Advice and tips on how to survive bullying and intimidation in the workplace, and ways of dealing with individually, legally, or collectively.

Cuts in staffing and resources, increasing workloads, performance related pay: all have made work more pressurised. The University of Manchester says bullying accounts for up to half of all employment stress. The few studies done show the majority of incidents are by bosses, but it’s still important to support people being bullied by work ‘mates’. Call it what you will: harassment, aggression, coercive management, intimidation, or things seen as ‘just a joke’ – all are common labels for what is really bullying. Racial or sexual harassment, or that based on sexuality or disability, may also take the form of bullying. Bullying is any long-standing aggression, physical or psychological, by an individual or group directed against someone who is unable to defend themselves. It is rarely confined to insulting remarks or open aggression, but can be subtle, devious, often taking place when there are no witnesses, and be difficult to confront for those whose confidence and self esteem have been worn down. It is a myth that only quiet or ‘weak’ people will
be victimised since a bully will also pick on the popular or successful if they’re perceived as a threat. Widespread bullying by bosses is hardly
surprising in world which is structured hierarchically – the rich living off the working class, men dominating women, adults abusing children… Work is similarly organised, to control the behaviour of workers with management positions providing the perfect situation for bullying.

Bullies tend to surround themselves with supporters, spies and ‘court jesters’ while cultivating allies in senior management. The bully will create
rivalries in the workforce, as people anxiously fight to stay in their favour, creating a divisive culture which brings out the worst in people. To be ‘in’ with a bully can seem the best way to survive, and cover any feelings of inadequacy by displacing these on to others, through siding with the bully’s aggression. But as long as a bully feels that they can get away with it they will continue.

A living nightmare

Being bullied makes people feel vulnerable, isolated and frustrated, and may lead to stress related illnesses like constant headaches, loss of weight, ulcers or kidney problems. It affects relationships with family and friends: “Bill gradually became quiet and withdrawn. I knew that it had something to do with work, but whenever I tried to make him talk about it, he became very irritable. He lost weight, too, and lost interest in everything. He would sleep for hours on end… for three years there was no laughter in our house.”

Those being bullied often feel ashamed and that they must have done something to deserve it, which opens them to more bullying.

Spotting bullying

Spotting what’s going on early puts you in a much stronger position. Problems often arise when a person is new or recently promoted. The earliest sign is that a relationship at work doesn’t feel right: is your boss responding to you in a different way; do you feel put down by belittling remarks or continual criticisms of your work, even though the standard hasn’t changed; are you beginning to feel that supposed mistakes are all your fault? Other signs are constant assessment, useless errands, false complaints, persistent humiliation in front of others, and a boss’s inability to admit they could be wrong.

A bully will try to get rid of someone they perceive as a threat; not promoting able people, taking credit for others’ ideas or work, or alternatively not giving enough work or responsibility and then claiming laziness or lack of initiative.


In dealing with bullying it is important not to be undermined and try to remain positive, though this is easier said than done. Try to take responsibility for your feelings and behaviour, keep things in perspective and don’t let it dominate your life. However deflated you feel, make time to do stuff you enjoy. Talk things over with friends, many of them will have had a similar experience. You could try self-defence or assertiveness training, as this may help you cope better.

Initial tactics: stand firm against verbal attacks – tell the bully you won’t tolerate personal remarks. Keep calm and say what has to be said quietly
and coherently, and if they try to shout you down, just repeat yourself and keep doing so until they listen (or more likely walk off). If instructions are unclear, ask for written clarification, suggesting this will improve your performance; this can be useful as evidence. Remain confident in your own judgement and ability. Avoid being alone with the bully if you can.

The law

There’s no specific legislation dealing with bullying at work. Employers have a legal duty to protect employees’ health and consult safety reps about health and safety matters, which includes bullying as it’s a workplace stress. Safety reps have legal rights: to inspect the workplace and to take up health and safety complaints, with paid time off for their functions. Bullying involving a sexual racial or disability aspect may be challenged under the Sex
Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976, or Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Unions should have policies to deal with bullying, making clear that it will not be tolerated. The complaints procedure should set out on what basis the bully may be suspended pending the results of an investigation. Independent
counselling should also be available. Bullying is not just some deviant behaviour which can be eliminated by having the correct policies, but such
procedures can form the basis around which to organise (see the excellent Solidarity Federation pamphlet: `Health and Safety at Work’ on overcoming the pitfalls and problems of relying on legislation and the unions – email for more information).

Fighting back

Check your job description isn’t being abused. Keep a detailed diary, including dates, times and locations, of every verbal attack, contrary or arbitrary instruction, or where your competence was questioned. Write to the bully after incidents, challenging them, and keep copies of relevant correspondence and memos. When making a complaint stick to the facts and avoid character assassination. It’s probably a good idea to send copies of your complaint to senior management. Wherever possible, insist on a witness, either a friend or union rep, being present at meetings. Tell your doctor what’s happening as they will usually give you a sick note giving you time to recover and plan your next move. It’s important to state the cause, and name the bully on the sick note as it can be a very important piece of evidence.

Making a complaint may make things worse and lead to increased vindictiveness and being labelled a trouble-maker. Confrontation can be unsafe
when it’s done alone. Bullying usually affects several members of staff, and the more people experiencing it the stronger your case and potential allies. The staff of one school responded to problems with their headmaster by avoiding further argument, keeping silent, and not reacting. The head’s self-satisfied smirk was replaced with a puzzled ‘what are they up to now?’ expression:

“Although this did nothing to alter the practical problems, we felt better because it was no longer the headmaster calling the tune.”

Quietly build solidarity with your colleagues, being careful who you talk to, and when you have enough information use it. Be creative: paste a caricature of them on noticeboards, PCs etc. If desperate deface their notes, property, car etc. with suitably, poignant life questions, but be careful, remember CCTV and don’t get caught. If you need assistance you can contact
SolFed: using an outside group can be very effective, assuring anonymity, but it’s no replacement for solidarity at work.

Last resort

As a last resort you can always resign and try to prove to an employment tribunal that you were forced to leave due to intolerable conditions. You must be employed for one year and will need a detailed log of the abuse to be able to claim ‘constructive dismissal’. Tribunals will examine particular recorded incidents of abuse but their main interest is in whether the correct procedures were followed. A request for an acceptable reference can be built into a winning claim. Compensation varies. In an out-of-court settlement won by Unison, a social worker in Scotland in 1996 received £66,000 after being forced to retire through ill health, caused by bullying by her superior. A health visitor was awarded £5,000 damages in 1997 from North East Thames Community Care NHS Trust, after persistent undermining by a nursing manager.

Organising against bullying can have a knock-on effect and help build wider confidence and solidarity in the workplace as Bob, a postal worker,
explains:”Management are constantly trying to get information out of us so they can make cuts and increase profits but we do everything we can to sabotage their efficiency drives. It’s our knowledge and experience which one day will be used to transform our working lives for the benefit of all. In the meantime, we have an ongoing guerrilla campaign on our hands… and that includes against union bureaucrats along with the bosses. Sure, we are not as solid as we would all like, but the basic uncooperative attitude is always there.”

Written by the Red & Black Club, Part of the Solidarity Federation.



By Dr Stewart Hase

Guest author Dr Stewart Hase is a registered psychologist and has a doctorate in organisational behaviour as well as a BA, Diploma of Psychology, and a Master of Arts (Hons) in psychology.

There is a conspiracy of silence when it comes to workplace bullying. In the many thousands of words recently written about bullying at work in the local press the conspiracy has been maintained.

A conspiracy of silence occurs when everyone knows that bad behaviour is occurring but there is a tacit decision not to talk about it and certainly not to do anything. It was first used to describe incest in families and, more recently, other forms of abuse. People don’t do anything because they don’t want to rock the boat, to avoid conflict, and because it is just too hard. Sadly, by not speaking up or doing anything the observers validate the perpetrator and invalidate the victim.

As I have often seen in clinical practice, the effect of these conspiracies on the victims is monstrous. The victim feels as if he or she is somehow at fault, they are confused, and feel alone and unsupported. Most importantly they come to feel powerless and it is this that results in anxiety and depression, the most common effects of being bullied.

In all that is written about bullying at work there are two major conspiracies of silence that result in enormous pain and suffering for victims. It also seems that workmates who see the bullying can also be badly affected resulting in significant symptoms on their part too.

The first gaping silence is that senior managers in organisations prefer not to do anything about bullies. This conspiracy of silence occurs despite the fact that bullying is against the law and CEOs and boards of directors are in fact culpable by not acting. It is interesting to watch an organisation move a victim of bullying to another branch or even another job, and leave the bully in place: even after admitting openly that the bullying has occurred. Sometimes, it is easier to call a case of bullying a personality conflict and call in a mediator. The damage these behaviours do to the victim is enormous.

It’s also common to blame the victim. This is easy because the bullied worker has repeatedly made complaints, as instructed by the legislation and the bullying literature that is laying on the coffee table in the CEO’s waiting area. The victim, who has become increasingly distressed over time, can be simplistically labelled as unstable or over-sensitive: a troublemaker. Let’s not forget too that bullies often pick on already vulnerable people who might have a reputation already for being oversensitive.

There have been some notorious bullies in organisations in and around Lismore that have been allowed to get away with bullying behaviour time and time again: I have seen many of their victims at the clinic. Many of these bullies get promoted. There are also large numbers of senior managers that know that their staff are being bullied but do nothing. Under the legislation they are just as culpable as the bully and their organisation can be fined many thousands of dollars. But they still engage in the conspiracy and more often than not put the fox in charge of the chook shed.

The preferred personality profile of a successful manager (or one on the way up) appears to be someone who is aggressive, dominant, single minded, achievement-oriented, and task focused. Throw in a little pinch of narcissism, low empathy for others and an unsatisfied need for power and this is a nasty recipe for bullying behaviour. These are not easy people to deal with which makes it so much easier to turn the blind eye. Bullies often appear so good at their job and they create the right relationships with the right people to protect themselves.

And it happens every day in organisations in which we all work. In a recent case a colleague of mine was told by the human resource manager of her organisation that it would be better to let a case of bullying drop because it was against a very senior manager. The reason being that the consequences would not be worth it in the end.

The other conspiracy involves an unholy alliance between the organisation and the insurance company. Despite the pretty advertisements insurance companies want to avoid liability. To do this they will find any excuse to blame the victim rather than make the workplace deal with the problem. Everyone’s a winner: the insurance company doesn’t have to pay out and the organisation’s premiums are protected.

The main way this is done is to find a pre-existing condition in the victim such as a history of previous abuse, anxiety, depression, previous bullying or any other negative behaviour. This is then used as a means of blaming the victim. This is easy to do by running an unbalanced investigation and being highly selective with ‘the evidence’.  For someone who has genuinely been bullied at work this outcome is extremely damaging.

It is time for the conspiracies of silence to be broken. Those with the power to act need to make the hard decision and deal with the perpetrator rather than leaving it up to the victim who is already disempowered.

Stewart blogs at


Here is an important article from the American website Bench and Bar Minnesota about how bullying is being outlawed ibn other parts of the world.

Research on workplace bullying began in the 1980s, when Swedish psychiatrist
Heinz Leymann concluded that a kind of long-term hostile behaviour practitioners had observed in school children also occurred in the workplace.  Leymann dubbed  the phenomenon “mobbing.”  Leymann’s work led to the development of anti-bullying legislation in Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Quebec.

France’s 2002 Social Modernization Law authorizes fines and imprisonment for “moral harassment.”  The law targets repeated acts having the intent or effect of degrading the employee’s working conditions by impairing the employee’s rights and dignity, affecting the employee’s physical or mental health, or compromising the employee’s future career. Labour Code provisions of the law punish moral harassment with one year in prison and/or 3,750 euros; while the Penal Code aspects of the law subject an offender to one year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros.

Quebec’s 2004 anti-bullying legislation provides civil remedies.  In 2004, Quebec amended its Labour Code to ban “psychological harassment,” termed “vexatious behavior in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct … that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee.”  A harassed employee may file an administrative complaint.  The responsible agency may order equitable remedies or award indemnity for lost wages or loss of employment, punitive and “moral damages.”

The Canadian Parliament rejected a similar law in 2004. In 2007, the European Union’s social partnership organizations (business and labour groups that negotiate EU employment policy) signed a “framework agreement” obligating
its members to implement a zero tolerance policy on status-blind workplace
harassment.  This agreement sets training, investigation and management
guidelines for workplace bullying.

U.S. Legislative Movement

The anti-bullying lobby in this country has attempted to build on the
international legislative momentum.  Suffolk University Law School Professor
David C. Yamada drafted model anti-bullying legislation termed the “Healthy
Workplace Act.”9  The act creates a cause of action for subjecting an employee
to an “abusive work environment.”  Legislators in California, Oklahoma, Oregon,
New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Washington, Montana, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri and Massachusetts have introduced some version of Yamada’s proposed act in the past five years.

The act defines “abusive work environment” as follows:

An abusive work environment exists when the defendant, acting with malice, subjects the complainant to abusive conduct so severe that it causes tangible harm to the complainant.

Complex definitions flesh out this term.  For example, “malice” is:

the desire to see another person suffer psychological, physical, or economic harm, without legitimate cause or justification.  Malice can be inferred from the presence of factors such as:  outward expressions of hostility; harmful conduct inconsistent with an employer’s legitimate business interests; a
continuation of harmful, illegitimate conduct after the complainant requests that it cease or demonstrates outward signs of emotional or physical distress in the face of the conduct; or attempts to exploit the complainant’s known psychological or physical vulnerability.

“Abusive conduct” is “conduct that a reasonable person would find hostile,
offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.”  The
act specifies that a fact-finder should consider “the severity, nature, and
frequency” of the conduct in determining whether it is abusive.  It lists
examples of “abusive conduct”:

  • Repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets;
  • Verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating;
  • The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.

The list is not intended to be exclusive.  The model legislation specifies that a single act is “normally” not enough to represent abusive conduct, but “an
especially severe and egregious act” may be enough.  The act states that
“tangible harm” includes the material impairment of mental or physical health,
as documented by “a competent physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or
psychotherapist” or “competent expert evidence at trial.”

The act creates three affirmative defenses.  The first, modeled on the
Faragher/Ellerth defense in Title VII actions, protects an employer
when it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly remedy actionable
behavior if the complainant unreasonably failed to use “preventive or corrective
opportunities.”  The second applies to a complaint “grounded primarily” on a
negative employment decision “made consistent with an employer’s legitimate
business interests,” such as a termination based on the employee’s inadequate
performance.  The third defense protects against actions “grounded primarily
upon a defendant’s reasonable investigation about potentially illegal or
unethical activity.”

As of this writing, anti-bullying bills had not made it out of legislative committee in the five states in which they were introduced this year (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and Washington).


Oz Outlaws Bullying

Posted: September 9, 2011 in Oz Outlaws Bullying

Here is an article from ABC News in Australia

Parliament set to pass Brodie’s law on bullying

Photo: Brodie Panlock committed suicide
after being bullied by co-workers at a Hawthorn cafe.

Serious bullying is expected to become illegal in Victoria from today.

Brodie Panlock, 19, killed herself in 2006 after enduring daily bullying from colleagues at a Hawthorn cafe where she worked.

Four men were convicted and fined between $10,000 and $45,0000 each, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The owner of the cafe was fined $220,000.

The teenager’s death has prompted an amendment to the state’s stalking laws, known as Brodie’s law.

The change will mean serious workplace and online bullies can be sent to jail for up to 10 years.

The teenager’s mother, Rae Panlock has welcomed the criminalisation of bullying.

“You can’t play with people’s minds and treat them like that and expect not to have some serious consequences,” Mrs Panlock said.

“Now it’s being recognised as a crime and I hope it makes people sit up and think before they engage in this sort of really serious behaviour,” she said.



Posted: September 8, 2011 in Introduction

MAKE BULLYING A CRIME is a political / human rights campaign
which aims to get abuse, bullying and mobbing higher up the political agenda and get bullying stopped in the workplace.

It is time that something happened to the bullies, for in the workplace where bullying occurs in 99% of cases it stops when the target of bullying resigns, goes off sick or commits suicide.


We want Bullying in the Workplace to be made into a criminal offence, where serious bullying results in the perpetrator/s going to prison.

Despite the recent Equality Act outlawing harassment on the grounds of sex, race, sexuality, disability etc harassment is still prevalent. It is up to us targets of abuse to stop it – and WE WILL.

It wasn’t until Race and Sex Discrimination were outlawed that such practices were greatly curbed, we feel that bullying would diminish substantially if it was made a crime.


We aim to help the targets of this abuse by giving them support and advice about their rights, by giving targets the chance to voice their concerns and we help to get bullying stopped. We suggest bullied targets contact us if they require any help (contact details below).


We believe that everyone in the workplace irrespective of their status deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at all times. Employees’ rights should be protected at all times and they need to be aware of their rights.

So we are encouraging workers to come forward and say they are being bullied and that they want bullying outlawed – in this way we can bring bullied targets together so that we know we are not alone when we are being bullied.

Bullying Drags People and the Economy Down

We understand that more than 3 million people at work consider themselves as being bullied, 25% of people report that they have been bullied in the last 5 years and 18.9 million working days are lost every year as a direct result of workplace bullying, losing £4billion to industry as victims take time off work. (Statistics from the Andrea Adams Trust Appeal).

We know that bullying in the workplace lowers employees’ morale and can cause stress and sickness, which costs the UK economy, directly and indirectly, up to £30billion per year.

We want politicians to recognise that the violations of employees’ rights has a negative effect on society and it is the suffering caused to the targets of bullying we want stopped.

Bullying at work has to stop and, as with Race Discrimination and Sex Discrimination, it will be stopped when the law forbids it.

For people who are interested in our services or what to volunteer to help please
contact us at:

Email: or Mob:  07810 025818