behaviour. However, there are things you can do to combat it.
Firstly, can it be solved informally? Our parents always told us to stand up to bullies, and as adults, shouldn’t that mean we’re ready to stand up for ourselves? In many cases, a clear word with the person who is treating you with disrespect is enough to shock them into stopping.
If that doesn’t work, start to create an incident log. You will need evidence to support your complaints, for employers don’t generally accept hearsay alone. Take note of any witnesses who may support your cause, and keep an eye out for any CCTV or physical evidence you can collect. The more you have, the more likely your complaint will be taken seriously.
Lastly, confide in someone you trust. When you make your disclosure, ensure you are confident that the person you speak to is reliable and committed to supporting your cause.
For more information, see the following links.