Being undermined, badmouthed behind their backs, left out of email groups, excluded from important meetings and not being considered for promotions were the biggest reasons workers felt persecuted by co-workers and bosses. A quarter of people claimed more than one person was making life a misery for them.
The concept of office politics is nothing new, but it’s clear it’s causing problems. According to the study, having a nemesis at work made people distressed and anxious, with one in five feeling forced to take time off due to a bad atmosphere in the office. In 2015, mental ill-heath and stress accounted for an astonishing 11.7m lost working days in the UK, but much more research needs to be done into the link between workplace stress and bullying.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) defines workplace bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person being bullied”. The Health and Safety Executive emphasises this is a pattern of behaviour rather than isolated instances, happening “repeatedly and persistently over time”.
Examples of workplace bullying include:
• Overbearing supervision
• Constant criticism
• Blocking promotion
• Exclusion, for example from lunches and drinks, relevant meetings, and important emails
• Being overworked and expecting unreasonable response times
• Making threats or comments about job security without foundation
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty of care to prevent bullying at work. If the above behaviour is affecting you, the first port of call is usually to resolve the matter informally – such as discussing your concerns with a line manager or HR representative. If the situation can’t be resolved, you have the option of lodging a formal grievance, which your employer will have to investigate. And if this grievance is upheld, the person bullying you could be disciplined or even dismissed. In the meantime, if your health (either mental or physical physical) is being affected by the bullying, your GP may sign you off work for stress and anxiety.
Acas advise keeping a diary of events, as well as emails and other communications to demonstrate the inappropriate behaviour and contact – this evidence can be useful when you’re asked to detail a bully’s behaviour, and can often prove how seemingly ‘trivial’ incidents have built up to form a pattern of behaviour. And finally, if worst comes to worst and your employer fails to deal with the bullying, you can resign and claim constructive dismissal on the basis that your employer has breached your contract (although you would need two years’ service to qualify in bringing a claim and will need to seek advice before doing so).
For more information and advice about workplace bullying, visit ACAS.org.uk
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