The belief that bullying is confined to school is not only wrong, it can contribute to serious harassment issues being overlooked. According to research by the Staffordshire University Business School, roughly 53% of the UK workforce has experienced a form of bullying at some point in their career.
As an adult it's tempting to brush off bullying: you have better things to do than deal with office politics, right? But Nielsen & Einarsen revealed in 2012 that exposure to bullying is associated with mental and physical health problems, symptoms of post-traumatic stress, burnout, plus reduced job satisfaction and commitment.
Performance and productivity aren't the only side effects: it's been well documented that workplace bullying can cause severe sleep disruption, depression, anxiety and in extreme cases even suicidal thoughts. That's why workplace bullying should never be ignored.
There are hundreds of different types of workplace bullying, making it hard to differentiate between what's acceptable and what's not. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 83% of employers in the UK have a policy on bullying and harassment. Looking at this list is a good place to start if you suspect you're experiencing it yourself. Examples of just some of the behaviours that constitute bullying include the following:
Line managers are one of the most common groups to be accused of bullying, which makes figuring out who to speak to stressful. According to recruitment service Monster, 12% of the UK workforce says their boss has bullied them, and 9% claim to actually be afraid of them. Accusing someone of being a workplace bully is a serious claim and if the bully is your superior, the fear of even more negative consequences can be enough for people to stay quiet.
The first step is to talk to someone, from a colleague you trust or your GP to a counsellor. Understanding that it's not weakness that causes you to come forward but strength and courage is an important process in moving forward. It's important to know what the company policies are around this kind of negative behaviour, as well as your legal rights. Keep a diary and record every time the person (or persons) in question treats you in a way that you feel is unacceptable.
The Human Resources Department (if your company has one) is the best place to go to talk about your problem, if you can't speak to your line manager. They will be able to suggest ways to try and resolve the issue without the need for official complaints and legal action. If you don't have HR, go to a senior member of staff whom you trust.