So what should you do if you feel that you are being harassed at work or bullied?
First of all, keep a diary of all incidents, record dates and potential witnesses and keep any written correspondence which relates to your complaint. Your complaint might be confidential and sensitive in nature and therefore you should find somebody in the workplace to whom you can talk to without feeling too uncomfortable. If your company has a grievance procedure, you should contact the appropriate person and submit a grievance. It does not have to be a formal written grievance at first instance as it may be possible to resolve the situation informally through informal talks and/or mediation.
If you can and you feel brave enough, you should tell the person to stop whatever it is they are doing that is causing you distress. Otherwise, they may not be aware of the fact their actions are having such an effect on you. This is very important in situations where the bullying or harassment could be seen as being in a grey area and where the conduct is not as overtly offending. You should also talk to your union representative if you have one and also call the free Acas line for further advice.
It is important to remember that if you feel that you have been bullied or harassed, you should not be afraid to be accused of over-reacting or worried about that you would not be believed if you do report the incident. The situation may have come to a point where it is a last straw situation and you should not feel any fear of retribution if you do make a complaint. As set out above, behaviour that is considered bullying by one person may be considered firm management by another. It is therefore important that you are clear in your complaint and have as much documentation as possible.
It is very clear that it should be in every employer’s interest to promote a safe, healthy, fair and dignified environment in which employees can work. Employers should also be aware that there may be health and safety issues as the HSE reminds employers that looking after the health of employees includes taking steps to make sure that employees do not suffer stress-related illness as a result of work.
All organisations, regardless of size, should also have policies and procedures dealing with misconduct, grievance and disciplinary matters. It is also important to look at you own management style as an authoritarian management style may in fact encourage bullying and harassment in the workplace. You should also ensure that when dealing with alleged bullying and harassment under your disciplinary rules and procedures and grievance procedures, you should ensure that you have made appropriate provisions for confidentiality and support for the victims.
You should also remember that the victim is not always the person that is complaining about harassment. If the harassment is completely unfounded and contrived, it can have a very detrimental effect on the person that’s being complained about. For example if a young female employee complains about an older male employee saying that he has been looking at her in an inappropriate way or made rude and sexual comments to her and this is completely untrue, the male employee may complain of bullying as a cross grievance as being accused of having done something like this is likely to make the male employee feel intimidated or insulted and humiliated.
The bottom line is, always get to the root of the problem. The chances are that it’s just the tip on the iceberg.