For many of us, bullying is a distant memory – like acne, school dinners and snogging behind the bike sheds. However, routine harassment and humiliation is worryingly prevalent in offices and workplaces across the country.
It’s a topic that raises its head from time to time, but that doesn’t mean when we don’t hear about it that it’s gone away. For men in particular, admitting to being the focus of malicious and abusive attentions of an employer or colleague is often hard. Wherever you work, you should be able to go in each day and not have to fear the type of behaviour we thought we left behind with gym kits and kiss chase.
Bullies are pretty insecure people themselves who use work as a way of pumping up their own low self-esteem. They can feel power where perhaps they have no power or influence elsewhere in their lives.
In the counselling room I’ve seen many cases of workplace bullying, but one client in particular stands out more than most:
I met this guy (we’ll call him Paul) in December 2010, he’d had what you might call a breakdown.
Paul, having been been diagnosed with cancer, felt obliged to stayed at work during his treatment, which included chemotherapy. His boss didn’t believe that Paul couldn’t work and still expected him to commit himself to a daily 6 hour round trip to and from work, and was sent numerous offensive and threatening messages on his mobile and home phone.
Paul did his best to minimise the time he had to take off work because of the cancer, but no matter how hard he tried, it was never enough for his employer. This chipped away at Paul’s mental health and in late 2010 he saw his GP, who then referred him to me for counselling.
He was a broken man. He was self-harming, and thought about suicide. His self-esteem had been shattered and he saw no way forward, emotionally he was wrecked. He felt guilty for having to take time off work and for ‘letting down’ his workmates.
Paul decided to leave his job; but the vindictive phone calls didn’t stop, in fact they increased. Pressure was heaped on him to get back to work.
Slowly Paul re-built his self-esteem, recognised that it was his boss who was the one who had the problem and that it was nothing to do with him as a person. We picked apart the character that was his boss and why some people resort to this treatment of others and slowly Paul started to fight back. It as his boss who was damaged, not him.
Paul’s solicitor told him he had never seen such a bad case of treatment of a worker and they prepared to take the case to court. Although Paul’s boss had other complaints sitting on his file, the company made Paul go to court. Paul won his case and received a pay-out. He set up his own business last November and is doing really well.
Bullying in the workplace is illegal and it can be fought. There are a few simple guidelines that you need to follow to back up your case:
• Keep notes on every incident where you are victimised or bullied. Times, dates, places – they are important in building a case
• Seek guidance from a solicitor – most will offer a free half hour of general advice and then you can take it from there
• Speak to your GP and if you can, gain access to counselling so you have some support through the process
• Speak to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and see what they can offer you in the way of advice. You can also speak to your HR department and they should be able to point you in the direction of the company policy on staff bullying.
Bullying can be beaten and you can come out on top.
If you are experiencing any of the above issues and need to talk to someone, call CALM:
Call 0800 58 58 58
Our lines are open 4 days a week, Saturday to Tuesday, 5pm to midnight. Calls are free from landlines, confidential, anonymous and they won’t show up on your phone bill. Trained paid staff will be available to talk through problems, listen, and offer information. Calls are free from payphones and from mobiles on 3, Virgin, Orange and Vodafone networks.
Translation facilities are available on request, to use the Text Relay, dial 18001 + 0800 585858.
CALL 0808 802 58 58
Calls are confidential, anonymous and free from landlines & mobiles.
We’re open Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, from 5pm to midnight. Workers can talk through any issue, listen and offer information and signposting. The services are free, confidential and anonymous – calls won’t show up on your phone bill.
To text: 07537 404717
Include CALM1 at the beginning of your first message. Texts are confidential and anonymous. We don’t charge, but your network might.
To use Text Relay dial 18001 + 0808 802 5858. Translation facilities available on request.