From the classroom to the boardroom; how to spot and tackle bullying in the workplace

by Sam Easterbrook | 8th Mar 2017

It’s often assumed that bullying most commonly occurs in schools, but the harsh reality is many young women might find themselves bullied at their place of work too. The key question is, how can we spot bullying at work, and what can we do to help? In honour of International Women’s Day, Little But Fierce blogger Katy Dodds explains why bullying should be everyone’s business, irrelevant of whether it’s at school, work or anywhere else. 

Being bullied can leave you feeling scared, lonely and anxious. I realised this when I was bullied at school. Much of the bullying that I have been subject to was emotional and verbal abuse, rather than physical forms, but this makes no difference. No matter the type of abuse, the impact it can have on someone remains the same and can be potentially catastrophic for the rest of their life.

So, what happens if bullying doesn’t stop at school and can be experienced later in life? Well, the truth is that bullying can be found in so many places these days, whether it’s at home, at a friend’s house, your university halls, or even at work, where so many of us might assume bullying would be a thing of the past by this point in our lives.

Katy Dodd – Blogger, Little But Fierce

Bullying at work can take many forms, but is in no way any less distressing than the type of bullying you might experience at school, often leaving you feeling emotionally drained. In a pressured work environment, sometimes the lines between a busy work environment with high expectations and a dominant managerial style, that is actually a form of bullying, can be easily blurred. If you feel your line manager is being especially aggressive towards you, rest assured this isn’t an appropriate leadership style. Clearly this is an example of office based bullying, but work placed bullying can also happen on a peer to peer level too.

It’s easy to make mistakes at work; quite simply, it can’t be helped. But this can open an individual up to receive unwarranted and negative comments from colleagues, causing a long lasting effect on their emotions. Repetitive incidents like this can leave many people dreading walking into their work every day, much like it might for a pupil who fears walking into the classroom. No one should dread entering their place of work, especially if they are passionate about it, and no-one should make you feel like you don’t belong or aren’t good enough.

Spotting the signs of bullying at school and work isn’t that different. Think about the following: are colleagues being openly insulting about someone at work in front of everyone, including that person, to hear? Is someone at work being purposely left out of activities? Have you noticed a colleague looking upset, or spending lunchtime alone? You’ll find these tell-tale signs in both school and work.

While bullying affects all genders, and none is more important than the other, there are certain types of abuse that young women might feel impacts on them more so. These translate across school and work with appearance and self-esteem playing a big part in this. Feeling self-conscious about the way you look and battling with the pressures of modern society and social media in particular can leave many girls and young women feeling like they don’t want to get out of bed in the morning to face the day.

So what advice for helping someone who is getting bullied applies to both school and work? Just as you might tell a teacher at school, go straight to your line manager or a member of HR, to report the bullying you believe is taking place. To give yourself some proof, and to make sure you’re not forgetting about any incidents you’ve witnessed or experienced, you could keep a diary of what you see going on so that your manager feels confident they have a reliable account of what’s taken place – just like you might give to a teacher at school. To people being bullied, having colleagues and friends stay silent on the matter can feel worse than the bullying.

On International Women’s Day, I’d encourage girls and women to speak up if they’re being bullied or think someone they know is. Bullying has never been just limited to the classroom and we should all try and be aware throughout life, making sure it’s everyone’s business. In keeping with the 2017 theme for International Women’s Day, #BeBoldForChange and speak up against bullying.

If you’re worried about someone being bullied or would like to speak to someone confidentially about your own experiences, please call Meic on 08088 023 456.

Katy is speaking as part of Welsh Government’s ongoing anti-bullying awareness campaign.