Here’s how to help prove your case by gathering evidence
What is bullying?
Bullying can be direct, in writing, over the phone, by email, by messaging and by social media. Employees can be bullied by their boss but also by other employees. Bullying is often ‘contagious’ and works its way down the hierarchy of employees from senior to junior. Bullies sometimes work in groups.
Bullying includes verbal and physical abuse, humiliation, intimidation and other behaviours that undermine a person’s confidence. It is often done in front of colleagues. If so, there could be witnesses to back up what you’re saying.
The kinds of behaviour that can amount to bullying:
- Being shouted at and verbally abused;
- Being pushed and shoved;
- Being regularly picked on, often described as ‘banter’;
- Being humiliated in front of colleagues;
- Being regularly unfairly treated;
- Frequently being given too much to do, so that you regularly fail in your work;
- Being blamed for problems caused by others;
- Being regularly threatened with a warning or the sack;
- Being unfairly passed over for promotion or denied training opportunities.
What can I do about it?
Keep written records or a diary of bullying at work.
The way you prove what’s happened to you is by keeping a written record of every event, however small. You need to make sure you do it properly. Record the date and time, what happened, where it happened, who was involved and the outcome, including an indication of the impact on you. Add to the written records any other evidence you have, such as screenshots of emails, texts, social media posts, letters. Record voice messages as audio files by playing them into a second device.
ONRECORD’s evidence gathering tools are designed to help you with recording this information.
Without this level of detailed record keeping, bullying can be difficult to prove.
Try to get witnesses to the bullying and, if you do, ask them to make a good, clear record, as soon after the event as possible, of exactly what they witnessed, including as much information as possible. Make sure that if they’re asked to speak about it in a complaint or other situation they will be prepared to do so.
If you think you are being bullied by your boss or anyone else, it is best to talk it over with someone else first to try to get it in perspective. Make sure it’s someone you trust and who will give their honest opinion. For example, the problem might only be something like having to work differently because of a change in the way your organisation is run and others are finding it just as difficult. It might be that you have an unrealistic understanding of your chances of promotion and you actually need more experience before being promoted or it could be you’re right and you are being bullied. If so, you should do something about it.
Your initial option might be to talk to your manager about it but if it’s your manager who is bullying you, talk to his boss. That may help but if not, consider writing a formal grievance letter. Follow your employer’s bullying policy.
Can I use employment law rights to stop bullying at work?
You cannot make a legal claim directly about bullying but complaints can be made in other ways, such as through discrimination and harassment (in connection with discrimination) legislation. If you are forced to resign due to bullying you may be able to make a constructive dismissal claim under employment law. Seek advice about these claims though. ACAS is a brilliant source of guidance and they also have a helpline. It’s free so take advantage of it.
What else can I do?
Employers have a ‘duty of care’ to their employees and this includes dealing with bullying at work. Get advice about this too.
In addition to ACAS you could talk to someone about how you might deal with the problem informally.
This might be:
- An employee representative like a trade union official;
- Someone in the human resources department;
- Your boss or if you are being bullied by your boss, their boss;
- Sometimes employers have specially trained staff to help with bullying and harassment problems too, sometimes called ‘harassment advisers’;
- If the bullying is affecting your health, visit your GP.
What can I do if my boss is violent and abusive towards me and I’m afraid to make a complaint?
If you fear for your safety you should report it to the police.