14 Jul 2022
Thank you to Caroline for sharing her knowledge and experiences with us.
Every year in the UK, schools have an anti-bullying week at the end of November. In 2021 the chosen theme was ‘One Kind Word” and this tagline seemed relevant to everyone. The key messages from this year were around asking people if they were ok, apologising for harmful behaviour and how, in a world filled with negativity, one kind word can provide a moment of hope for someone. Kindness fuels kindness.
Through lots of conversations with candidates, and also own our staff discussing previous employers, many workplaces are still perpetuating a culture of bullying or hostility. More people than you might think have experienced bullying at work.
In a large survey done on bullying at the University of Manchester, one in 10 workers said they had been bullied in the last six months. Another survey done by the Chartered Institute of personal development found that 20% had experienced some form of bullying or harassment over the past two years.
The same survey also reported that groups most likely to become victims of bullying and harassment are Black and Asian employees, women and people with a disability.
While there is no one definition of bullying behaviour, these are some signs that you should look out for, for yourself and others around you:
- Feeling constantly criticised
- Someone raising their voice at you, displaying aggressive behaviour or threats
- Having rumours spread about you
- Being constantly put down or made the butt of the joke
- Being regularly excluded
- Being persistently picked on
- Misuse of power being used to make someone feel victimised
- Threats about job security
- Blocking promotion or progress
- Unwelcome sexual advances
People often feel uncomfortable talking about bullying they are experiencing or have witnessed. It’s easy to brush something off and discount it as bullying behaviour. So, let’s bust some myths.
“‘Bullying’ is actually just assertiveness”
There is a difference between being assertive and bullying; assertiveness is confidence and directness. It is entirely possible to do this without being aggressive or dismissive, those are bullying tactics.
“People who get bullied are playing the ‘victim’”
Bullying is something people choose to do, but not something people choose to have done to them. While it is true that bullying can render a person passive, it can also inspire an assertive response.
“It takes two to tango”
Bullying is one sided and without consent. Suggesting one person being bullied participated willingly is another way to try and justify the behaviour behind bullying.
“If an employee is bullied, employers will recognise it and put a stop to it”
In most cases, the bully will hold a position of hierarchical power over the target and when the target complains, it is explained away as being normal managerial behaviour or paints the target as an awkward staff member. Other managers tend to believe the bully by default as they are higher in the organisation.
“You’ll never be able to prove it”
This is a message of discouragement given out by bullies but every form of abuse, including bullying, involves a perpetrator, an action and a target and the action is always recordable in some format.
There is no perfect, easy solution to workplace bullying and there are new challenges now with the rise of remote working. Some things that workplaces can do include having the ability for people to report anonymously (whistleblowing ), educating staff as to procedures in place for reporting of incidents and trying to make sure there is a supportive work culture generally so that if someone is being bullied, they will feel supported in standing up and speaking out.
For more information and help in the UK:
National Bullying Helpline: https://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/employees.html
0300 323 0169
The Gov.Uk website- https://www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment
Citizens Advice- https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/contact-us/
If you are part of a union, you can also speak to your union representative.