How to deal with bullying

A Social Work Union Guide

Question:
My manager shouted at me in front of the whole team, I felt really embarrassed. I feel really uncomfortable when I am around my team manager as a result of this. I’m not sure whether it actually constitutes bullying. What can I do about it?

Answer:
The first thing to recognise is how you feel about what happened – you are important and you do not deserve to be treated in that manner. It is totally unacceptable for anyone to shout at you, and this does constitute bullying.

Secondly, all good employers take bullying seriously. The better ones will have policies and procedures to tackle it. Always check any procedures first, and if you are comfortable with them, follow the due process. You should familiarise yourself with your employer’s policy and procedure on bullying and harassment. The better procedures give you list of potential acts of bullying. It is important that you are aware that a single inappropriate act can constitute bullying. Most people are of the misconception that bullying needs to be an ongoing issue, but this is simply incorrect.

Having read the relevant polices, you have to decide what you want to do about the matter. One option is to instigate the policy procedure and make a formal complaint. However, it is always best to try to resolve the issue informally in the first instance. If you are up to it you may want to meet with the team manager and make clear how you feel and that you regard his/her action as bullying.

As the incident occurred in front of your colleagues, we would insist that the manager offers you both a personal and public apology in front of the team. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with your manager alone, you could ask a colleague to accompany you or you could email them instead.

If the above does not bring about the desired results you can resort to the formal policy procedure. If you decide to do this and to approach BASW to support you, your case would be allocated to an Advice and Representation officer. This case officer will attend all meetings with you, and provide support and advice throughout the process.

It’s often quite a formal and uncomfortable process. For this reason, you may wish to highlight the problem and the advice you’ve had from BASW with a view to resolving it informally. If there is a way of resolving it informally, it is often well worth considering. Provided you have been a BASW member for three months and the source of the problem does not pre-date your membership then we will be pleased to offer you representation if you need it. Even if you don’t qualify for representation, we are always happy to advise and there is a duty officer available every weekday during office hours.

You may, however, decide to do nothing and if inaction is right for you then the A&R team will not judge you, but will continue to support and advise. Indeed, you may not feel strong enough right now or simply choose for other reasons to not address the issue, either formally or informally. If this is what you have decided to do, we would advise you to ensure you do the following:

1. Keep a log of this and any other incident that could be construed as bullying.

2. Try to record all communication about these instances – sending emails or memos where necessary, and retaining an evidence trail of relevant communications received.

3. Keep safe – if the behaviour continues, then ask for three-way meetings.

4. Keep yourself healthy – many recipients of bullying end up suffering from work related stress, sometimes leading to secondary complaints; for example, as this might have an impact on your performance your manager may raise a complaint about you.

5. Keep the A&R team updated.

Published : 2nd January 2012*

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* Although BASW has prepared the information contained within Social Work Knowledge with all due care and updates the information regularly, BASW does not warrant or represent that the information is free from errors or omission. Whilst the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. The information may change without notice and BASW is not in any way liable for the accuracy of any information printed and stored or in any way interpreted and used by a user.