I work in recruitment, which can be quite a boisterous, sales-like atmosphere. I handle it well – I give as good as I get and I’m respected by my colleagues. But there is a man in his forties who works on our floor and I can see that he is being bullied by some of the rowdier lads on the team. There is always a lot of banter; most of it I ignore, but over the past few weeks I’ve realised that this is, in fact, a definite case of workplace bullying. They steal his bag and throw it in the bins outside our office, set up fake lunch venues with him and even call his mum and embarrass him. He is a very sweet, harmless, hard-working guy, but because I don’t run in their circle, I’m worried that any intervention from me would only make things worse for him. And our boss is part of the problem; he advocates all this banter. It makes me feel awful and I feel like I can’t watch it any longer. How can I do something that will actually help? Natalie
The clarity of this situation actually makes it simpler. This is a business issue, not a personal one: your employer is potentially breaking the law.
Technically, under the Equality Act 2010, bullying at work is not illegal but harassment is. The difference is that harassment is based upon some point of difference, such as age, sex, race or disability. I suspect that your colleague might have some form of special needs when you describe him as ‘harmless’ and also mention the involvement of his mother.
Your boss is definitely part of the problem b ythe sounds of it, so you need to go to the level above him. This will involve your company’s human resources people. If your company does not already have a policy on bullying and harassment, it is misguided. But in the event that it doesn’t, you can also seek impartial external advice from ACAS, or phone its helpline (0300 123 1100). Look at the UK government’s official website for further specific ideas, too.
Thank you for caring enough to raise this issue: you are making an important contribution to a better world, and it’s not every day that any of us can say that.
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