Bullying is abuse that can take place at work or in situations related to work. The victim may be threatened, abused verbally or physically attacked. Verbal abuse may develop into a more serious situation if left unchallenged.
Harassment is unwanted behaviour that you find offensive or which makes you feel afraid or shamed. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination. If you are a victim of bullying, your situation might also be harassment under the Equality Act 2010. If it is, you can take action under that law.
Unwanted behaviour could also be spoken or written words or abuse. It may also be offensive emails, tweets or comments on social networking sites. There are laws covering online communications that cause fear, stress or anxiety to others.
Sometimes bullying may occur when someone speaks up about unsafe practices –disregarding the Safety at Work Act 1974 for instance. ACAS is an independent public body that receives funding from the government. They provide free and impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives on employment rights, best practice and policies.
Bullying can also take the form of violence. Some job roles are at greater risk of workplace violence; these include police officers and community support officers, the fire service and those working in the prison service. Other job roles at risk are those working in care and the health professions, public transport workers, teachers, managers and those working in benefits offices. Most of these roles involve working with the public. During 2017/18, 54% of workplace violence came from strangers and 46% people knew the offender, either clients or a member of the public known through work.
Workplace violence is on the increase – 1.5 per cent of working adults have been a victim of actual or threatened violence at work.
The impact bullying and violence can have on an individual is far-reaching. The person is likely to suffer stress and sleep disturbances and may need to take sick leave to recover from the physical and emotional effects. The person may have flashbacks and need help with PTSD.
The workplace itself will also suffer with staff being on sick leave, low staff morale and difficulty recruiting/retaining staff. If legislation and procedures have not been followed this may result in court action, fines and bad publicity.
There are many reasons why bullying and harassment might go unreported. Often the victim may feel that they are in some way to blame, feel guilty or worried that they people will not believe them. If they are a naturally anxious person, they may not want to speak up. There may have been past incidents with other employees that have not had proper investigation or the person may not know the correct channels for reporting, or the person to whom they should report to is the person causing the problem.
Individuals may be worried about the reaction of their line manager, if privacy will upheld. The wrongdoer does not have a legal right to know who complained, if they did it would discourage others from coming forward. The victim may be unsure if the behaviour is bullying or harassment especially if there is a lack of policies and procedures. They may be worried the whole process might make a bad situation worse. There may be a fear of revenge, not wanting to get someone else into trouble or fear of job loss (especially when in a trial period).
If you have been a victim of bullying or harassment at work and would like help please give me a call. Rewind is excellent for stopping recurring unwanted thoughts.