Acas define workplace bullying as:
‘Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.
Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual (perhaps by someone in a position of authority such as a manager or supervisor) or involve groups of people. It may be obvious or it may be insidious. Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual.’
However you define workplace bullying, if you experience it at any level it can be an uncomfortable, soul-destroying period. You may feel that your colleagues and friends desert you; those who have the power to stop the bullying bury their heads in the sand; and you feel that there is no way out. Your partner or family may not be sympathetic to your situation, telling you to ‘toughen up’. You may feel that this continual assault on you is your fault, that you have done something to make the bully attack you, but it is not your fault. It is the bully who has the problem.
Bullies in the workplace are no different to bullies at school – they are weak cowards who are power crazy. (It’s not unusal for a bully to need psychiatric help!) The main difference is, that in the workplace, the bully (where they are a manager) has often been promoted above their level of competance. Sometimes despite the level of management training they receive they don’t understand the difference between management and bullying.
You deserve to work in a company that believes that bullying, at any level, is an unacceptable form of behaviour. Employers have a responsibility to prevent it. As a result, for an Employer to ignore, or even worse, encourage bullying, it can become very costly to them. Many companies have ‘codes of conduct’ as to what is acceptable and what is not.
If you are being subjected to workplace bullying then you may find a session with me helpful. I can give you careers-based counselling, where we look at the incidents together and talk them through. We can then look at the ‘here and now’ before moving forward to discussing some coaching strategies to help you overcome this unnacceptable form of assault. This is where my unique knowledge of the industry can be of help – I know publishing, I understand the demands of the business and the responsibilities that you, as an employee have. We can discuss tactics to help you balance the two, along with how to deal with the bully. If your employer knows about the bullying, the cost of this (and subsequent sessions) is often paid by them.
Although workplace bullying is against employment law, I don’t do (or get involved in) the legal stuff, but I can help and support you whatever course of action you decide.
My best advice if you are being bullied at work is as follows: (this does not constitute legal advice, and you follow this advice at your own risk)
* Keep a diary. Log EVERY instance of the bullying, including your own comments as to how the bullying made you feel. If the bullying relates to emails or memos, print them off or photocopy them and keep them in a place that only you have access to. Make a note if anyone else was present to witness any comment made in public.
* Investigate your Employer’s codes of conduct and grievance procedure, decide whether you want to follow it or not.
* Tell the bully that you know they are bullying you, it is unacceptable to you, and it has to stop. Sometimes these bullies don’t even realise what they are doing is bullying. If you identify their behaviour as bullying, there can be no room for doubt.
* If there is a sympathetic manager or senior member of staff, or a Human Resource Manager, do consider confiding in them about the bullying.
* Be aware that you may be at risk from developing work-related stress.
Here are some links to useful information about workplace bullying. And remember, that it is the bully who has the problem, not you.