Am I being bullied at work?

By Mandy Telford

Half of all UK workers ? equivalent to some 14.5 million people ? have been bullied at work. Workplace bullying can be soul destroying for the victim, and can be especially hard for working parents who are already under enough pressure. Ban Bullying at Work day is on the 7th November ? and here are some tips to help you spot and stop bullying behaviour in your workplace today.

Workplace bullying, although common, is poorly understood. Here is a good definition of workplace bullying:

Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.


As with harassment, bullying is defined largely by the impact of the behaviour on the recipient, not its intention. Bullying at work can take many forms, and anyone can be a bully, even unintentionally, and can be unaware of it.

If you are experiencing any of the following then you are perfectly justified to take matters further:

  • Bullies may use terror tactics, open aggression, threats, shouting, abuse, and obscenities towards their target
  • Bullies may subject their target to constant humiliation or ridicule, belittling their efforts, often in front of others
  • Bullies may subject their target to excessive supervision, monitoring everything they do and being excessively critical about minor things
  • Bullies may take the credit for other people’s work but never take the blame when things go wrong
  • Bullies may constantly override the person’s authority
  • Bullies may remove whole areas of work responsibility from the person, reducing their job to routine tasks that are well below their skills and capabilities
  • Bullies may set the person what they know to be impossible objectives, or constantly change the work remit without telling the person, and then criticise or reprimand the person for not meeting their demands
  • Bullies may ostracise and marginalise their target, dealing with the person only through a third party, excluding the person from discussions, decisions etc
  • Bullies may spread malicious rumours about the individual
  • Bullies may refuse reasonable requests for leave, training etc, or block a person’s promotion.

These are all examples of behaviour that is totally unacceptable, no matter what the reasons for it are. Maybe it’s not happening to you, but you see it going on. The bully might not even realise that they are a bully. But if bullying is allowed to carry on, over time, it can be very damaging, not only to the victim but also to their colleagues too.

Top tips for beating the bullies

Dignity at Work?s anti-bullying coordinator Mandy Telford has put together seven top tips on beating the bully in the workplace.

Respect yourself

As soon as you encounter behaviour which is not acceptable to you, put an immediate end to it. If you allow anyone to make inappropriate comments on more than one occasion you set a dangerous precedent and it becomes more difficult to stop.

Confront the bully

The office bully thrives off the fact that you are too scared to confront them. Perhaps a small word in a public place may actually put an end to your workplace nightmare?

Keep a diary

As soon as you are on the receiving end of intimidating behaviour, make a diary to record all of the details – they could become evidence in the long run. You can also keep emails and letters, and note who else is present – they could act as a witness.

Don’t miss out

Make sure one person in the office is being unpleasant does not jeopardise your relationship with other colleagues by refusing to go out for lunch or other social occasions. Failing to do so will isolate you.

Speak to your manager or a senior colleague
It is rare for a bully to pick on just one person in the office. Arrange a meeting with your manager, or another senior colleague if your manager is the problem, to see if the bully has a track record within the company – they may already be on their way out.

Get support

Being a member of a trade union is very important throughout this process. They can provide the support and expertise in this kind of situation. As well as having them onside to deal with the technical legal process their holistic approach can point you in the right direction of getting all the support you need for what is often an emotionally draining process.

Don’t let the bully drag down

Make sure that you have things to look forward to outside work, like activities with your children, seeing your friends etc, as your confidence will receive a much-needed boost.

Mandy Telford works for Dignity at Work ? an anti-bullying at work project funded by the government and trade union Unite. For more information visit their website.


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