Of all the problems the workplace dynamic can present, bullying can be one of the most difficult to deal with.  Workplace bullying is defined by Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. (ACAS) as "offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person being bullied".  Bullying is defined as persistent instances of bullying as opposed to a one-off event.   Some examples, but not a comprehensive list, of behaviour that comprises bullying:

  • Threatening the job security of an individual without due cause.
  • Exclusion from relevant meetings, not being copied into emails, not being invited to relevant lunches or evening drinks.
  • Overbearing unnecessary micro-management.
  • The expectation of unreasonable response times.
  • Being overworked.
  • Constant criticism.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) conducted a survey into workplace bullying and found nearly a third of employees are bullied at work and in three quarters of the cases the bullying is carried out by a manager.  One in three employees leaves their job because of it.

Frances O'Grady the general secretary of the TUC commented "There is no place for bullies in the modern workplace. Bullying causes stress and anxiety and can have long-term effects on victims' physical and mental health. No one should have to leave their job because of bullying."

Daniel Theron, a partner, commented "organisations that do not address bullying thoroughly with anti-bullying policies and periodic reminders that bullying is unacceptable, allow office moral to be damaged, which in turn causes productivity to suffer" he further said " too many employers are choosing to ignore manager bullying and in failing to support their staff, they send a negative message to their employees.  Nobody wants to work in a toxic environment even when they are not the subject of bullying".

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees to prevent bullying and there should be a clear path for employees to report bullying to their manager without fear of retribution.  But what if the manager is the bully?

Frequently, the more elevated the position of the bully the less likely that the issue can be dealt with in a satisfactory manner; this is clearly demonstrated with the current issues surrounding Buckingham Palace.  Deloitte's diversity and inclusion chief, Dimple Agarwal, has stepped down amid bullying accusations and the Government paid off a Home Office permanent secretary of 33 years standing with a six-figure sum to shut down the bullying allegations levelled at Home Secretary Priti Patel.

So what should an employee do if they are being bullied?  If the situation cannot be resolved informally there will be no choice but to discuss the situation with a line manager, HR manager or union representative and lodge a formal grievance.  If you are being bullied by your superior you should elevate your complaint to someone who is more senior. If your grievance is not upheld you have the right to lodge an appeal.

In order to support your complaint, it would be advisable to note down each instance that you believe you have been bullied and keep all emails or any other communications that you think support your contention.  This will not only prevent you from overlooking an instance of bullying but provide supporting evidence of your allegation.   In some instances, an employee is so affected that their health suffers and they are signed off work with stress.  In extreme cases, an employee is driven out of the workplace and may be able to bring a case before the Employment Tribunal for constructive dismissal.  If the case is upheld at the Tribunal you may be awarded compensation for your experience.  Speaking out in such circumstance can be very hard but living with bullying on an ongoing basis can be far harder.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.