Most employees just want to go to work, do a decent job, earn money, and come home satisfied at the end of the day. But unfortunately, some managers or team members feel that it's within their rights to pick on a member of staff, making their lives a misery. Bullying isn't just happening in schools, by kids who don't know any better - it is on the rise in UK workplaces, amongst grown adults. But singling out an innocent worker - and belittling, humiliating or ostracising them - is never okay.
In a competitive business world, maybe people feel that the only way to get to the top is to trample over other people. But this isn't the power-dressing eighties, and bullying isn't the monopoly of the ambitious careerist alone. Perhaps it provides some kind of power trip for an insecure person to make a colleague feel embarrassed, inferior, miserable or useless. The bullies might once have been victims themselves. But it is time to break the cycle.
According to the U.S. Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is "repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the target) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
• Offensive conduct/behaviours (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating.
• Work interference - sabotage - which prevents work from getting done.
• Verbal abuse."
Bullying is conscious, intentional behaviour - persistent and prolonged, with the intention of harming the person who is being targeted. It can have a devastating effect on the victim's emotional wellbeing.
There is never any excuse for workplace bullying that targets a person for their race, colour, sexuality, disability, personality - or any other alleged 'reason'. It is not right - morally, ethically, socially or legally - to behave in such a way to another human being.
In one year (2015), the Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) helpline received around 20,000 calls about harassment and bullying at work. Some victims are so badly affected that they actually consider suicide.
"Callers to our helpline have experienced some horrific incidents around bullying that have included humiliation, ostracism, verbal and physical abuse," said the chair of Acas, Sir Brendan Barber. "But managers sometimes dismiss accusations around bullying as simply personality or management-style clashes, whilst others may recognise the problem, but lack the confidence or skills to deal with it."
Hard as it is to face up to bullies in the workplace, it will come as some relief to know that there are people and organisations who can help - and there are laws in place to protect workers who are being bullied. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable by being harassed and bullied in the workplace. Ever.
Businesses need to take the issue much more seriously, improving anti-bullying policies and taking action where necessary. Most companies have HR policies that declare an anti-bullying stance and address victimisation. The workplace should provide a positive environment in which the employee is able to work productively, feeling motivated, safe and confident.
If you are being bullied, report it. Don't suffer in silence. Get advice to help you deal with working in a hostile environment. Take away the bullies' power to harm you. It's not about winning a case - it's about taking control of your life again and not allowing yourself to be mistreated.
Moving out of the team or managers bullying you could be a chance to work in a more positive environment. It could be your chance to shine again. But if you love your job otherwise, why let them drive you out? Put in a complaint, speak to an official or representative.
Don't tolerate bullying. No one deserves to feel uncomfortable, harassed or victimised in any workplace. And if you witness bullying in the workplace - report it. Ignoring it makes you complicit in the bullying - effectively, a bully yourself.
Speak out and stand up against injustice. Be the change you want to see in the workplace.