Bullying and harassment means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others, and may happen in the workplace without an employer’s awareness.
Bullying or harassment can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It might be obvious or it might be insidious. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. It can also occur in written communications, by phone or through email, not just face-to-face.
It’s important for employers to couch criticism in a positive and supportive way – offering support and remedial training where necessary and balancing this with praise and acknowledgement. It is also important for employees to develop emotional intelligence and be able to receive constructive criticism.
This video from ACAS concentrates on how criticism is delivered – and what you can do about bullying: VIDEO: Resolving Bullying at Work
Am I a bully?
“If I’ve worked from eight in the morning until nine at night on the needs of the animals in my care – the last thing I want to deal with is a whingeing assistant!”
It’s important to realise that many bullies don’t realise that what they are doing is bullying – you could be doing it without knowing it. It could be a personality style or it could be simply something which was done to you when you were younger or in a weaker position. However the culture does change – you don’t have to repeat behaviour just because it happened to you. If someone accuses you of bullying, take it seriously and reflect before responding.
Three points of view
- the victim – you need to know when and how you are being bullied. Take responsibility for not being a victim – be assertive, not aggressive
- the bully – it’s important to recognise yourself
- the onlooker – who says “I think bullying is going on here – how can I help?” – avoid thinking of yourself as a hero and adopt the position of a mediator or coach
David Emerald’s empowerment dynamic illustrates this very well.
Taking legal action if you are being bullied
If nothing is done to put things right, you may have to take legal action, which may mean going to an employment tribunal. Get good professional advice before taking this step. You can’t make a legal claim directly about bullying but you can complain under the laws covering discrimination and harassment. If you’re forced to resign as a result of bullying you may be able to claim for constructive dismissal. See: Employment Law
Vetlife Helpline and Vetife Health Support are both available to provide support for as long as you need it. It is often advisable to find another job and make a fresh start as soon as possible if you are being bullied persistently.