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Bullying in the Workplace : What can individuals do?

When harassment and/or bullying in the workplace occurs, many people would prefer it to be stopped quickly without making a formal complaint.  The first step would be to speak directly to the offender or write directly to him/her telling him/her specifically what conduct s/he finds upsetting or offensive and ask clearly that it should be stopped. The help of a ‘harassment advisor’ may be useful.  This is often the quickest and most effective way of solving the problem, especially when it is due to a lack of sensitivity rather than a deliberate attempt to cause discomfort.

For many reasons the target may find this too difficult to do. If they cannot confront the person directly but would like to have the matter dealt with informally and quickly they should speak to their line manager or, if he/she is involved in the harassment/ bullying, speak to a member of the HR team.

Asking for a complaint to be dealt with ‘informally’ doesn’t mean that it will not be taken seriously.  But it does mean that the action can be taken without fuss and without the need for formal disciplinary action.  This is probably the best way to deal with incidents which arise because of a lack of sensitivity, misjudged humour or thoughtlessness.

The person who is the target of bullying should be encouraged not to suffer in silence; they should be encouraged to talk about the problem, or seek support from a harassment advisor or occupational health.

Whatever the approach taken, they should keep a record of the harassment, including when and where it took place and whether anyone else was present.

Some general steps

  • The recipient should speak to someone (colleague, line manager or independent harassment advisor).
  • The employee should be aware of the Company’s ‘Dignity at Work’ Policy concerning bullying and harassment and where to find it.
  • They should keep a diary of each incident (including who was involved, who was present, date etc).  This could be crucial evidence for any later official investigation.
  • They should speak to the person involved, and warn them if it doesn’t stop, they will take it further.  They may do this directly, through an intermediary or by letter.


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