How to deal with bullying at work?

As an adult you’d think bullying would have been left in the playground, yet figures from the TUC show that nearly a third of people have been bullied at work, and it’s on the rise. Women more likely to be affected than men and – surprisingly – the highest prevalence is among 40-59-year-olds.

“Bullying causes stress and anxiety and can have long-term effects on victims’ physical and mental health,” says TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “No one should have to leave their job because of bullying.”

It can take many forms, from a colleague who is perpetually stealing your bright ideas to malicious rumours or a boss constantly putting you down or exploding with rage. So how should you handle unfair treatment at work?

First, it’s important to know where the line lies.

What is defined as bullying in the workplace?

Managers are entitled to pull up team members for poor performance or disciplinary problems – provided it’s through the proper channels – and it’s ok for colleagues to have a difference of opinion. However, when disagreements become a pattern and behaviour seems persistently unreasonable, it is time to ask yourself if it’s crossed the line into bullying.

Bullying and harassment are frequently lumped together, and the two are closely linked, but while harassment is defined by the Equality Act 2010, bullying isn’t.

ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) defines harassment as “unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident.” Examples might include homophobic comments or teasing about a disability.

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