I have featured her article in 2019 and many of you including myself enjoy reading her posts but importantly, her work highlight an important aspect that has been lacking spotlight: Workplace Abuse.

This subject is close to my heart because I have witness bullying and I have encountered bullies. My own responses are always between “fight or flight” but I have never silently endured being a pushover.

One of my faithful readers and a talented passionate writer, Caz once again share her experiences in her previous workplaces in this new article below. Please go to her website here for more articles.

Have you ever had to stand up to workplace bullies?

The word BULLY in red with bullying words on it like attack, pick-on and bait - stand up to workplace bullies
Stand up to workplace bullies — image by John Hain @ Pixabay

Have you ever been bullied in your workplace? Or elsewhere? Have you ever had to stand up to work workplace bullies? I have. I tried many times as a mental health student and nurse, to no avail. There was always someone more senior telling me to forget it. The managers either couldn’t be bothered or didn’t have the skills to deal with the bullies. So on it went, long after I left, the bullies kept on bullying.

What is bullying?

“Bullying is the behaviour of a person who hurts or frightens someone smaller or less powerful, often forcing that person to do something they do not want to do.”

Cambridge Dictionary

“Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.”

National Centre Against Bullying

Bullies and harassment in the workplace

Picture of globe with little people various colours all holding hands around the outside. About Bullies in the workplace around the world
Bullies in the workplace around the world — PinClipart.com

Bullying is a serious issue in workplaces around the world, and is a risk factor for anxietydepression and suicide. It doesn’t just hurt those being bullied. Employees who witness colleagues being bullied may experience adverse health effects. The wider workplace might feel it too, through low morale, higher absenteeism and lost productivity. Further negative consequences are poor team dynamics, reduced trust, effort, and loyalty from employees. On top of that, there’s the time spent documenting, pursuing or defending claims.

According to Unison, bullies, bullying and harassment are common problems affecting many members in the workplace. But both bullying and harassment are unacceptable, and the law makes it clear that all employees have the right to work in a safe environment.

Your employer is responsible for creating and maintaining a safe workplace, free from bullying, intimidation and harassment. Employees are protected by a combination of employers’ policies and legislation.

Bullying is behaviour from a person or people that you don’t want and makes you feel awkward, distressed or uncomfortable, including feeling:

  • intimidated or afraid
  • upset, offended or insulted
  • disrespected or put down
  • humiliated or laughed at

Examples of bullying in the workplace

Coloured image of young female holding files and two colleagues standing behind, talking about her
Bullies in the workplace
  • you don’t receive a promotion while you deserve one
  • your manager won’t allow you go on training courses that everyone else gets to attend, holding you back in some way
  • You are criticised about performance, or blamed for others’ mistakes
  • your manager always gives you way more work than others
  • someone’s telling lies or makes up malicious and false rumours about you
  • someone keeps dismissing your input or putting you down in front of others, say in meetings
  • colleagues or your manager never invite you to attend social events
  • targeted for practical jokes
  • being purposely misled about work duties, like incorrect deadlines or unclear directions
  • continued denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason

Bullying might:

  • occur during face-to-face meetings, during phone calls, in emails, or even on social media
  • happen just the once or on a more regular basis
  • be unseen by others
  • happen in the workplace, during breaks or at work social events

The above lists are by no means an exhaustive but they give an indication of the many ways bullying exists in the workplace.

When bullying is harassment

Word cloud illustration in shape of hand print showing protest.
Stop harassment — Image from Word cloud illustration

By law, says Acas, it’s harassment when bullying or unwanted behaviour is about any of the following (known as ‘protected characteristics’):

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment. Or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a workplace that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Everyone deserves to work in a setting where they feel safe, and it’s expected that the workplace will be free of bullying or harassment of any kind. Employers have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that these expectations are met. Moreover, make sure you are not the bully and don’t let anyone else be one.

What to do about workplace bullying

Word cloud illustration in shape of brain with text harassment, bullying, intimidation
Nobody deserves to be bullied in the workplace

If you’ve witnessed workplace bullying, you must first and foremost talk about it. This may be with the victim (e.g. asking how they are doing), or others (which may be about forming a plan for how to address it, or may be just sharing experiences),” says Professor Jeremy Dawson. He also encourages employees to report bullying in any way possible – through official channels, a line manager or another trusted colleague.

Don’t be ashamed to tell people what’s going on. Bullying is serious, and you must let people know what’s going on, so they can help you. In sharing your experience, you might find out that it’s happening to other people too, as it often is.

The NHS say

Five people all wearing suits, standing in a circle hold a white poster with red writing - says No to bullying
Would you report bullies in the workplace?

Get advice — speak to someone about how you might deal with the problem informally, such as:

  • an employee representative, such as a trade union official
  • someone in the firm’s human resources department
  • your manager or supervisor

Some employers have specially trained staff to help with bullying and harassment problems. They’re sometimes called “harassment advisers”. If the bullying is affecting your health, visit your GP.

Stay calm — Recognise that criticism or personal remarks are not connected to your abilities. They reflect the bully’s own weaknesses, and are meant to intimidate and control you. Stay calm, and do not be tempted to explain your behaviour. Ask them to explain theirs. Never get into a shouting match with the bully and walk out if you have to.

Talk to the bully — The bullying may not be deliberate. If you can, talk to the person in question as they may not realise how their behaviour has affected you. Work out what to say beforehand. Describe what’s been happening and why you object to it. Stay calm and be polite. If you do not want to talk to them yourself, ask someone else to do it for you.

Keep a diary — This is known as a contemporaneous record. It will be very useful if you decide to take action at a later stage.

Try to talk — calmly to the person who’s bullying you and tell them that you find their behaviour unacceptable. Often, bullies retreat from people who stand up to them. If necessary have a colleague with you when you do this.

Making it formal

Make a formal complaint — it’s the next step if you cannot solve the problem informally. To do this, you must follow your employer’s grievance procedure. Make sure you follow policies to the letter. Because if you have to take it further, you don’t want lose a case because of a simple error.

What about legal action? — Sometimes the problem continues even after you’ve followed your employer’s grievance procedure. Do something to put things right, you can consider legal action, which may mean going to an employment tribunal. Get professional advice before taking this step.

Find out more about the law covering workplace bullying from GOV.UK: workplace bullying and harassment.

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is affected by bullying and harassment, contact your UNISON representative or Citizens Advice Bureau for advice.

Let your manager or union or staff representative know of the problem and seek advice elsewhere:

Over to you

What do you think?

What do you think about workplace bullies? What, if anything, would you do or say if you were being bullied by a colleague. Would you move to another department or leave your job? I’\m really interested to hear what you think. and I’m happy to answer any questions.

Related: Red Tent Living, The Bully (1). This is how being an MRA helped me survive bullies (2).

I truly appreciate guest posts, if you have one that is within MiddleMe’s niche, please reach out to me via email at Kally@MiddleMe.net.

And here are some of the best guest posts I have featured over the years:
Guest Post: Being Bipolar Helped My Career
Guest Post: How to stay afloat as an old person in a tech world?
Guest Post: BUS CAPTAINS OF SINGAPORE by Annabel Law Productions
Guest Post: Making Assumptions by Morgan Mills

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60 replies on “Guest Post: Stand up to workplace bullies

  1. Kally, thank you for sharing. This post by Caz is a timely reminder, with some excellent advice on working through the issues when dealing with a bully, or bullies. My number one strategy has always been to do something about it once I become aware of such an incident and then act quickly to intervene initially and then work out a process to deal with the matter at hand (which may well be using the organisations grievance process, but many places still do not have one in place).

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Unfortunately, too many places do not have such regulations in place or don’t even want to acknowledge that there are abuse taken place at all. Many will prefer to sweep the issue under the carpet and pretend life is normal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Between 10 and 15 years old I was bullied at school and in my community. My self-esteem was so low that I cried almost everyday. However, over the years I started thinking I didn’t deserved to be treated that way and I realized that I had an adorable family around me, good friends, etc. Hence my attitudes also changed and I had enough strength to face my ‘foes’. All the experiences that I lived that time made stronger before the life.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you, Marcia for sharing your life experiences with us. It must be such a terrible time to be bullied at such a young vulnerable age. I feel sorry for you. But I hope it make you much stronger and resilient.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Great post! I am very passionate about this subject as I have been subjected to bullying and harassment more times than I want to remember. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story. Bullies are big cowards really, just picking on someone who’s more vulnerable or even just a little different and I’m really sorry that you had to experience it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Amazing article, Important information, and very well written. As a person who worked in HR for many years the one thing that I would say is document document document every conversation observation or situation where you or someone else was abused. No one should ever have to put up with abuse in the workplace and bullying is certainly abuse. Love Joni💕🌸

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Joni for sharing your experience with us. Your documentation tip is very useful indeed. If you ever wished to write an article to elaborate about workplace abuse, I am most happy to feature your work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Kelly. I really appreciate that. I think the article you posted was excellent and very helpful. When I was in HR I was a strong advocate for women. For example when I did annual survey reviews there was a woman who sat right beside a man with the same degree, and same number of years experience. She was making thirty thousand dollars less and was an excellent performer. That same day she got a thirty thousand dollar raise. When anyone had a complaint about another person, both people we’re brought in to talk about. Each person had an opportunity to explain their version of what was going on and no bullying was tolerated, people received records in their HR Records. Once there were three talks without compliance the offender was fired if the behavior did not stop. If HR refuses to follow what ever their rules in their manuals/procedures say talk to the President of the company if need be. I once had a Vice President that I reported to who snapped his fingers at me when I didn’t move fast enough into a room for a meeting. His method of addressing all females was very offensive. He was fired about a week later after two talks about this abuse with the President of the company. So grateful I am not out there today dealing with abusive and just plain unkind folks. Stand strong for your rights and know your procedures. Love to all those dealing with any kind of abuse in the workplace. Love 💕 Joni

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great post. I did everything I could, while I was at the job, to stop myself being bullied, but it wasn’t enough so I quit. And then I found out just how bad the person before me (in the role) had it before I started, and now I’m waiting for everyone to return from furlough because they have no right to say black lives matter, nor do I, if I don’t say something to ensure the safety of black peoples lives.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Sophia for sharing your thoughts and experience with us. It is sad you had to quit to get away from the bully when in fact, it is the bully should have left.


  6. An excellent post! Unfortunately, when the bully is in upper management, it can be difficult to confront him/her. Sometimes, changing jobs in the interest of preserving one’s health and sanity is the only option.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Excellent article!! Thank you!
    At 6’5″ and always near 300 pounds, covered in tattoos and enjoying riding my Harleys…you would find it thought rare that I would be bullied in the workplace. If I were to be asked before it happened “would I ever be bullied?” I surely would have laughed it off and punched someone…just kidding…I don’t approve of physical abuse, either.
    In the early 1990’s I had a new service manager at the dealership I worked for. He had found that his bonus was tied directly to the “net” of the shop money made. Being as I was the highest paid in the shop, if he could incline me to have a lower hourly pay rate then the “net” would grow, thus his bonus would also grow. He had made many attempts at lowering my pay including a face to face review of my abilities and had drummed up support from his direct boss, also a person who received bonus payments from the net. I was the shop foreman and a team leader and they tried and tried to undermine my work and my mental well-being over a period of about a year. I had great relationships with 95% of the workers in the shop and with the two owners of the business, which also drove these two into fits. The finality of this abuse came one day when the harassment came to me during a shared lunchbreak with my co-workers. To undermine someone (me) who needs support from the chain of command (them) directly in front of all co-workers, loudly and using profanity, is quite childish and I was not going to take this abuse any longer.
    I stood up, punched out and started walking to my tool chest. The Service manager followed me the entire way screaming at me, denigrating me, continuing his efforts of abuse. I told him I quit, locked my tool chest and continued walking to my car. He continued his rant, following me to my vehicle screaming “You can’t quit! Get back to work!” Now, truthfully, I really could not afford to quit. I had 4 young children and all the outpouring of money that goes along with being the sole breadwinner of the household.
    The owner of the business called me at home to find my side of the story. I explained how I felt and how it seems to be I’d be a better fit at some other place of employment. He asked me to take the day to cool off, return the next day and that he would handle the situation…which he did, completely. Every effort to undermine me had been removed and it was set in stone that nothing of this sort would be tolerated in the future.
    In regards to the service manager that bestowed these good times on me: I was Christmas shopping at the mall about 5 years after. We no longer worked together but I still had a chip on my shoulder from the abuse. someone called my name and I turn around and there he is. He wanted to buy me lunch and I wanted to leave his personal space. I did, however, sit with him. He apologized! “I treated horribly and I was an ***hole to you the entire time we worked together”. “I’m sorry”. It was the best Christmas gift that year. I was able to remove that chip that had been taking up too much room on my shoulder and the weight lifted was truly glorious.
    Keep these kinds of articles coming! They are so necessary to help those being bullied also to let them know how to cope and that they are not alone. It may just give someone the ability to stand up against their aggressor(s) and move on to a more fruitful career.
    God Bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, William for sharing your story with us. It is humbling to hear what you have been through and it take courage to walk out on a job that you need. It must have taken all of you not to punch that guy and instead punched out of work!

      Liked by 1 person

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