Not so long ago, on our blog, we hosted a series of content surrounding Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s a topic that we are extremely invested in – the mental health and wellbeing of our employees is of utmost importance to us. And we completely understand that things like relationships, children, illness and stress can make you feel less than 100% at your desk.
More than this, a bad atmosphere in work – specifically because one of your colleagues is making your work day less than pleasant – can also contribute to poor mental health and wellbeing.
In any workplace, you’re not going to get on with all of your colleagues. No set of co-workers all love each other dearly. There will always be bad habits, jealousies and personality clashes. Bullying is something that is commonly associated with the school playground. It is seen as a childhood experience but, sadly, it is becoming more prevalent in the adult workplace.
Examples of this range from sending aggressive emails to spreading gossip; denying someone training or promotion or constantly finding fault in a competent worker.
A 2015 study from the TUC revealed that a third of adults had been a victim of bullying at work – with women more likely to be on the receiving end than men. Nearly three quarters of reported instances of bullying was perpetrated by a manager, leading 36% of people saying they had to leave their job because of it.
These are fairly shocking statistics. So, what can you, as an employee who has witnessed unethical behaviour or as a victim of bullying, do to counter the experience?
Talk to someone
If you feel like you are being bullied or unfairly treated, you should seek advice from a trusted co-worker (or a partner or friend) who can listen to your experiences and offer impartial advice. If they concur that you are being treated poorly, this is the first step to taking action.
Keep a diary
If you want to present a case for bullying, the first thing you will need is evidence. Discreetly make notes of incidents – for example, 12th March: Was mocked for what I was wearing or 15th September: Was derided for a poor effort on a report that was actually very thorough – as this will compound your case.
Join a union or speak to Citizens Advice
A union will give you greater protection in the workplace – not just from the threat of redundancy and so on, but from all unreasonable behaviour. If you’d prefer, you can make a call to the Citizens Advice Bureau, who can also point you in the right direction for an appropriate course of action.
Don’t respond to criticism
If a boss or a colleague are continuously calling you out for your work (or anything else), do not reply. This works in two ways – you shouldn’t have to defend yourself over something that is unjust and if you respond in a negative way (i.e. by shouting or rolling your eyes) this will only incense the bully further.
Ask for a time out
If it gets to the stage where the bully is actively shouting at you during the working day, ask for a time out. If they continue to shout at you, they look unprofessional and, quite frankly, uncontrollable whilst you have calmly asked for a minute to breathe.
Talk to a manager or HR
If the person bullying you is of the same level, then you should present your diary evidence to your line manager. However, if the offending colleague is your manager, you should report to your HR department. Always take a trusted colleague in with you for moral support and as a witness.
Remember: employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment - they’re liable for any harassment suffered by their employees so make your case in a firm and calm manner.
No one deserves to be shouted at or be made to feel uncomfortable. Your working life can have a massive impact on your emotional health and family life. Don’t let it get to this stage. Speak up.