What to do if you’re bullied at work

As adults all over the UK claim to be victims of or have witnessed bullying in the workplace, it’s clearly not just a playground phenomenon.  

 

Bullied at work

 

People of all ages can suffer at the hands of a bully; but what is actually classed as bullying? The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) says bullying may be characterised as: “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”

If you feel the above sounds familiar, it’s time to act. No one deserves to feel intimidated or repeatedly singled out at work. Here are some examples of behaviour that may be bullying:

  • Constant criticism, even after doing good work
  • Overbearing supervision
  • Blocking promotion
  • Exclusion, for example from lunches, relevant meetings and important emails
  • Making threats or comments about job security without foundation
  • Regularly making the same person the butt of jokes
  • Being overworked and expecting unreasonable response times


Legislation

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 provides civil and criminal law protection from harassment, which includes bullying, in the workplace.

You can take a bully to court; however, it needs to be classed as discrimination or harassment first.

 

What should I do if I think I’m being bullied?

Consider whether you can resolve the issue informally. Discuss concerns with your line manager, an HR representative or trade union official. If you can, try talking to the person who is bullying you and tell them how you feel. Talk to other colleagues too, as it might not only be you who feels the same way.

If your issues can’t be sorted informally, consider making a formal grievance. Your employer should have a grievance policy to explain how this works.

It is a good idea to keep a diary of any events where you feel bullied or harassed. Each time an incident occurs, write it down and keep it safe. This can be used as evidence when asked to recall specific occurrences of bullying.


If you are being bullied at work, don’t suffer in silence. If a bad situation continues for too long, your health could be affected, resulting in being signed off from work. In many cases, people cannot return to work because the threat of bullying remains. Talk to your HR department or someone senior in the company who can help you, before things get too much to handle.

 

For more help and guidance, check out the rest of our blogs.