Work is a huge part of our everyday lives and is fundamental to personal well being and job satisfaction. This means that negative experiences at work can have a detrimental impact on an employees quality of life, making it essential to tackle these issues before they develop further. However, with almost six in ten people having witnessed or experienced workplace bullying first hand, it is evident that the problem needs more attention from staff and employers.

It is therefore crucial to recognise the signs of workplace bullying, with these taking multiple forms – including biased treatment, gossiping and sexual harassment. Reducing workplace bullying can have a positive impact on individual employees, teams and managers and can boost workplace morale and productivity, so it is time to start tackling the issue. This is a comprehensive view of workplace bullying with top tips on how to deal with the problem.

Firstly, in order to confront workplace bullying head on, businesses, managers and employees must recognise the initial signs and behaviours that classify as bullying. Here are some key things to look for:

Preferential treatment

This is arguably one of the more subtle forms of workplace bullying, but can be unsettling for employees who experience unfair treatment when compared to other colleagues. This is classified by employers giving preferential treatment to some employees and not others. This might take the form of unapproved holiday requests, a lack of praise for good work, unrealistic workloads or being asked to stay late when others get to leave early. Signs of unfair treatment can be a serious problem and can lead to affected employees feeling downtrodden and enthusiastic about their role in the company.

Isolating, excluding or ignoring

It is important to remember that most of us often spend more time with work colleagues than with friends and family, so positive working relationships have become essential to workplace satisfaction. This satisfaction can be significantly reduced in cases when certain employees are deliberately ignored or excluded, making them feel detached from the rest of the team. Making a team member feel intentionally isolated is certainly a form of bullying and can cause rifts between teams.

Hindering promotion opportunities

This is perhaps a little more elusive than other forms of bullying and can be difficult to clearly define. However, denying employees increased responsibilities or deliberately overlooking them for promotions and tasks can be considered as a form of bullying. If the bully is actively denying the employee opportunities that they are entitled to problems can arise.

Using humour to disguise bullying

A little bit of light office humour can often be a great way to bond with team members. However, when humour becomes insulting, demeaning or patronising, it can be classified as workplace bullying and can create obvious tensions. Making jokes about a person’s ethnicity, gender,sexual orientation or any other inappropriate characteristics are all inappropriate and can be extremely hurtful to the victim.

Spreading gossip or rumours

Most offices will inevitably have a little bit of gossip, but when it begins to damage a person’s career, their reputation or even their emotional wellbeing it has clearly crossed the line. It doesn’t matter if these rumours relate to their professional career or their personal life, it all comes under the same umbrella. Spreading gossip is quite clearly a form of harassment and is often fairly easy to identify.

These are just some of the ways to identify bullying in the workplace, but unfortunately many other types of bullying also exist. It is important to recognise the number of ways that bullying can occur, including the physical environment, digital communication, social media or even via letters. From a legal point of view, it’s important to be clear on which forms of harassment will stand up in a complaint. When the harassment directly relates to a person’s religion, gender or race, a case will often be valid.

What to do in the event of workplace bullying:

Keep evidence

In the event of workplace bullying, it is always useful to keep evidence of any occurrences just in case further action needs to be taken in the future. If not, the issue can become a ‘my word against theirs’ problem which can increase friction and fail to result in a resolution for both parties. This might involve keeping any emails, comments or physical evidence of the bullying.

Talk to someone

Bullying can be a stressful and unsettling experience which is difficult to cope with in isolation. It is therefore important to reach out to someone and talk about the issue – this might be a friend or family member, a manager or another colleague. This can take the weight off your shoulders and make you feel less alone.

Speak to the bully directly

If you don’t feel threatened, then going to the bully directly to address their behaviour can often fix the problem. They may not be aware of how their behaviour is affecting you and speaking to them directly can allow them to reflect on the situation and change their actions.

Contact the Citizens Advice bureau

If you are feeling totally lost and confused when dealing with workplace bullying, then it is perhaps worth getting some expert insight. The platform is available to give free impartial information regarding money, legal and consumer issues. The team at Citizen’s Advice will be able to provide legal advice, as well as advice from someone completely removed from the situation. In addition, they will also be in a position to provide information on groups and charities which can help support the individual during the process.

Consult a doctor

If you are feeling exasperated and unable to cope and find the situation edging into your personal life, then it is perhaps worth considering consulting a doctor to evaluate the situation. A qualified doctor will be able to advise you about workplace stress and may recommend that you take some time away from the office. Temporarily removing yourself from a stressful situation can give you time to collect your thoughts and reevaluate the situation.

Claim compensation

If the problem worsens and the above solutions fail to work, many might feel as though they are forced to leave the company.  If this is the case, they may be liable for compensation, so it is worth seeking the opinion of a legal expert. A number of solicitors will offer a free one-hour consultation to assess your situation and answer any queries. In addition, the majority of Solicitors will work on a No Win No Fee basis, which provides added peace of mind that the case can be progressed without the worry of expensive legal costs if it is not successful.

With almost 37% of workers admitting to having experienced workplace bullying themselves, it is unfortunately a common problem. So, if you find yourself in this unfortunate position, don’t keep the issue to yourself and talk to someone as soon as possible.