Is it really bullying?

Sometimes the word bullying is absolutely the right way to describe what is happening, as in this picture.


I was bullied in my first job as a 16 year old. 


When my old boss thought I was doing something wrong, he just punched me around the head. On two occasions in fact, he knocked me to the ground and stood over me laughing.


I don’t think anybody would argue that targeted physical assault in the workplace isn’t bullying. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a particularly pleasant environment to be around.


Sometimes, though, things aren’t quite so clear cut.


“Bullying” is the second most common word I see when I read grievances and there is definitely a growing trend in the use of the word.


It isn’t because the word is suddenly becoming more fashionable - it’s because there are (unsurprisingly) increasing pressures on people and organisations - and there’s a continued lack of ability to nip issues in the bud.


If “bullying” is the second most common word I see in grievances, what’s number one?


“A lack of evidence to prove” is the most frequently occurring phrase I read in grievance outcomes and appeals.


What a fantastic conclusion - that really helps both people put the issue behind them and move forward - not! 


The “victim” feels that the company haven’t taken them seriously and will now look for other avenues - usually going off sick, submitting subject access requests, talking to lawyers, registering complaints to ACAS ready for tribunal, etc.


The “accused” usually feels vindicated in their behaviours - the company have done a thorough investigation and they have found no evidence to prove they did anything wrong. They’re OK to carry on as they have been. They’re angry and upset by the allegation and feel they want to raise a counter grievance.


Not exactly the perfect recipe for building a harmonious working relationship. You almost guarantee that It won’t end well!


Often it’s at this stage companies contact us because they don’t know what to do - whether it’s bullying, discrimination or other claims.


96% of our cases result in a mutual resolution.


Why? Because when people are able to talk, listen and understand each other properly they see things more clearly.


Some of the most common phrases we hear in mediations are “well, maybe bullying was too harsh but they need to understand how they’re making me feel”.


This is the foundation to a much better and productive conversation.


Addressing somebody’s performance isn’t bullying but it can be perceived that way.


Managing absence isn’t bullying but it can be perceived that way.


Being frustrated isn’t bullying but it can be perceived that way.


Remember that perceptions are one person’s reality.


Talking and listening helps people understand perspectives.


When people understand perspectives they can usually move forward.


That’s why mediation is so successful and we get the results they do.


It’s good to talk!



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