In Ireland, bullying in the workplace is not only unpleasant and unprofessional: it is also illegal. The Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 covers work activities to prevent what is known as improper conduct or behaviour at work.
In practice, this means that, as a last resort, victims of bullying can take their employers to court, and may receive damages,
Fortunately, this does not have to happen very often.
The first step in dealing with bullying is to ask the bully to stop. Sometimes this can be quite a daunting prospect, but it is successful in a surprisingly high proportion of cases. The bully may genuinely be unaware of the effect they are having, and a firm but polite rejoinder may be all that is needed.
“Please don’t speak to me like that. I find it quite offensive.” “Please don’t shout at me.”
Never lose your temper.
If this does not work, then you should start to keep a log of incidents in which you have been bullied. Note the date, time, place, and the form the bullying took, whether it was abusive or insulting language, a raised voice, a threat, or any other form. Note also who else was present at the time. It does not matter if any witnesses are likely to be on your side; your detailed notes will be very useful to whoever is tasked with investigating your complaint.
That is the next step, making a complaint, to your supervisor or line manager, whoever is responsible for overseeing your place of work. When you make your complaint, do it formally; make an appointment, and take a witness with you. Ask for your complaint to be logged, and ask, too, what steps will be taken to address your problem. Be polite, but make it clear that you expect action to be taken. Memorise the words “The Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005”, and use them if necessary, but do not be too dogmatic. It may be that your supervisor will have a firm word with the bully, and the problem will be solved, but it is a legal obligation that such a complaint will be investigated.
The next step is the Human Resources department, and by then you will probably be considering looking for another job. If the company for which you work will not take your well-being seriously, then its standards as an employer fall well below what you are entitled to expect.
Finding a new job is a serious matter, and you will want to be sure you will not encounter the same problem with your next employer. Take some expert advice. Dangan Recruitment Services have consultants with contacts across a range of industries, and have built their reputation on making a good match between client and company. Your reason for looking for a new job will not stand against you with prospective employers, and Dangan’s consultants are familiar with employment law, which covers the matter of references.
You do not have to put up with bullying.