Workplace Bullying

An Article by Ryan Grey

Bullying doesn’t just happen among children and young people. In a recent study, the TUC (Trades Union Congress) found that almost a third (29%) of adults have been bullied at work. In this article, I intend to shed some light on what workplace bullying is. I will explain the many forms it may take, how it can affect you and most importantly how to get help and support.

Types of workplace bullying

It may be difficult to identify or to accept that you are being bullied at work. You might be aware that you are being treated differently and unfairly, but still wonder if you are over-reacting.

Not all bullying is direct and obvious. Bullying can take the form of targeted acts of rudeness, offensiveness, maliciousness and humiliation. In some cases, physical violence can occur. Bullying can also be perpetrated in a much more subtle way.

Some of these more subtle forms of workplace bullying can include:

  • excluding and ignoring you and devaluing your input
  • overloading you with work
  • spreading gossip and rumours about you
  • treating you unfairly
  • frequently teasing or undermining you
  • withholding from you any training or promotion opportunities

Effects of workplace bullying

Being the victim of workplace bullying can make you feel isolated and lonely. It can make you feel depressed and anxious and cause you to have low self-esteem. The effects of workplace bullying can be traumatic and have long term, crippling mental health effects. It can trigger preexisting traumatic memories of being abused, sometimes with devastating effects.

Being a victim of workplace bullying does not mean that you are weak or useless. Often, the motivation for perpetrators to bully others is a sense of inadequacy in themselves. People who feel inadequate sometimes end up bullying others, as a way of attempting to cope with their own sense of inferiority.

Help with workplace bullying

It is important to know that you don’t have to go through it alone. You may feel ashamed to open up to someone else about it. You may worry about how you will be perceived. You may feel that you are making a fuss over nothing and that you might not be believed.

Initially, it is important that you talk to someone and get some support. Who do you have in your immediate support network that you can trust to listen to what you are going through without judging? If you have such a person in your life, opening up to them will help you to feel that you are not alone and can help you to think more clearly about how to proceed.

It can be helpful to keep a diary of the bullying. This can help you emotionally, to reflect on what is happening and to process how it is affecting you. It can also be useful in a more practical way, depending on whether you decide to proceed with an official complaint against the bully.

If it is possible, tell the bully that their behaviour is unacceptable and ask them to stop. Understandably, this is a very difficult confrontation to have and would take an amount of confidence and assertiveness that you may not have. A work colleague may be able to speak to the bully on your behalf.

If you are able to directly confront the bully, try to stay calm and polite. Have a plan prepared beforehand of what you want to say. If things start to get too confrontational and heated, it may be better just to walk away and to take a different route in order to deal with the problem.

Sometimes a bully is genuinely unaware of how they have been behaving and the affect that it has had. Some people aren’t very self aware and may not realise how their actions are interpreted by others. Sometimes, making the person aware of how you feel can be enough to stop the behaviour. An apology, along with noticeably improved behaviour, could go a long way to helping you to feel better.

Speak to someone at your workplace informally about how you feel. This could be your line manager or supervisor. It could also be a human resources (HR) representative or a trade union representative if these are available to you. If it is not possible to deal with the problem in a less formal way, it may be necessary to follow your workplace’s grievance procedure.

Recovering from workplace bullying

Workplace bullying can be devastating and can have a long-term effect on your emotional well-being. Remember that there is a way out and a way forward. It is not your fault and it does not reflect on your strengths and personal capabilities.

When recovering from workplace bullying, it is important to look after yourself. Good self care practices, such as spending quality time with loved ones and doing the things that bring you pleasure and a sense of calm, can help you to connect back to who you are and help you to reclaim your mental well-being.

Counselling can help you to explore and process the effect that the workplace bullying has had on you. It can help you to recover your sense of identity and self esteem and to develop healthier coping strategies, such as better personal boundaries and assertiveness.

You have the right to carry out your work without being bullied and emotionally abused. You deserve all the opportunities that your hard work and commitment brings, without being bullied. You deserve to be healthy and happy, both at home and at work.

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