Workplace bullying is ruining a growing number of people's lives. We look at how it can be stopped
Bullying at work is on the increase. Research by the University of Manchester Institution of Science and Technology shows that out of 5300 employees in 70 organisations interviewed, 47% reported witnessing bullying over a five-year period. One in 10 people said they had been bullied in the previous six months and one in four said they had been bullied at some point since 1995.

Tim Field, who runs the Bully Online website to help victims of workplace bullies, is not surprised by the trend. "Since I set up my website six years ago I have been inundated by people who are suffering at work," Field says. He thinks economic pressures have contributed. "Budgets and resources have been cut, meaning people's workloads are getting heavier, and managers are trying to squeeze more out of them."

Suspect you're being bullied?

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Are you unfairly singled out for criticism?
  • Are you expected to take on more work than others at the same level within the company?

  • Are you facing racist, sexist, homophobic or ageist jokes or comments?

  • Do you feel that someone is abusing their position of power over you?

  • Does someone make personal or inappropriate comments to or about you on a regular basis?

  • Is a colleague's attitude affecting your ability to do your job?

What should you do?
"The first thing to do is realise it is bullying. Do not keep telling yourself it is your fault or that you are imagining it," says Field. "Those who are being targeted should tell the bully that they are unhappy with how they are being treated. You should inform your line manager, but this is not always possible, as they are often the bully. So tell your human resources department, and if there is a union, let your rep know."

Although there is no specific UK legislation to protect against bullying, your solicitor or trade union can advise you about the legal options. "Keep a diary of events, and a copy of all phone, email and text messages," says Field. "That will back up your case in any initial discussions, and also if you have to make a formal complaint and initiate a grievance procedure, or go to an employment tribunal."

However, sometimes it may be best just to walk away, says Field: "If the bullying becomes unbearable and your employer is doing nothing to combat it, then the most pragmatic thing is to change jobs; it's a positive decision not to have your career and life ruined or your health destroyed."

After all, if your employer refuses to take your problems seriously, do you want to continue to work for them? There are plenty of other firms out there who treat their workers with respect.

People’s workloads are getting heavier, and managers are trying to squeeze more out of them