Bullying in the workplace comes in many forms. We usually think of it in terms of the overbearing and aggressive school bully, but it can be more subtle than that.
For instance, deliberately excluding someone from conversations or activities can be psychologically very upsetting – yet colleagues may find it harder to notice what’s happening. Similarly, office ‘banter’ can be fun or it can be damaging – it depends on the intent behind any comments intended to ridicule someone.
A YouGov Poll recently revealed that 29% of the UK workforce have been victims of workplace bullying – that’s 9m people. Yet, despite workplace bullying being so widespread, it can be difficult to know how to tackle it if you are the target.
Your first stop should be your employee handbook; this should provide you with a guide to how your company handles workplace bullying, and what routes are open to you.
You may then want to consider taking the bully aside, either on their own or with a trusted colleague. Calmly explain that their actions are affecting your work and that you would appreciate them reconsidering their conduct. But if this approach fails to change their behaviour, or you feel uncomfortable speaking to the person concerned, consider making a formal complaint.
The grievance process will usually start with you raising the issue with your line manager. If your line manager is the bully, go to another manager or the person above your manager to make your complaint. If the person you speak to isn’t your direct manager, you may need to spell out your expectations for the action you want them to take. And be prepared to listen to any resolutions they might suggest.
It’s important at this stage to present the facts. Providing hard evidence will provide your managers with concrete actions that they can confront the bully with – actions that other colleagues may well be willing to corroborate once the issue is out in the open.
However, if your line manager is unable to solve the issue informally, the case could then proceed to a formal procedure. You should be asked to submit a written grievance and a meeting will be scheduled. You will present your evidence and a decision will be made.
The outcome of these claims can result in dismissal of the bully, a change to working conditions or a formal warning. It’s important to remind yourself during the procedures that you are entitled to a happy and productive work environment. While raising a grievance can seem daunting, your manager and colleagues should support you.
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