Bullying at work is where an individual or group of people repeatedly make someone feel intimidated, humiliated or left out on purpose.
If this is happening to you, you might feel anxious, confused, angry and depressed. It might be affecting your work and family life. The important thing to know is that there is something you can do about it, and lots of support available.
Bullying at work includes
- being repeatedly criticised in front of other colleagues or in private being repeatedly ignored and not invited to social events
- someone making cruel jokes at someone’s expense or embarrassing them in front of other colleagues
- spreading rumours about someone
- a manager has a dominant and aggressive style of management that makes someone they manage feel threatened or anxious
- being shouted at often.
What you can do about it
If you are the person being bullied, the first thing you should do is talk to someone you trust - another colleague, friend or family member for example. This can be a huge relief, as you’ll realise you are not alone going through this process, and will have support dealing with the problem.
If you care for someone who is being bullied at work, or someone has told you they are being bullied, please see Advice for parents and carers.
Four steps to tackling bullying at work
- Talk to the person: if you feel comfortable, it’s good to start with an informal conversation with the person. As hard as that sounds, if someone you work with makes you feel bad on a regular basis, they should know how their behaviour affects you and that you will have to speak to HR if it doesn’t change.
- Talk to management and HR: if you don’t feel able to have this conversation because you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or if you have the conversation but it doesn’t go well and the bullying continues, tell your manager and HR about the problem. If the person bullying you is your manager, speak to their manager instead. Your organisation will guide you through their formal procedure for complaints like this.
- Write down the details: when HR deals with your complaint, they will ask you and other people questions about your experiences. It’s a good idea to write down the details of each time the person has bullied or harassed you. You can ask someone else to write them down for you. Include: date, time, place, what happened, names of everyone who was there.
- Know your organisation’s policies: find out your organisation's policies on bullying so you can make sure that these are followed and the situation is properly dealt with.
- Make a complaint: make an official complaint through the organisation’s Grievance Procedure if: HR and management do not take your initial complaint seriously you are not happy about how your situation is handled the situation gets worse. Information on how to do this should be available in your organisation’s handbook or intranet.
- Take legal action: if after these steps the problem is still not resolved, you can take legal action at an employment tribunal. Your employer should by law protect you from abusive behaviour at work. Legal action is usually taken in cases of harassment.
Your legal rights
If a colleague or manager discriminates against you because of your learning disability, or shows aggressive or intimidating behaviour, this could be harassment. This is illegal under the Equality Act 2010. Find out how to prepare for an employment tribunal.
After bullying has stopped
The effects of bullying can linger on long after the bullying has stopped. When your confidence is low it can take time to build it back up, and for you to feel comfortable around people.
If the bullying affected your mental health, it would be a good idea to speak to a doctor. You may need time off work, and speaking to a therapist may also help. Many adults experience anxiety or stress at work, and it is very common to ask for professional help in order to deal with experiences of bullying and to recover fully.
Finally, if you are coming to terms with your experience or supporting someone else who has experienced bullying at work, have patience. It may take time for someone to be able to process their experiences and regain their confidence.
If you have concerns for someone's wellbeing or safety call Mencap's helpline on 0808 808 1111.
The Learning Disability Helpline is our free help and advice line.
Our team can offer advice, information and discuss what support Mencap can offer tailored to your needs, in your area.