Bullying at Work

Bullying at Work

How to deal with bullying at work

The first thing to say is that bullying at work is a common situation.  The fact that you are being subjected to bullying is not a reflection on you. It is a reflection on the bully and the organisation that has facilitated it.

Sometimes employers can be very lax when dealing with the perpetrator. This is because they are afraid of repercussions from the bully who often has a more forceful personality and a more senior position. For whatever reason, bullies often do well in business. If the bully is important to the employer or holds a more important or senior role, the employer will sometimes seem to side with the bully over the victim. The very first step is therefore to arm yourself. Keep a diary of the incidents and gather supporting evidence. Keep updating your diary and tracking what is happening. With your detailed diary entry of incidents and how the employer is dealing with them you will be better armed.

Now that you have a detailed note of various incidents of bullying, and can show that this is not a once off aberration, the next step is to make a complaint. This should be made following the normal grievance procedures set out in your employee handbook. The severity of the bullying will dictate whether you make the complaint formally or informally through the grievance procedures. Once the complaint is made you should then engage with the grievance procedures to the fullest possible extent to ensure that the complaint is properly investigated and everything possible is done to try to resolve the issues. If more incidents arise in the meantime, you should continue making written complaints as clearly your employer is not protecting you as it should if the bullying is continuing.

If the company does not engage properly to deal with the bullying, then you may be in a toxic environment and the employer may not intend fixing the situation. You can continue to try to fix the problem, and from a legal perspective, the more emails, written complaints and requests for support you make to try to fix it the better. If you have a union, involve them. Again, keep a record so you are armed with easy access to this information.

If you can work on opposite shifts to the bully or in a different section, then request a transfer. Engage in mediation. Do whatever you can within reasonable limits to change the environment. However, if you are running into a brick wall and the bullying is continuing, then you need to consider your options.

Is the bullying affecting your mental health? If so, continuing to work in this environment may only serve to damage your confidence and your health. I recommend trying to fix the situation, but if the company does not engage properly, I do not advise sticking around if you can find alternative employment. This is not a matter of legal advice. From a legal perspective you may do better by staying in a toxic environment and making repeated complaints or going on sick leave if your doctor recommends it. However, I always say that your health is your wealth and you are risking your mental and physical health if you are working in a toxic environment. It’s sometimes better to leave and get away from the situation. It is also better for your mental health and your self-esteem.

I recommend getting advice from a Solicitor at an early stage and doing the following if you find yourself being subjected to bullying:

1. Keep a diary of all inappropriate incidents.
Keep any proof of mistreatment. Make contemporaneous notes and print off any relevant emails or documents. Record them. Send an email challenging the behaviour.

2. Look at your CV.
To a real extent, you are about to enter into a negotiation concerning your employment so it is worth your while having a clear idea where you are and where you wish or could go. It is good to know your options. You may wish to improve your CV or it may give you the impetus you need to get a transfer to another area you may prefer or to do a course so you can make that move.

3. Look at your organisation.
Have a clear idea where you stand in your organisation and where the cause of concern stands. Can you move to another section? Another department? Another shift? Another manager?

4. Self-care.
Go to your GP and take advice and make sure you are doing all you can do to stay grounded. Get exercise. Make time for yourself, your health your leisure and your education. Get counselling if it is advised. Do yoga or meditation.

5. Talk to colleagues.
Has the bully priors? Are there others that feel similar about his or her behaviour to you? Bullies don’t usually confine themselves to one person. I had one case where a supervisor had been bullying every single one of his reports and they were all afraid and intimidated. Then one started talking about what was being done to him. Turned out they were all getting the same unacceptable treatment and he had every single one of them in fear for their jobs and thinking they were terrible employees. Find out if you can you get support or backing from your colleagues. Be open about what’s happening – the bully thrives on secrecy and shame. Be open.

6. Look for other employment opportunities.
Can you move out of the sphere of influence of the person causing concern? Can you move elsewhere? Is there a promotion or new opportunity you could push for? Can you work for another company?

7. If it is impossible or unrealistic to approach the bully directly or if you have tried this and it has failed, arrange to meet HR. Be aware that HR may decide it’s easier to get rid of you then the bully. You should therefore have your diary notes in place and be ready to take them on if necessary.

8. Have suggestions on how to fix the issue:

  • Move sideways or upwards
  • Mediation
  • Invoke the company’s grievance procedures.


9. If engagement by the company is not forthcoming, put your complaint in writing.
Keep putting your complaints in writing every time the bully behaves inappropriately. Keep updating your diary. They will be concerned that you clearly have ammunition against them.

10. If your health is suffering, go on sick leave if your doctor approves it or just leave.
Do not subject yourself to a toxic environment if you can avoid it. It is not healthy and I have seen too many victims of bullying suffer psychological trauma because they stayed.

11. Keep in touch with your G.P.

Keep your GPinformed of what’s being done to you. Similarly, if the employer has an Occupational Doctor, be open with him about what’s happening. He will report to HR and they may be very concerned at the failures in their organisation.

12. Seek advice from a Solicitor

As stated, you should obtain legal advice about bullying at work as soon as possible.  The Solicitor will give you tips to deal with it from a legal perspective at an early stage and help you arm yourself so you are likely to win a claim if you need to bring on.  They will advice you about the necessary ingredients for a claim for bullying or an unfair or constructive dismissal claim pr both as appropriate.

Bullying claims are a specialist area and our Thomas Dowling, Solicitor has been involved in a number of important claims in this area.

I hope this article has been helpful.  If you have any queries regarding personal injuries claims please contact us by phone at 061 501100, email Thomas Dowling, personal injuries partner at [email protected] or get a call back by completing our contact form so we can provide you with further information or advice.

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