Combating Bullying Beyond the School Gates

By Kris Holt

It's easy to assume that when you leave the school gates, you leave certain childhood experiences behind you – and the experience of being bullied is one of those. 

Perhaps you’ve left school or college and you’re now starting your first proper job, or maybe you’re still at school and you have a part-time or Saturday job. Bullying can also occur in the workplace, and if it does, it's important that you tackle this issue as quickly as possible to prevent bullying from having an impact upon your health and the quality of your work.  If allowed to go unchecked, bullying can reduce your self-esteem and can sometimes lead to depression.

So how do you know if you're being bullied?  There's no set pattern of behaviour or specific type of person who becomes a bully, but if you find yourself regularly being criticised unduly or if you find that you are regularly the main target for jokes, then you may be being bullied.  Likewise, if you are ignored or excluded from workplace activities, find that your manager picks on you (when you are alone, or in front of others) or you are set unreasonable targets or unachievable deadlines, these too may be seen to be bullying behaviours.

Firstly and most importantly, you need to talk to someone about the bullying.  There are a number of options open to you in this regard, but it's important not to suffer in silence and simply hope things will improve.  Bullies thrive without challenge.  By opening up to others, you may realise that you are not the only person in this situation, and you'll be supported to resolve it.  Knowing that you're not alone will make the subsequent steps easier to take.

Many prefer to initially resolve the problem of bullying through unofficial channels.  If you're strong-willed and confident, you may be able to approach your bully directly and ask that they stop their bullying behaviours.  Some people may not realise that their behaviour is having a negative impact on you, while those who have negative intentions may then back off, particularly if you challenge them in a firm-but-civilised manner.

Other options, dependent on who your bully is, may include your manager, your manager's own manager, or a representative from your HR department.  You should also strongly consider joining a trade union relevant to your job and speaking to a representative who will assist you with this process. Apprentices, part-timers and weekend workers can all join unions and benefit from their assistance.

When you're discussing the bullying incidents, it's important to manage your emotions and remain in control of the situation.  Don't be intimidated, always remain calm and civilised, and don't allow criticisms to affect your self-belief.  Bullies often react in the manner that they do because they find you threatening in some way.  Where necessary, you should insist that they explain their behaviour towards you.

If the bullying consists of a number of events over a period of time, you should keep a diary consisting of dates, times and descriptions of what happened.  It's especially important to note who said and did what to whom.  Having an accurate record can prove to be very helpful if the matter then needs to be resolved through a formal process later on. 

Making a formal complaint is the next step if you can't solve the problem informally. To do this, you must follow your employer's grievance procedure.  Again, HR representatives or if you have one, your union representative, will guide you through the process, and have a responsibility to keep you informed at all stages.

Social support is important too, so don't be afraid to share details with the people who care about you.  Tell your friends and your family members so that they understand why you may be feeling down, and can assist you with your resolution efforts.  Last of all, if you feel that your health may be affected by bullying, you should talk about this with your GP.

If you would like to find a Trade Union, a good place to start would be the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) - http://www.tuc.org.uk/ (or 020 7636 4030).

About Kris Holt: Kris is a prize-winning writer and a UNISON Officer within Local Government in Norfolk.  He supports and advises members on tackling workplace issues, and promotes effective conflict-resolution and mediation to resolve issues.

 

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