What can you do?

Site updated on February 17, 2020

Bullying and harassment are often clear cut but sometimes people are unsure whether or not the way they are being treated is acceptable. If this applies to you there are a number of things to consider, including:

  • has there been a change of management or organisational style to which you just need time to adjust – perhaps because you have a new manager or work requirements?
  • is there an organisational statement of standards of behaviour that you can consult?
  • can you talk over your worries with your personnel/HR manager, your line manager/supervisor, union representative or colleagues, who you may find share your concerns?
  • can you agree changes to workload or ways of working that will make it easier for you to cope?

If you are sure you are being bullied or harassed, then there are a number of options to consider, and these are set out below. You should take any action you decide upon as quickly as possible.

Let your union or staff representative know of the problem, or seek advice elsewhere, – an Acas enquiry point or one of the bullying helplines that are now available by phone and on the Internet, or call our Advice Line

Try to talk to colleagues to find out if anyone else is suffering, or if anyone has witnessed what has happened to you – avoid being alone with the bully.

If you are reluctant to make a complaint, go to see someone with whom you feel comfortable to discuss the problem. This may be your manager, or someone in HR/ personnel (particularly if there is someone who specifically deals with equality issues), your trade union representative, or a counsellor if your organisation has suitably trained people available. Some Employers have an Employee Assistance Programme Рif they do, make use of it.

Keep a diary of all incidents – records of dates, times, any witnesses, your feelings, etc. Keep copies of anything that is relevant, for instance annual reports, letters, memos, notes of any meetings that relate to your ability to do your job. Bullying and harassment often reveal themselves through patterns of behaviour and frequency of incidents. Keep records and inform your employer of any medical help you seek.

Tell the person to stop whatever it is they are doing that is causing you distress, otherwise they may be unaware of the effect of their actions. If you find it difficult to tell the person yourself, you may wish to get someone else – a colleague, trade union official or confidential counsellor – to act on your behalf, or to accompany you.

If you cannot confront the bully, consider writing a memo to them to make it clear what it is you object to in their behaviour. Keep copies of this and any reply.

Be firm, not aggressive. Be positive and calm. Stick to the facts. Describe what happened.

If you do decide to make a formal complaint, follow your employer’s procedures, which should give you information about who to complain to and how your complaint will be dealt with. Try and be constructive, and if possible suggest ways of helping to resolve the problems.

If you have access to a union representative or other adviser, ask them to help you state your grievance clearly, as this can help in its resolution and reduce the stress of the process. Most employers have a grievance procedure which will be used to handle your complaint, and some organisations have special procedures for dealing with bullying or harassment. After investigating your complaint, your employer may decide to offer counselling or take disciplinary action against the bully/harasser in accordance with the organisation’s disciplinary procedure. You are not entitled to know the outcome of any disciplinary action taken.

Disciplinary procedures may also be used for disciplinary action against someone who makes an unfounded allegation of bullying or harassment.

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