Unfortunately, these days, bullying does not get left in the school playground and for some it continues well into adulthood, making their lives miserable. Bullying is becoming more common within the workplace and while peer-to-peer bullying is bad enough, being bullied by your boss can be even worse!
It is of course important to distinguish between a manager being firm and disciplining if work needs to be improved (and they have the right to do this), or when it crosses the line into bullying. A bully seeks to control their target through humiliation, mistreatment, shaming, aggression, isolation, and general unpleasant behaviour.
So, what should you do?
Recognise what is happening
The first step in dealing with bullying is to recognize it for what it is, to realise that you are not to blame and to protect yourself from harm. Ask yourself, are you given unreasonable tasks by your boss? Are you threatened? Are you insulted or criticised or ridiculed in front of colleagues? Are you yelled at or sworn at? Are you constantly denied recognition for achievements? Are you made to feel excluded? These are all signs that you could be being bullied.
Document the situation
Make sure you keep a track of what is going on once you realise you could be being bullied. Document any incidents, so if the situation is ever dealt with formally, i.e., a grievance or disciplinary procedure, you have clear evidence to back you up. Keep it formal and factual rather than emotional, and include dates, times, quotes, tone of voice, names of those involved including any witnesses present and how you felt at the time. Keep copies of any relevant documentation that could be used as evidence, i.e., email correspondence, performance review documents or text messages. Documenting is also good for your mental health, clearing things out of your head and making sense of it on paper.
Don’t isolate yourself
Bullies are experts in creating a feeling of self-doubt and making their targets feel alone – this increases vulnerability. So, it is important not to cut yourself off, keep colleague relationships within the workplace as strong as possible to ensure you have a support network when dealing with this.
Don’t wait to ask for help
Talk to someone! This can be anyone, a friend, family member, colleague, a manager you trust or HR – talking about it will make you feel better! If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, you can seek impartial advice elsewhere, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or ACAS. Make sure you research your rights; this will strengthen and increase your confidence when reaching out for support.
Make a complaint
If you feel comfortable enough, approach the person and tell them what they are doing is causing you upset – they may not be aware of the effect their actions are having. This could be face to face or via email, but with either method, be firm but not aggressive, stay calm and stick to the facts.
Alternatively, you can raise a formal complaint against the person as a grievance, your employer should have a grievance procedure (generally available in the employee handbook) which will outline the process of what you need to do. The result of the grievance could result in either a reconciliation between the parties involved, a recommendation for mediation and/or counselling to try and resolve the issue, or a decision to take disciplinary action against the bully.
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