Bullying at work in the UK is more common that people care to believe. Statistics show that 8 out of 10 workers in the UK have at some time or other been affected by work place bullying. Approximately 80% of UK managers are aware of bullying incidents in their businesses; however, few admitted that they actually got involved. In fact, 49% of managers confessed to having suffered from bullying themselves.
Because bullying can take on different forms, some people may not be aware that the difficulties they are facing with their supervisor or disgruntled colleague could be a form of bullying. As many as 1 out of every 4 workers in the UK are affected by bullying today. Here are some additional little known facts concerning work place bullying:
- It’s estimated that bullying disputes in the UK cost approximately £120 million annually.
- The average Tribunal cost for bullying cases per employer costs about £16,000.
- Work place bullying accounts for approximately 19 million sick leave days annually.
- Total sick leave costs amount to almost £13 billion annually.
As can be seen, work place bullying is taking a large toll on British businesses, causing them to lose both personnel and money. Ironically, these losses can be avoided by companies being more aggressive to find ways to curtail bullying on the job.
What is Bullying at Work?
The work place should be a professional environment where employees are treated with respect and dignity. Employees who don’t complete with their responsibilities may need warnings or corrections from their supervisors, but even these should be given in a professional manner. Bullying in the work place undermines a company’s efforts to create a tight knit team of loyal workers dedicated to the growth and prosperity of the business. Because bullying attacks the unity of a company from within, it makes it very difficult for that firm to reach its goals.
Bullying at work occurs when employees suffer repeated attacks of abusive, threatening or humiliating behavior by one or several people in the company in an attempt to discredit their reputation or cause them to falter in their job. People may be bullied at work by one individual or a group of people who have a specific agenda against them for whatever reason. Sometimes a manager or immediate supervisor will be the perpetrator of bullying acts. Other times fellow employees will gang up on one of their own. Bullying behavior can range from rudeness and offensive remarks to being criticized, maligned, threatened, ignored or excluded from work related activities.
- Employees are regularly ridiculed or insulted in front of their work colleagues
- People spread malicious rumors about an employee
- Memos or emails are dispatched criticizing an employee’s work performance
- Employees are excluded from workplace activities
- Employees are treated unfairly by overbearing supervisors who misuse their power
- Employees are victims of annoying sexual advances
- Victims are threatened with being fired
- A person’s work is unappreciated or undermined
- Victims are constantly overlooked for training opportunities or promotions
Although many employees suffer bullying behavior in the form of personal confrontations, bullying can also be experienced through threatening emails, phone conversations, memos, group meetings, etc.
Effects of Bullying
On a personal level, bullying behavior can make an employee’s life miserable. Professionally, it can destroy the confidence an employee has in performing his or her job. Bullying can quickly destroy an employee’s motivation, vision, creativity and morale. Sometimes good employees suffer bullying from jealous co-workers or managers who feel threatened by their performance. This jealousy may cause co-workers to criticize another employee’s work or make him or her feel unwanted or unappreciated.
Reactions from bullied employees may range from anger and frustration toward the perpetrator(s) to anxiety or fear over losing their job. These reactions often bleed over into their interactions with others in their department, causing even more problems on the job. Bullying and harassment at work can also lead to stress and illness, resulting in victims taking time off for health related problems. Some victims resign from their job altogether to protect their health.
Companies or businesses that tolerate bullying at work run the risk of losing effective members of their team. As word spreads about conditions in that company, business owners may have difficulty finding talented employees to take the place of those who have left. Bullying targets are not the only ones who suffer from workplace bullying. Co-workers suffer from seeing their colleague being treated unjustly for no cause. UK business owners suffer from losing valuable personnel. The community suffers from a reduction of services or products due to the business suffering internal problems. Businesses that value their employees and want to see their companies grow and prosper will do well to curtail bullying before it ever starts.
How to Deal with Bullying at Work
UK work place bullying is a growing problem. In some cases, perpetrators make victims feel like the problem is the victim’s fault. By placing the blame on the victim, bullies can continue their abusive behavior without fear of being confronted or stopped.
Knowing how bullies work can help victims take appropriate action to defend themselves when being bullied at work. Here is some helpful advice on how to deal with work place bullying in the right light.
- Workplace bullying has more to do with the bully than a victim’s work performance. Jealous co-workers or supervisors use bullying as a means of compensating for their own lacks. Victims should not feel they are responsible for bullying behavior or acts.
- Victims should make an effort to talk with a bully in a calm and collective manner to get to the bottom of his behavior. By directly confronting the matter, victims may be able to work the problem out. When talking to a bully, victims should have a friend or co-worker with them who can corroborate what was said in the course of the conversation later on, if necessary.
- Bullying victims should keep a record of unfair treatment to help substantiate their claims of bullying if needed later on.
- If a problem cannot be resolved by talking with the bully and/or his immediate supervisor, victims can file a formal bullying/harassment complaint in accordance with their company’s grievance procedures. Some companies have harassment advisers that victims can talk to concerning problems with bullying on the job. By taking action and reporting bullying instances, victims show the perpetrator and fellow employees that they will stand up for their rights.
- If all else fails, victims can take legal action against the bully by going through an employment Tribunal.
Bullying and the Law
There is a fine line between bullying and harassment. Although work place bullying in the UK isn’t considered unlawful, harassment is, as per the Equality Act of 2010. Bullying can be classified as harassment when it relates directly to a person’s age, gender, disability, status, religion, race or sexual orientation. Negative comments about pregnancy, maternity leave or civil partnership can also fall under the harassment category.
Coping with bullying in the work place is never easy. This is especially true in family businesses when the bully could be a manager or boss that is a personal relative or friend of the business’ owner. Victims must first prove that the behavior is actually bullying and not simply getting correction for poor performance on the job. Here are some steps that bullying victims can take to help cope with their situation.
Step One – Recognize the Problem for What It Is
Victims need to recognize bullying for what it is and label it as such. Bullying behavior may not be illegal, but it is immoral and should have no place in the workplace. Rather than succumb to bullying behavior or blame themselves for the cause, victims should identify the problem and perpetrators and know they are being mistreated through no fault of their own. They can then see the problem for what it is and look for ways to resolve the situation once and for all.
Step Two – Counter Back
Bullying victims generally have two alternatives to resolving their problem with bullying at work. They can either quit their job and find a better place to work or counter the bully’s attacks. Sometimes confronting a bully directly about his abusive behavior can make him or her stop. Other times, victims need an aggressive plan of action to counter a bully’s tactics. This plan could include seeking help from the H.R. department or higher sources in the company or exposing the bully’s tactics and behavior and demand proof of his or her allegations. Most bullies do not expect their victims to stand up to their attacks. By gathering sympathetic co-workers to stand up with them, victims can have extra power in countering a bully’s attacks.
Another tactic would be for victims to get legal advice on how to deal with bullies at work. An attorney may have good input on how to combat bullying behavior within the company’s discriminatory bylaws. Newer employees who have been with a company a short time have little to lose by quitting and looking for another job. Long term employees or those who hold prominent positions in the company, however, stand to lose much by simply quitting and walking away. This is where getting legal assistance may be a viable option.
Step Three – Renounce the Bully through Public Exposure
Exposing and renouncing a bully’s tactics is risky business, but victims may have little alternative if nothing else works. Dislodging a manager or supervisor from his position for bullying will not be an easy task. Victims should be prepared to lose their jobs as a result of standing up for their rights. The bottom line is that bullying prevents people from performing their job properly and even affects their physical and emotional state. One way or another, the bullying has to stop.
By exposing a bully, victims give their employers the opportunity to take notice of what’s happening in the company and take a stand. If the employer sides with a bully, employees have no recourse but to leave their jobs. Fellow workers, however, will know the real reason for a victim’s departure and can make future choices concerning their loyalty to the company accordingly.
Loyal workers are a company’s greatest assets. UK companies that fail to care for their workers will soon find their numbers dwindling as employees seek better opportunities elsewhere. It is in a company’s best interest to look after their work force and make sure they are happy and productive in their jobs. Employers would do well to investigate reported instances of bullying right away and make every effort to nip them in the bud before they have a chance to grow. In this way, employers can do their part to curtail bullying at work and promote a safer, more industrious work environment.