Bullying at work


What is workplace bullying?

Bullying may involve arguments and rudeness but it can also be more subtle including ignoring people and their contribution, unacceptable criticisms and overloading people with work.

What effect does it have?

Bullying can make working life very unhappy and lead to depression. You may get ill and find it hard to motivate yourself to work.
Sometimes a person’s strengths in the workplace can make the bully feel threatened, and that triggers the bullying behaviour.

What can I do?

Talk to someone, don’t be ashamed to tell people what’s going on. Letting people know what’s happening means they can help you. Through sharing your experiences you may discover that it is happening to other people too.

Get advice

Speak to someone about how you might deal with the problem informally.
This person could be:
  • an employee representative, such as a trade union official
  • someone at your work in the human resource section
  • your manager or supervisor
Some employers have specially trained staff to help with bullying and harassment problems. If the bullying is affecting your health, visit your GP.

Be strong

Recognise any behaviour, criticism or personal remarks are not connected to your abilities. They reflect the bully’s own weaknesses and ignorance, and are meant to intimidate and control you. Stay calm, and don’t be tempted to explain your behaviour ask them to explain theirs.

Talk to the bully

The bullying may not be deliberate. If you can, talk to the person in question as they may not realise how their behaviour has affected you. Work out what to say beforehand. Describe what’s been happening and why you object to it. Stay calm and be polite. If you don’t want to talk to them yourself, ask someone else to do it for you.

Keep a diary

It will be very useful if you decide to take action at a later stage, for example reporting it to a union official. Try to talk calmly to the person who’s bullying you and tell them that you find their behaviour unacceptable. Often, bullies retreat from people who stand up to them. If necessary, have an ally with you when you do this.

Make a formal complaint

Making a formal complaint is the next step if you can’t solve the problem informally. To do this, you must follow your employer’s grievance procedure.

What about legal action?

Sometimes the problem continues even after you’ve followed your employer’s grievance procedure. If nothing is done to put things right, you can consider legal action, which may mean going to an employment tribunal. Get professional advice before taking this step. For more information about taking legal action, visit your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.
It’s not possible to go to an employment tribunal directly over bullying. Complaints can be made under laws covering discrimination and harassment. Find out more about the law covering workplace bullying from GOV.UK