Bullying at work

Bullying doesn't only happen to school kids. If you're being bullied at work, either by colleagues or your boss, then read this.

girl being bullied at work

Feel like you're back in the playground?

Bullying at work is a gradual process that wears the victim down, and makes them feel worthless, both as a worker and as a person.

Bullying may be carried out by just one individual or a group. Or it could even be that harassment, intimidation and aggression are part of a company’s culture.

What is bullying at work?

The Andrea Adams Trust, the national charity against workplace bullying, defines it as:

  • Unnecessary, offensive, humiliating behaviour towards an individual or groups of employees.
  • Persistent, negative malicious attacks on personal or professional performance, often unpredictable and unfair or irrational.
  • An abuse of power or position that can cause anxiety and distress, or physical ill health.

It can take obvious forms, such as physical violence or shouting and swearing, or be subtler, such as ignoring someone, giving them impossible tasks or encouraging malicious gossip about them. Being the best employee in the company is no protection; it may make you the target of a jealous person.

Employees often put up with bullying behaviour because they are afraid of losing their jobs, or think that complaining will make the situation worse.

What should I do if I’m being bullied at work?

1. Deflect the bully if you can. Remain calm, stand firm, and try to keep up a confident appearance. Keep a detailed record of every incident; you will need it as proof if you decide to make a complaint.

2. Check your job description. If you suddenly find yourself being set menial tasks, or are given an increased workload with shorter deadlines, and it isn’t in your contract then you can do something about it.

3. Try to get witnesses to bullying incidents, and avoid situations where you are alone with the bully.

4. Get advice from your trade union, or from personnel and health and safety officers at work. Does your employer have a policy on harassment or against unacceptable behaviour?

5. Take a stress management course, and do some assertiveness training. They are good for your general health, and will help you in the future.

6. If you go ahead with a complaint, choose your words carefully. State the facts clearly, but don’t get sucked into a slanging match – you could be accused of malicious behaviour.

7. Get emotional support from your family and friends, talk to them about how you are feeling. Ask your GP about counselling. Take sick leave if you need it.

8. If you decide to leave your job because of the bullying, let your company know exactly why you are resigning. It may help others in the future.

9. If you wish to pursue a legal claim against your employer, start by taking advice from your union. If you have a good case, they will take it up on your behalf.

10. Many forms of legal action that may be possible, including: industrial tribunals, civil claims for personal injury, and sometimes even criminal action.

Next Steps

  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law. 0300 123 1100
  • BullyingUK offers advice and support to victims of bullying. Call on 0808 800 2222.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


work stress


Updated on 29-Sep-2015