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Bullying and Harassment at Work

04 Oct 2019

Workplaces can be stressful environments at times, not just because of the day to day challenge of work, but also because of the way people interact.

Differences in communication styles, culture, perceptions and simple poor behaviour or decision making can lead to relationship issues at work, many of which then turn into bullying or harassment claims, via the company grievance process.

Grievances are now on the increase across the UK, with many people using the bullying and harassment terminology to increase the perceived severity of their issue, making sure their employer takes their complaint seriously. 

What is classed as bullying?

According to ACAS, the characteristics of bullying and harassment are anything that is 'offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient'.

The important thing to remember here is that many people view behaviours very differently, for example, to one person, banter can be a fun way of interacting with colleagues; to others it can be offensive.

Examples of bullying can include:

·      Spreading malicious rumors

·      Unfair treatment

·      Picking on or regularly undermining someone

·      Denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

What does the law say?

Although bullying itself is not against the law, harassment is, especially if it’s of a discriminatory manner.

The first thing to do if you feel you’re being bullied is to try and resolve the problem with the person causing the issue. Ask to speak to them in private and see if you can talk through the problem. Explain how you feel and tell them that you’d like to resolve the issue without having to take it further.

Sometimes this may not be possible, especially if the victim of the harassment doesn’t have the confidence to speak to the alleged harasser. If this is the case, you should talk to one of the following:

·      A manager or supervisor

·      A member of the Human Resource department, or

·      A trade union representative, if you have access to one

If you’ve tried all of the above and you’re still experiencing bullying or harassment, or the issue hasn’t been resolved, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. If this also fails, you can then take legal action via an employment tribunal, but it’s important to keep track of everything you’ve done to try and resolve the problem.

If you need further advice, you can also call the ACAS helpline for advice.

Alternatively, if you feel that nothing is being done or the situation won't improve, it may be time to look for another job, one that can help you thrive in a workplace you’ll enjoy belonging to!