Bullying in the Workplace - What Can You Do?

by Harley Therapy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Workplaces group people with all different personalities together, day in and day out. The hierarchy of a traditional workplace breeds competition. Add in staff boredom, and problems can start.

What does workplace bullying look like?

We all know the cliche of the bullying boss. Always criticising staff, forcing them to work overtime, it’s a popular character in films.

But bullying in the workplace is often far more subtle and hidden.

Bullying is when someone else purposely acts in ways they know make you uncomfortable. You are left feeling humiliated, upset, paranoid, nervous and/or afraid.

And bullying in the workplace can unfortunately become a group endeavour. One person can become the outcast who the others pick on.

Examples of bullying in the workplace

Bullying in the workplace can look like:

  • ongoing criticism that isn’t merited
  • someone else constantly claiming credit for your work or downplaying your contribution
  • your work being sabotaged
  • being asked to secretly do someone else’s work and punished if you don’t say yes
  • rumours being spread about you
  • purposely being left out, such as from social events and projects
  • being the constant victim of ‘jokes’ that are thinly veiled insults
  • tiny acts meant to upset you such as taking or hiding your things, or leaving not nice things on your desk
  • being forced to constantly lend money but never being paid back
  • harassment around gender, sexuality, religion, race, a disability, or lifestyle choices.

When isn't it bullying?

Workplaces do involve conflict. We have to have relationships with our colleauges and managers, and relationships always have ups and downs. Sometimes an unkind comment is thoughtlessly offered, or criticism can seem too harsh. Or someone can misunderstand what their responsibilites are versus yours.

Remember that bullying means someone is deliberately doing something to upset you. So bullying is not a case of different communication styles or lack of communication, or someone being unaware of how they come across. It's a concious choice someone is making to upset you.

The new ‘cyber’ face of workplace bullying

One of the reasons workplace bullying can be so insidious nowadays is due to modern technology. This can include being sent offensive emails or texts, or knowing that your colleagues are gossiping about you on their emails right in front of you. You are left feeling paranoid and distressed. And the nature of cyber bullying sadly means it can be more easily overlooked by managers.

What should you do if you are being bullied in the workplace?

If the bullying is minor or irregular, it can sometimes be solved with good communication and setting boundaries. And the sooner we do so the better.

Of course these things can be very hard for some of us. We don’t all learn, growing up, how to be firm with others.

This is why many people seek counselling because of workplace issues. A therapist or counsellor can help you learn how to decide your personal boundaries, step into your personal power, and communicate effectively.

Should you report bullying in the workplace?

Sometimes we can feel in a corner. We might work in a setting where the person picking on us is popular and we aren’t. We fear that speaking up will mean we either are picked on more, or even lose our job.

If the bullying is consistent, if it is affecting your daily wellbeing, if it involves a group, or involves several forms of bullying, then it is important to reach out for support and help.

Many workplaces have a workplace counsellor or HR staff who is there for just such situations. You might want to keep a record of the bullying to show them, as well as print out any offensive emails and other communications.

You do have rights as an employee. If you feel there is no support or you are not being taken seriously, look into your workplace’s policies against harrassment. Here in the UK can also reach out to places like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or The Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

Do you need support around a workplace issue, fast? Our therapists can be available as soon as tomorrow. Why not book a first session now and start to find a way forward?

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