Workplace bullying is widely under-reported in the United Kingdom, although it can have a huge effect on employees. If you are experiencing bullying in your workplace, then you may start to feel stressed, anxious, depressed or even suicidal. In many instances, the effects of bullying in the workplace will start to affect home and family life too.
Because workplace bullying is under-reported, many people do not recognise the key signs. In fact, workplace culture in the UK often means that people are able to ignore bullying behaviours and pass them off as “normal workplace activities”. Learning more about these signs can help you to identify if you are being bullied or it could help you to identify if one of your colleagues is experiencing bullying in the workplace.
The following behaviours may be considered to be bullying in the workplace:
- Shouting, threats or aggressive behaviour which is regularly aimed at the same person. Although people may raise their voice in the workplace on occasion, if a raised voice is regularly used as a tool to intimidate someone, then this constitutes as bullying.
- Constant Criticism. Being constantly criticised in the workplace can be emotionally draining, especially if you are meeting the expectations that have been set for you. It is particularly stressful for people when they work in an environment where their job security requires regular appraisal.
- Removal of duties and responsibilities without good reason. Removing duties and responsibilities from an employee can undermine them and can reduce the level of power that they have in the workplace. Employers or line managers should be able to justify any changes that they make to an employee’s responsibilities in the workplace.
- Ignoring, Excluding or Victimising. Taking steps to prevent a person from being involved in activities, groups or forums that they are entitled to attend can be very hurtful. Leaving an area whenever that person enters may also be considered to be an act of bullying.
- Regular Joking About or Mocking a Particular Member of Staff. Although humour and joking can have an important place in every business, staff members must take care to make sure that one member of staff is not always the butt of the jokes.
- Regularly being picked on or singled out in front of other Singling people out for criticism within a large group is very demoralising, especially if it happens on a regular basis. It is a form of social bullying whereby the bully seeks to affect their target’s relationships with others. If managers need to speak to a staff member about a problem or issue with their work, they should do so in a private forum.
- Misuse of power to intimidate or victimise Employees should not use their power or perceived power to attempt to threaten, intimidate or blackmail other people within the company or people who work closely with the company.
- Intentionally Blocking Promotions or Progress. Making promises about progress within the workplace and then deliberately failing to keep these promises to hinder that member of staff may also be considered as bullying.
- Setting Unachievable Targets. Asking staff to meet unachievable targets and then chastising them when they fail to meet their goals is considered as bullying within the workplace.
- Making threats about job security unless there is a basis or substance to these claims. Employers are expected to go through rigorous processes before they fire existing employees. Making baseless threats is a form of psychological intimidation.
- Spreading Rumours. Spreading malicious rumours about other staff members is considered to be a form of relational bullying that can isolate people from their peers.
These are a few of the major signs of bullying. There are countless other ways that people can intimidate, isolate or victimise others who they work with. If you are being affected by bullying in the workplace, you should try to speak to your line manager or someone in the HR department. If they are involved in the bullying then you may wish to speak to a trade union representative.
If you are subject to serious bullying by a manager or if your employer fails to rectify the situation in the first instance, then you may be able to address the issue through a workplace tribunal. In order to do this you may need to seek independent legal advice. To help to support your case, you should make a note of the time, date and details of what happen during each incident.
If you think that one of your colleagues is being bullied in the workplace, you may want to talk to them on an informal basis. They may be grateful of your support if they want to take the allegations to a higher level. You may also mention it to your line manager if you make it clear that you are sharing your views in complete confidence.