what to do if

Bullying is a form of unfair treatment that affects nearly 30% of people in the workplace. It particularly affects employees doing remote work, as nearly 43% of those doing virtual work are affected by it. 

Bullying can manifest in obvious or subtle behaviours. In large terms, it refers to any behaviours that criticise, attack, belittle, or exclude someone. These have significant consequences on someone’s mental and physical health and implicitly on their work performance. If you’re unsure whether certain behaviours are related to bullying, watch out for:

  • Offensive, intimidating, insulting, and malicious rumours or comments 
  • Overt or subtle abuse
  • Threats 
  • Embarrassing people in front of others
  • Intimidating, humiliating, and threatening others
  • Dismissing someone’s efforts and making them doubt themselves
  • Unfair, belittling criticism

While some of these behaviours are easy to spot, employers can miss out on subtle forms of bullying. Take, for example, less overt behaviours such as gaslighting. This means that someone engages in abusive behaviours but denies the abuse. Instead, they make the victim doubt their own perception, experience, and sanity. 

Employers need to be mindful of potentially abusive interpersonal dynamics in their workplace. If you suspect any victims of bullying or notice any abusive behaviours, you should take action immediately. 

In many cases, bullying can manifest as slow, subtle, and barely noticeable abuse that leaves lasting consequences on someone’s self-esteem and mental health. If you feel humiliated, undermined, or affected by someone’s misuse of power, perhaps you’re working in a truly toxic environment. 

What to do if you’re being bullied

And if you or someone you know happens to be affected by workplace mistreatment, take this as a sign that it’s finally time to speak up against it. Bullying can make a work environment feel unbearable. It lowers your self-esteem, makes you feel depressed, or leads you to lose all motivation to accomplish great results at work. 

Do not be ashamed to share with others what you are going through. Bullying is serious, and you need to let others know what is happening in your workplace so they can help you. By sharing your personal experience with this issue, you may find that other people are affected by it as well. 

Get advice

If you’re unsure of how to report a bully, you may be able to get more information from someone who can direct you to the right resources. This person might be:

  • An employee representative, such as a trade union official
  • Someone from the Human Resources department
  • Your manager or supervisor

Talk to the bully

It is also worth trying to directly approach the bully yourself. In some cases, they might not even realise that the way they treat you has negative consequences on your mental wellbeing. Think about what you want to say to this person before starting the conversation with them. Stay calm and polite and do your best to remain non-confrontational. Try to show them how their behaviour impacts you and describe to them everything you are going through. 

However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, ask someone else to do it for you. 

Make a formal complaint

If you have tried to address the bully personally and the issue still continues, you may want to take the problem further and make a formal complaint. The Human Resources department in your workplace should have some guidance on how to proceed with this. If the formal complaint still doesn’t resolve the issue, you are eligible to take legal action , which may mean going to an employment tribunal. There are specific laws in place that cover workplace bullying, which you can read before taking legal action against your bully. 


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What should your employer do

Workplace leaders and managers have a responsibility to maintain a bullying-free workplace. It is in their best interest to create a friendly, supportive, and inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. 

Your organisation should have a clear policy on how bullying should be handled. Even if there’s no such policy in your workplace, your employer has a legal duty of care to protect everyone in the workplace. If you find that your employer refuses to address issues related to bullying and you have to leave your job as a result of it, you can make a claim to the employment tribunal for conductive dismissal. 

Besides having a clear anti-bullying policy, employers should also demonstrate a continuous commitment to workplace mental health. Behaviours that support employee mental health should be promoted at all times. This includes:

  • Creating a safe environment where people can express themselves
  • Listening to people’s needs and helping them succeed
  • Appreciating people’s work and offering praise and rewards
  • Creating a work culture where people respect each other regardless of their differences

Get mental health support 

If you’re a victim of bullying, it’s essential to take care of yourself besides speaking up against the issue. Remember that you don’t have to wait for a situation to explode in order to take action. Your mental health is paramount, and we encourage you to do anything in your power to protect it. 

At SupportRoom, we are not just advocates of employee mental health; we also aim to help organisations thrive. Our team of therapists are always here for those who want to commit to better mental wellbeing. If you want to get in touch, we’re here for you. 

Even if it’s so difficult to talk about it that we almost push this topic away, it nevertheless happens in many workplaces. 

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