04 December 2011
Targets Checklist for Dealing With the Workplace Bully.
This is only a very brief page for the moment but I hope that it will give you an insight into the type of things which you should be doing to help yourself through this difficult time.
Join the Target Support list server.
Firstly and foremost you should try not to go through this experience alone. Join the workplace bullying list server which is there to help you. I am unable to give individual help and support but everybody on this list server are friendly and understand all that you are going through. Please do not be shy about speaking about your problem. Whilst it is impossible to give anybody a 100% guarantee, I can tell you that the list is moderated and if I did not feel confident that I could trust individuals in the list then they would not be there.
So you are being bullied?
The first thing to note about any form of harassment is that it works in a cumulative way. Incidents build on previous incidents and whilst each and every incident incident when taken alone may not look overly serious to the objective observer (though many certainly will) you should not feel guilty about feeling intimidated by the situation you have found yourself in. Trust me, I have helped many people through this problem who range from checkout operators to senior company directors and to that list you can add nurses, midwives, junior doctors, teachers, school heads and practically any profession that you care to imagine. Bullying at work happens in many workplaces, not just yours. There is nothing for you to feel ashamed about, your feelings are a natural reaction to an abnormal event and not the other way around so do not let anybody tell you differently.
Never meet management alone and make sure the bully knows the way you feel.
First things first, NEVER EVER meet with management alone. Always take somebody with you! If there is a trade union operating in your company then half the battle may be already won, Join them! However ineffective that you may feel they are, I can not over emphasize the importance of membership. If the shop steward or safety rep in your site is also intimidated by the bully then call upon the full time paid official. Unions exist to help you so please use them.
Most importantly, when you have somebody you trust to meet the bully with you then you should meet with them and tell them to stop. If you do not feel up to this then ask your union to do so. Although the bully quite probably knows what they are doing is wrong and how you feel about it, they must be told as they will otherwise probably deny they knew. In law, harassment is only harassment if the perpetrator knows that it is unwelcome. Whilst harassment should always be judged subjectively (what is going through your mind rather than the intentions of the harasser), it is important that they must know that what they are doing is causing you distress. Note below:
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (United Kingdom statute)
s1(1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct
(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the person who's course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.
Note also that House of Lords in R v. Ireland and Burstow have ruled that Assault and/or battery (made criminal by s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 according to the Court of Appeal in Large) can, in the event that it causes a recognized mental illness (including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) constitute Actual Bodily Harm (s47 Offenses Against the Persons Act 1861 carrying a maximum 5 years imprisonment) or indeed even a s20 or s18 offense of Grievous Bodily Harm carrying a maximum 5 years or life imprisonment respectively.
An assault, contrary to common belief, is an act which intentionally or recklessly puts a person in fear of unlawful and immediate (although, note that R v Ireland above may remove the 'immediate' part) personal violence. This is tested by your feelings at the time. Did you feel in danger of being attacked physically? But note that the bully must have intended to make you feel as though you were in danger or at least been reckless as to whether that was the case. Note that the better view is that the recklessness of the bully will need to be subjective rather than objective (ie: he must realize that it is having this effect and carry on regardless). Any physical contact (generally thought by most members of the public to be an assault) is in fact a battery but it is charged under the same section of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Note that a battery is an intentional tort and thereby gives rise to the possibility of exemplary damages under the Rookes v. Barnard headings.
But the bully must be aware so make sure that they are told and make sure there is a witness to this being the case!
Keep records of all incidents.
Take records of all incidents that may take place. Do not worry if an individual incident seems minor as bullying is often delivered in a coded way, either by an extended stare which many previous targets have spoken about feeling burning into their backs or language that only you would understand because of previous incidents... so record it! Harassment is not about the intentions of the perpetrator, it should be judged subjectively as to the way that you feel about it. It is important to be able to establish a pattern and the recording of all incidents is capable of doing so. You may feel that certain incidents will not be taken seriously but when they are all taken together, you are more likely to be listened to when you have all the evidence with times, dates, places, witnesses etc than you are with a list of incidents that you can remember but have no recollection of when they took place.
Employers duty of care.
Whilst the bully may need to know before he/she satisfies the criteria for a criminal prosecution, the employer of you both is under a duty both in criminal law and in tort to ensure your health and welfare under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They should be carrying out risk assessments and if they are aware of your problem then they should be assessing its risk and minimizing or removing it. See Peter Mathews article on stress.
If the employer has a grievance procedure, however unsatisfactory you may feel it is, you should use it. It is hard work to explain to an Employment Tribunal if you ever get there, why you did not use such a procedure if it was there for you to use. The lack of a procedure itself has been found to constitute a breach of contract in Lewis v. Motorworld. Litigation however is every bit as stressful as the bullying itself and so if possible you should seek to gain resolution from your employer rather than litigating.
When you have entered into the grievance procedure you should try to ensure that you have a trade union representative with you or at the very least a witness.
If the worst comes to the worst then you may feel that your health has suffered enough and you wish to leave. The law allows you to mix all of the bullying together and to claim unfair constructive dismissal in an Employment Tribunal. You will need evidence however and it will be judged objectively by the Tribunal panel. This is why you need every incident recorded. They will not know about your workplace and you have to tell them! Indeed, if they know people at your workplace to talk to then they should have declared an interest and removed themselves from the panel to be replaced due to the interests of natural justice.
You will need representation at the Employment Tribunal. Some people win when they represent themselves but it is very rare and it is unlikely that you will be in a fit state of mind to do so. You should seek the help of your trade union (which you will by now have joined as I advised you to above). If not then you should maybe have a look at your household insurance policy which often provides insurance regarding the loss of your job.
I will try to update this information as and when I can. But for now, I think you have the nuts and bolts. The main point that I want to get across to you however is that you need not and should not accept your treatment. You should keep records and you should raise the matter with both your union and your employer.
Unfortunately time restraints and resources mean that I am unable to offer individual help to targets and I therefore hope that these pages will be of some help to you all. All other help I may give can only take place in the context of the workplace bullying list server. I apologize for this however it does have to be made clear that there are so many cases where this behavior is continuing that it becomes both impractical and humanly impossible to give individual assistance.
Please note that the information in this web site is provided as a free service, in good faith and to the best of my knowledge and belief. Accessing this site does not create any form of legal or professional relationship and neither this web site, its host or its contributors or sponsors accept any liability or responsibility for any action taken on the basis of information provided. It is dangerous to rely on generalized information or guidance. You should ALWAYS seek independent professional advice in order that it can be tailored to your own individual circumstances.