All employers are required by law to prevent bullying and harassment at work. A co-worker, your boss or a superior, a client, a customer or any business contact can bully you. This bullying can happen at work, on a training course, on a work trip or at a work social event.
Bullying can have a huge impact on your life and ability to do your job, so it is important to do something about it. There are many ways to approach the problem. Whatever path you take, always remember that it is not your fault that you are being bullied.
Different types of bullying in the workplace
There are many ways that you can be bullied in the workplace.
Harassment or humiliation
You may be physically or emotionally harassed by someone else. Harassment is when someone behaves in a way that offends or makes a person feel distressed or intimidated. This could be through abusive comments and jokes both in person or online, and insulting gestures and touching.
A workplace bully might also abuse their position by breaking down your confidence or humiliating you in front of others.
Isolating or ignoring you
If a colleague ignores or isolates you on purpose, it can also be a form of bullying. Everyone should be made to feel welcome in the workplace, but feeling like you’re being ignored or left out of important activities or social events can be very hurtful.
Spreading gossip or lies
Spreading gossip and rumours about someone in the workplace can cause great harm and is considered bullying. It can also be harmful for your career, so it’s important to speak to someone about the lies and have it addressed.
Feeling targeted or singled out
If you feel like you’re being singled out for extra work or always given tasks and deadlines that they know are impossible to meet,, there is a chance that you are being bullied.
No matter who is bullying you or how they do it, it is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with.
Dealing with a bully at work
It is not your fault that you’re being bullied. Everyone has the right to feel safe and supported in their workplace. If you are being bullied by someone or a group of people at work, it is important to seek help.
Tell somebody you trust
It is very difficult to deal with bullying on your own. Tell a friend or work colleague what is happening with you. The more support you have the better.
Keep a record
Keep a record of every bullying episode that happens. Note the time, place, what happened and if anyone else was a witness. If the bully/ bullies have sent you abusive texts or emails, make sure to save these also.
If you feel comfortable doing so, speak with the person who is bullying you about their behaviour. Tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable and offensive. You can do that in person or in writing. If you do this in person, you might want to ask someone you trust to be with you for support. If you write a note, be sure to keep a copy of the email or letter.
If you don’t feel safe approaching them, you always have other options.
If speaking with the person does not stop the bullying, it is time to take another step. Report the bullying to a manager or someone in authority. If a boss or senior is bullying you, then make the complaint to somebody else in charge. This could be their boss, someone in human resources (HR), or possibly someone on the board of directors.
If there is a complaints procedure at work, find out how it works and then use it. If you feel your complaints are not being taken seriously, you may need to seek legal advice.
Seeking legal advice for workplace bullying
If the bullying continues and you are forced to leave your job, you may be entitled to claim you were “constructively dismissed”. You should get legal advice before leaving your job.
Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) can offer legal advice and information free of charge through their phone lines, legal clinics, and through their online legal information.
Understanding your rights at work
An employer can’t punish you if you report them for bullying. This means it’s illegal for them to fire you or treat you differently after you make a formal complaint.
Bullying can have a huge impact on your life and education/ training abilities so it is very important to do something about it. If you need advice or information to help you to address workplace bullying, contact Citizens Information or the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
Look after yourself
Experiencing bullying at work can be an extremely emotionally distressing experience. It’s important to look after yourself during and after this experience. If you feel the stress is impacting on your health, you can speak to your GP and get a medical cert to be signed off from work for a period of time.
It might be helpful to go for counselling to have a safe space to talk about your experience and find ways to move forward.
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