Stopping Bullying

All governments should have introduced or be introducing Anti Bullying legislation. If the government has not brought in anti bullying legislation, people are somewhat protected under Health & Safety legislation which typically specifies that the employer is obliged to provide a safe place of work for employees.

Every employer should have an anti bullying Policy and Procedure. If an employer lacks these, they leave themselves open to prosecution by an employee who was bullied.

People being bullied must understand that the serial bully has three distinctive traits:-

  1. The bully is clever and of above average intelligence
  2. The bully is very manipulative and devious
  3. The bully is a coward. Ask any child who has been relentlessly bullied until they lost their temper and attacked the bully. They never again suffered bullying from that person.

The first thing to do when you think you are being bullied is to tell a friend. You must talk about it. If you don't, you may end up allowing the bully to damage your health. Understand that bullies do not want you to talk about it so you are weakening their power over you by discussing it with a friend.

Next you must constantly say to yourself "I am a good person - I have done nothing wrong". The bully needs you to feel guilty. The bully will be watching for you to do things to attempt to please or placate him or her. You have done nothing wrong. This is your lifeline - hold on to it grimly.

If you think you are being bullied, you need to tell the bully using a technique called EFF (Evidence, Feel, and Future behaviour). An example would be "There was a team meeting this morning and I was not invited (the evidence). I felt embarrassed (the feeling). When you next hold a team meeting, I would appreciate being invited to it (the future behaviour)".

Another example using the EFF technique is "You just called me a stupid time waster. I felt insulted. In future conversations, can you please use my name?"

This is certainly not as easy to do as it is to write. This is the big event - standing up to the bully and letting her or him know that their behaviour is unwelcome and unacceptable. A lot of bullies will back off if you stand up to them using a technique like EFF.

If the bullying behaviour continues, the person being bullied must gather eight pieces of evidence. These are:-

  1. Date of alleged incident
  2. Time
  3. Place where it occurred
  4. What happened?
  5. Who did it?
  6. Who witnessed it?
  7. How you felt?
  8. The outcome i.e. what happened afterwards

An example would be "on 4th July 20009, Tommy Scott approached me at my desk at 11 o'clock when my colleagues had taken a coffee break. He leaned over until I felt extremely uncomfortable and said "I have met stupid people in my time but none as thick or dense as you". He then walked away. I felt totally deflated because the quality of my work has always been praised by my previous managers. I went to the toilet to compose myself and then joined my colleagues for coffee. Sarah noticed how upset I was and I told her what had happened and she expressed disgust but advised that I do nothing about it".

One bullying instance is not enough. There need to be repeated incidents by the same bully. Record everything. Some bullies will retreat if they think that the person they are bullying is compiling evidence.

Once you have gathered evidence of two or more incidents, you should consider setting up a meeting with the bully and bring a colleague or advisor with you. Some bullies will stop the bullying when confronted with documented evidence and an assertive request that they cease the unwanted and unacceptable behaviour.

If this does not work, you will have to go to the bully's boss. All organisations advise that if you have an issue with someone and you do not receive satisfaction, you should approach that person's manager. Sadly, the manager is often more inclined to believe the bully than to believe you. This is not written to put you off - rather to forewarn you to bring very solid evidence with you. Most managers dread having to deal with bullying allegations because it is very hard to know who to believe (remember - the bully will be very convincing). Sadly, the manager is likely to try to fob you off by making suggestions such as "you two need to sort this out together" or "grow up and stop being such a softie" or "leave it with me". Most likely, the manager will refer the allegation to HR.

The next step, if the previous steps have been unsuccessful, is to report it to HR who will be more inclined to take it seriously because they will better understand the legal implications. They should interview you in a caring but thorough manner. If convinced that your allegation of bullying is genuine, they should arrange to have an investigation carried out along the lines of their anti-bullying procedure. At the completion of the investigation, the allegation of bullying will be found to be proven or unproven and a document will be written supporting the findings. If the allegation of bullying is proven, the employer must take immediate steps to eliminate the risk of the bullying behaviour continuing or being repeated (eliminating the hazard is the technical term used). The person found guilty should be subject to disciplinary action. The person who was bullied should receive support to help them to recover from the effects of the bullying.

Their investigation may suggest that both of you enter into mediation as a means of resolving the situation. Mediation is an increasingly popular method of resolving disputes without going to law. Do not be afraid of mediation. Both parties will be given every opportunity to explain their situation and to listen to the other person's story. If a mutually agreeable solution emerges, it should put an end to the alleged bullying and should result in the situation being resolved quickly and at relative low cost.

If this is not satisfactory, you will have to take the legal route. It is not to be recommended unless you have a very strong case with very specific evidence. This is rarely the case. Court cases are lengthy, expensive and stressful affairs. It will consume you for years and you may alienate people who were initially supportive. However bullies have been found guilty in courts of law and the ensuing publicity may help to dissuade others from bullying. You may be pressurised to make a settlement on the steps of the court in which the alleged bully agrees to make restitution but does not admit to being guilty of bullying. This is not as satisfying as the judge finding the bully to be guilty but, in practise, this is how many bullying court cases end because it suits the legal system.

There is an alternative solution to bullying which is much less stressful and which a lot of people choose to do. Instead of confronting the bully, the person being bullied simply resigns from the organisation and seeks to work somewhere more humane. This gives the bully a 'victory' but certainly results in the victim being significantly less damaged. It also means that the bully will quickly select another victim. However your primary responsibility is to your health and mental wellbeing so, while it may appear to be taking the easy way out, it may also be the best way for you.


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