When we think of bullies, we tend to remember the ones we knew at school. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop there for everyone. For some, the bullying continues into adult life.
The bullies we knew at school have continued to bully or intimidate the people around them and may have used these techniques to climb the employment ladder to a position of authority. Although there can be a fine line between a tough boss and an abusive one, bullying generally refers to being subjected to repeated emotional or even physical abuse.
The workplace bully deliberately manipulates, belittles, intimidates and tries to control or undermine their victim using any means available to them. In this digital age, the workplace bully’s playground has now extended to cyberbullying with the use of email, mobile phones and social media sites like Twitter or Facebook.
Bullying at work and anti social behaviour resulting in stress, is a fact of life for too many workers in the UK but your employer has a ‘Duty of Care’ to provide a safe and stress-free place of work for all staff.
If you believe you are being bullied or you know someone who is, we will try to help. If you are being harassed at work by a colleague or manager, suspended, Dismissed or Disciplined or you’ve been treated badly by your employer. We have information and practical advice to help you stop the bullying and resolve your issues.
Our advisers are CIPD trained and have specialist skills in conflict resolution and can help you find solutions to your current situation, in some cases we are able to work with you and your employers to help put a stop to the bullying.
Bullying in the workplace can cover a vast range of topics including Bullying, Harassment, Stress and Constructive dismissal to mention a few.
Here you will find some of the topics covered on this page with useful information and helpful advice with employee related bullying.
Not all bullying is physical, bullying can take many forms and sometimes it’s difficult to prove you’re being harassed or threatened at work. When the bullying has been consistent and subtle over a sustained period, you might start to doubt your own sanity or convince yourself that it’s OK. To determine if your work colleague or boss is actually bullying you, ask yourself the following questions:
If the answer to these questions is yes then there is a good possibility that you are being bullied at work. Bullying can create stress and anxiety amongst staff and is one of the biggest contributors of stress-related health problems, including debilitating feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and clinical depression. In some instances, bullying can even lead to suicide.
Fortunately for those being bullied, help is at hand. One of the most distressing parts of being bullied is the feeling that no one seems to care and there is nowhere to go for help. We care! We can help. Bullying in the workplace can present itself in many way so is important to remember that each incident may seem unimportant in isolation but there is a cumulative effect which builds into a much more serious situation.
We have put together a
comprehensive help guide
for workers that have been
accused of bullying.
This guide will explain what
you should do if you've being
accused, and the steps
you can take to protect yourself.
Did you know that over 80% of managers admit that bullying occurs within their business but very few admit to being responsible.
In an ideal world we would not need to deal with workplace bullying but unfortunately it happens. We are here to help support the staff that are effected buy or accused of bullying in the workplace.
The National Bullying Helpline specialise in workplace bullying and harassment disputes for employees and we can offer practical support for the following areas related to bullying and employment law. If you require help and advice on any issues related to bullying at work and you don't find the answers to your question here,
call 0845 22 55 787.
One explanation is that they are looking for attention. Being noticed makes them feel important or powerful. The bully might have feelings of envy or resentment towards a work colleague. It might be they are very insecure about their own position within the business or department.
It may simply be that the bully is not being line managed or worse, the employer condones the behaviour believing it gets results. In some cases the bully has a hold over senior management, or they are the business owner or related to the business owner. This category of workplace bully believes they are above the law so does not have to follow process.
A classic defence tactic for a bully in either of these scenarios is for the bully to quickly change persona when accused of being a bully, by claiming he or she is the hurt, aggrieved, victim.
Bullies can lack empathy or remorse and in most cases, bullies harbour a strong need to control and dominate others.
The personality traits of the bully could be an indication that their behaviour in the office is the result of underlying issues they’ve been coping with for many years. Growing up in an environment where little or no positive interaction with adults is considered normal and in many cases they have been raise by an emotionally unstable or even physically abusive parent or guardian.
From an early age the environment they’ve been subjected to would teach them that vulnerability leads to abuse and the best form of defence is offence. This creates a need for self-preservation and they look to take their own inadequacies out on others. Bullying helps them seize control of a situation or they may feel that some how it compensates for the lack of attention they long for.
Workplace bullying in the UK is more common than you might think, the world of business is fast paced and very competitive. High-pressured environments can cultivate morally questionable decision-making. Managers can seem reluctant to do anything to stop the bullying behaviour within their department of organisation.
A number of reasons could be preventing your manager from attempting to stop the bullying in your office or place of work. It could be the bully is your manager or a friend of your manager. Quite often they try to rationalise the situation in an attempt to justify the bullying as something else.
Particularly common in a sales environment is tactical acceptance of bullying to achieve targets. Managers often turn a blind eye because the bullies are contributing a profit to the business. In these situation bullying can be ignored or perceived as “motivational”.
Short-term gains at your expense may seem OK to them now but the potential cost to staff moral, not to mention the health implications that can present themselves from bullying, will cost them in the long run.
Absence from work and sick leave due to stress or depression can have a major impact on the productivity and profitability of a business. It affects the businesses bottom line and even its survival.
Bullying is not OK in any situation, no matter the environment.
Bullying is not acceptable if it results in a sale!
Bullying has no place at work for businesses that want to be successful.
Being bullied by your boss can also increase anxiety levels if you are in fear of repercussions for speaking out. The thought of loosing your job can put an enormous amount of strain on a person.
Firstly we recommend you start collecting as much evidence as you can, this includes keeping a dairy of events to help paint a clear picture of what’s been happening. If you need to recall particular events, having a reliable record will add credibility to your claim of bullying or harassment.
If you have one and presuming they are not the bully, go and talk to your HR manager. They will help you. They know your organisation and the people in it better than anyone and they also know the law is there to protect you.
If you don’t have anyone in the business dedicated to employee relations, a human resources or personnel department and you are unable to escalate this to a more senior member of staff.
Call us and we will talk you through some of the options available to you
Here we address the issue of Work Related Stress and talk you through causes, effect and action you can take to reduce the risk of negative stress. This is a particularly interesting issue as over 70% of employee calls to our helpline have already been signed off work with Work Related Stress by their GP.
In some cases, callers have been off work for months and months and risk dismissal on grounds of ‘Capability Due to Ill Health’. Don’t wait until you are so ill you cannot see a way forward. Call us if you need help.
At some point in our working lives we have all probably felt stressed about a project, target or circumstance that’s out of our control. It might have been the potential outcome of a situation is perceived to be a threat to your job or reputation within the business.
Stress can affect us all differently and no one is immune to feeling stressed, it can all depend on the person and their ability to perform under pressure. It certainly does not imply weakness. In fact it’s a fundamental part of our survival instincts that makes us human. Stress is a physical response by the brain to danger.
Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to stress related to bullying at work can have serious consequences on our body and mind. There are a number of recognised illnesses that are associated with stress or are forms of stress, including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and PTED (Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder) and Depression.
The physical and mental impact on our lives due to bullying related stress can affect our behaviour and relationships at home and work. It can also have an impact on our ability to do our job.
Stress is one on the biggest contributors to long term sick leave in the UK with over half a million workers citing stress, depression or anxiety as a factor to their absence in the last year. If you are suffering with a stress related condition or you think that you might be stressed. These are some of the signs to look out for.
Stress is can be likened almost to an ‘out of body’ experience where you cease to function normally, or think rationally, due to feelings of confusion, hurt, anger, frustration and despair caused by the actions of another person.
Some say stress is good for you but where it is attributed to the negative behaviour of an individual, or employer, and where that treatment impacts negatively on your health, it is quite the opposite. If left, the distress turns to a level of stress that can become deep-routed and harmful long term.
It is a mental health condition. It constitutes injury if it can be proven that the injury (ie: the stress) has been caused by the actions of others – or by a failure to act, in cases where an employer fails to investigate matters but ‘knew or reasonably ought to have known’ that the treatment was potentially harmful.
(Definition by Christine Pratt, Founder of NBH).
These are some of the symptoms of stress brought on by bullying
at work, but not all.
Feeling of helplessness.
Loss of confidence
Feeling overly emotional
Grumpy and irritable
Feelings of anxiousness and despair.
Feeling utterly hopeless and out of control.
More forgetful than usual
A lack of motivation
Feel low of depressed
Inability to see a future.
Excessive and constant tiredness
listlessness, exhaustion or fatigue.
Erratic anger and frustration
A drop in productivity
Aches and pains of the body
Headaches, migraine, feeling light-headed.
Loss of stamina and strength in general.
Palpitations and breathlessness.
Excessive perspiration or Sweating
Sleepless nights, Nightmares or Night Terrors.
Flashbacks and replays of scenarios which are work related.
Loss of appetite and a change of eating habit.
Rapid weight gain or loss
Loss of sex drive and libido.
Upset stomach, butterflies or trembles
Irritable bowel syndrome, stomach cramp and stomach pain.
diarrhoea or constipation
Angina, heart attack, panic attack.
There is a lot you can do. You are the only one who can bring about change in this situation. Consider your options and strategise your case before you make a life-changing decision.
Insure you are informed of your rights and your options before you act. Do not resign you position, call us first. Here are a few simple, strategic, steps you can take
Start to keep a diary. Keep it at home. Write down examples of the bullying keeping it factual and brief.
You’re not writing a book. You are keeping a diary. Include date, time, names of witnesses and a brief summary.
Collate hard copies of the Company policies. Grievance Policy. Bullying & Harassment Policy and other relevant policies ie: Performance
Management, Maternity, Flexible Working and Absence Management.
Open a folder. Keep at home and start to structure your case. Your case is about the written word, not the spoken word so ensure everything is
documented and placed in your folder. Sections in your folder will likely include (not exclusively); Policies & Contract of Employment, Diary, Health
(ie: Sick Certificate), Witnesses, Evidence, Sources of Information, Appraisals, Emails and Correspondence, Minutes of Meetings, File Notes, Personal
Achievements, Advice sought and research material etc.
Call our Helpline or seek legal advice regarding your rights.
Draw up and submit a Stage 1 Grievance or respond in writing to any formal process you are being put through.
If you meet with management but no minutes are taken, follow the meeting up with an email confirming what was said and agreed. Put it in your folder.
These simple steps, above, will help you to feel more in control as you embark on formal processes. Call our helpline for further advice or follow the policies and procedures laid down by your employer. A good source of information regarding your employment rights can be found on the ACAS website.
Testimony from caller diagnosed with Work Related Stress: dated July 2018: Just a quick email to say thank you for your advice and support and offer of help with grievance etc when I phoned the bullying helpline recently. My GP was concerned about my failing health, brought on by the hostile environment my current manager has created for me. I had to take notice of my GP advice which was “no job is worth making you ill. You’re on the way to a serious attack” . Thanks again for your help. Your organisations is doing a great job – helping people to move forward away from their bullying circumstance – to a better more peaceful existence.
The National bullying helpline specialise in
Call 0845 22 55 787
Facing a disciplinary can be scary for anyone. The potential consequence of a formal action against you can be life changing. It not only affects you but your family too.
If you have received formal notice to attend a disciplinary related to bullying at work. Your employer should put a formal request in writing, detailing why you have been asked to attend, what you can expect to happen in the meeting and the potential outcome. You should be given enough time to put evidence together for your defence and you are entitled to see any evidence against you prior to the meeting.
You are totally within your rights to be accompanied by a witness but if you can’t find one, remember to take notes during the meeting. These notes could be vital to your case if you have been treated unfairly. You should seek legal advice if you think you have been treated badly and you believe this could constitute Unfair Dismissal. Your employer must follow procedures and have a good reason to dismiss you.
Constructive dismissal is also something a legal expert can advise you on. If you have been forced to leave your position because of your employer’s actions, then you might have a case for constructive dismissal. Please see below
In some cases, when an employee has been asked to attend a disciplinary, they can also be suspended from duties until the meeting is concluded. In most case you will still receive full pay while you are off work. In some serious cases an employee can be suspended without pay. See your contract of employment for more information regarding dismissal and suspension.
While you are on suspension you are still employed by the company and must act accordingly and your employment rights are not affected during this time. A solicitor would be able to advise you if your case can be taken to an employment tribunal. For more information or advice on what to do next, call 0845 22 55 787
Clearly, this occurs when an employer dismisses an employee unfairly. The fairness of the dismissal is ‘judged’ based on the following factors;
That the dismissal was for a fair reason and there are, in fact, only 6 potentially fair reasons for dismissing an employee (See below, Potentially Fair Reasons to Dismiss).
This is an interesting summary of fair reasons to dismiss which we like to ensure all visitors to our website understand.
The reasonableness of the employer’s actions in dismissing the employee includes ‘whether the employer followed a fair procedure’ – such as the ACAS Code of Conduct and in-house policies.
It is important to understand what constitutes Constructive Dismissal in legal terms. Simply, Constructive Dismissal occurs when an employee resigns in response to the employer’s conduct.
Although there may have been no actual dismissal, the treatment is deemed sufficiently bad that the employee is entitled to regard themselves as having been dismissed. In one sense, it is not dismissal at all – it’s a resignation due to concerns about the employer’s failure to provide a safe and lawful place of work.
To prove Constructive Dismissal you would need to prove that you resigned in response to a fundamental breach of contract by your employer. If you terminate your contract in circumstances in which you say is due to the employer’s conduct, and give that as the reason for your termination, that termination constitutes Constructive Dismissal.
The reason may be due to an ‘express term’ of the contract of employment or it may be because the employer’s behaviour has breached the term of mutual trust and confidence that goes to the heart of the employment contract (an implied term).
Examples of such conduct may (not exclusively) include isolating the employee, humiliating them in front of others, discrimination, failure to follow procedure, failure to provide a safe place of work or vexatious allegations of poor performance or conduct. So, in summary, to claim Constructive Dismissal you will need to prove three things;
The employer acted in a way that would be regarded by any reasonable person as a breach of contract
Allegedly not being able to do your job properly. Before an employer takes this step you should be told that your work is not satisfactory and you should be given a chance to improve; with training and support etc. Look at the Company’s training policy and request support, in writing.
You can be dismissed if you have a persistently long absence record or illness makes it impossible for you to do your job. Before an employer takes this step the employer should look at ways to support you and consider whether it is the job itself that is making you ill. Also, the employer needs to give you reasonable time to recover from your illness.
Redundancy is fair in most cases but in some the term redundancy is used inappropriately. Redundancy is where the job you were doing no longer exists for a sound business reason.
In Redundancy cases remember this golden rule – it is the job that is made redundant, not the individual. Before making you redundant the employer needs to follow stringent guidelines and ensure there is no alternative role suitable within the organisation.
That an employee resigned in direct response to that breach and for no other reason
That an employee did not wait too long before resigning.
This might sound easy but in fact Constructive Dismissal can be difficult to prove. You must show that your employer breached the contract and that it was a fundamental (not minor) breach and that you terminated your contract as a direct result. Constructive dismissal is not a claim in isolation – you will need to claim unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal.
You may be dismissed legally if it is impossible for you to carry on doing your job and ‘it is neither your fault or the employers fault’ that the contract has to end – eg In cases where a factory burns down or where you are diagnosed with a medical condition that prevents you from operating machinery in a warehouse, for example.
Whether Unfair Dismissal or Constructive Dismissal you will need to show that you have been employed for the minimum two-year qualifying period in order to raise a case via an Employment Tribunal. (There are exemptions to the two-year period in cases of discrimination or where there are protected characteristics).
You can be dismissed if by continuing to work you would be breaking the law eg: if you are a lorry driver and you have lost your driving licence.
A lot of our callers say that they do not know whether the behaviour they are experiencing is bullying, or not. They know something is very wrong and it is causing them sleepless nights. Sometimes, the behaviour is linked to collusion or exclusion in the workplace. This is where the behaviour is linked to a group of individuals who are working together. Are a group of individuals isolating you or freezing you out? Do you feel intimidated or threatened by this group?
This behaviour is unacceptable and this group of individuals pose a threat to the organisation as a whole. You need to report this behaviour. An employer is vicariously liable for the unacceptable treatment of one or more persons, provided that treatment is linked.
You need to act quickly as the general ‘rule of thumb’ requires employees to do something about it within a three-month time-frame. We are unlikely to be able to help you if you are distressed due to something that happened two or three years ago. Only therapy or counselling is likely to help in that situation. (See our article on PTED).
If you have recently, quite suddenly, lost your job - with no satisfactory written explanation, you may have been subjected to an unlawful process or even wrongful dismissal. If you have been made Redundant and you do not believe your employer has treated you fairly, seek advice immediately. You only have a small time-frame of 3 months, so take action, today !
Have any of the above circumstances (disciplinary, suspension, dismissal, redundancy) occurred because, in your view, you raised concerns or submitted a formal complaint?
If you want case specific advice we recommend that you have your CASE ASSESSED by an Employment Law Solicitor or an expert employment specialist.
Only a company that is a Regulated Claims Management Service provider can advise you regarding potential losses or claims you might make relating to your employment law dispute. Call us today for FREE advice.
A Settlement agreement is a legally binding document between you and your employer. Settlement Agreements used to be called Compromise Agreement. The purpose of these forms is to agree the terms and conditions of a settlement or agreement between you and your employer when you agree to settle a potential employment tribunal claim.
If you want to part company with your employer on amicable terms and seek a settlement, CALL 0845 22 55 787
Pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave if they give the correct notice to the employer. Employees don't have to take 52 weeks if they don't want to.
The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’.
The last 26 weeks is known as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’.
The earliest that leave may be taken is 11 weeks before the due date or expected date of childbirth (unless the baby is born early).Employee’s must take at least 2 weeks leave after the birth or 4 weeks if they work in a factory.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), can be paid for up to 39 weeks in total, as follows:
• The first 6 weeks: 90% of the average weekly
earnings before tax.
• The remaining 33 weeks: £145.18 or 90% of
the average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.
Tax and National Insurance is deducted.
A claim of automatic unfair dismissal and unlawful Sex Discrimination may be made in an employee suffers ‘less favourable treatment’, detriment or discrimination associated with maternity leave or a return to work programme. For example, to make the post Redundant at the point when the employee expresses a wish to return to the workplace would be deemed to be discrimination if the Redundancy is not proven to be genuine.
Harassment, in general terms, is unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.'
'Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.
Are you feeling helpless or distressed? Are you angry or frustrated? Has your doctor signed you off work with Work Related Stress, Anxiety or Depression recently or in the past? Is the cost of your depression, frustration and anger impacting on your home life and your general wellbeing? Do you feel unable to move on with your life as a result of something traumatic that happened to you at work?
There is a new disorder being diagnosed in the USA in relation to workplace harassment and bullying: It is called Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. With PTED the person suffering can no longer trust anyone around him/her and the trauma in essence consumes them with a profound “bitterness” making the victim incapable of moving on from the incident. We believe quite a few people are entrapped in their trauma and have been for years.
Signs that you could be suffering with PTED are, feel helpless, angry, frustrated or unable to recover from something that happened in the past. We believe this feeling of helplessness and embitterment falls into the PTED category and below you will find an article that explains what PTED is.
PTED is a proposed disorder modeled after Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some psychiatrists are proposing this as a mental disorder because they believe there are people who have become so bitter they can barely function. PTED patients might not fit the formal criteria for PTSD and can be clinically distinguished from it, prompting the description of a new and separate disorder.
A German psychiatrist, Michael Linden, has done some ground-breaking research into this condition and describes its effect on people: “They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It’s one step more complex than anger. They’re angry plus helpless.” He says that people with the disorder are almost treatment resistant and that; These people usually don’t come to treatment, or do not respond well to treatment and/or mediation because they believe the world has to change, not them. This may be one reason (of many perhaps) why mediation is not always successful in conflict cases. He believes that 1% to 2% of people are affected at any given time, and explains that, although sufferers of the disorder tend to have a desire for vengeance, “…revenge is not a treatment.
We believe the statistics are far higher.
This behaviour is so common — and so deeply destructive – that some psychiatrists are urging it be more widely identified and acknowledged as a mental illness under the name post-traumatic embitterment disorder. Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job, relationship or activity. When something unexpectedly awful happens — they don’t get the promotion, their spouse files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team — a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. Instead of dealing with the loss with the help of family and friends, they cannot let go of the feeling of being victimized. Almost immediately after the traumatic event, they become angry, pessimistic, aggressive, hopeless haters. This very severe emotional reaction can become ‘all consuming’ and negative. The degree of reaction varies.
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We will give you option and choice and we will not record your call. Whilst we do everything we can to help our callers, occasionally there are circumstances where we are unable to help due to limited resources and expertise. You may need to seek advice from a specialise expert.
It is our Policy not to get involved in a dispute you may be having with; • The Police • The Courts or Legal System • Your GP or the NHS • Local Authority. In those cases we recommend you seek advice from your local MP or a Solicitor.