Workplace bullying

In the final part of his series, Dr Eddie Murphy of Operation Transformation examines workplace bullying and what you can be do if you feel you are a victim in your job.

In the final part of his series, Dr Eddie Murphy of Operation Transformation examines workplace bullying and what you can be do if you feel you are a victim in your job.

Mary says: My boss in work is constantly joking about my weight. I try to laugh along but it’s really getting at me, and I want to call in sick nearly every day as a result. How can I get him to stop without losing my job or sounding like I don’t have a sense of humour?

First of all lets name this, its bullying. Workplace bullying is on the increase. To be precise “Workplace Bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.

What does bullying in the workplace look like?

* Repeated hurtful remarks or attacks, or making fun of your work or you as a person (including your family, sex, sexuality, gender identity, race or culture, education or economic background).

* Sexual harassment, particularly stuff like unwelcome touching and sexually explicit comments and requests that make you uncomfortable.

* Excluding you or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to your work.

* Playing mind games, ganging up on you, or other types of psychological harassment.

* Intimidation (making you feel less important and undervalued).

* Giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job.

* Giving you impossible jobs that can’t be done in the given time or with the resources provided.

* Deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to make it difficult for you.

* Deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly.

* Pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the workplace 

How bullying can affect your work

If you are being bullied at work you might:

* Be less active or successful.

* Lack confidence and happiness about yourself and your work.

* Feel scared, stressed, anxious or depressed 

* Have your life outside of work affected, e.g. study, relationships 

* Want to stay away from work

* Feel like you can’t trust your employer or the people who you work with

* Have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches, sleep problems

Top Seven Tips You Can Do

1.Make sure you’re informed. Check to see if your workplace has a bullying policy and complaints procedure.

2.Keep a diary. Documenting everything that happens, including what you’ve done to try stopping it. This can help if you make a complaint.

3.Get support from someone you trust or contact support services.  

4.Tell someone at your work. Your workplace will usually have a process for making a complaint and resolving disputes, which might include a warning, requiring the bully to have counselling, a mediation process, or even firing the bully if the situation continues. The person to talk to might be your supervisor/manager, a harassment contact officer, or a health and safety representative (if your work has one).  

5.Get information and advice. If the bullying is serious, if the situation has not changed after complaining to your manager, or if there is not anyone you can safely talk to at work you can get outside information and advice. 

6.Informal Route ---- Approach the bully. If you feel safe and confident, you can approach the person who is bullying you and tell them that their behaviour is unwanted and not acceptable. If you are unsure how to approach them, you might be able to get advice from an appointed contact person, or from a colleague or manager. In Mary’s case an assertive (not aggressive manner) Mary explained clearly to her boss that when he makes jokes about her weight that she find this unacceptable, bullying and hurtful.

7.Formal Route If an informal approach is inappropriate or if after the informal stage, the bullying persists, you should do the following you need to make a formal complaint in writing to your boss line manager outlining the precise details of actual incidents of bullying - actual words, when these were said.

Given that a bullying boss is exposing the organisation to a potential legal process line managers should quickly address this. If you feel that your complaint about bullying has not been dealt with properly by your employer, one of the following options may also be available to you:

Unfair dismissal: If the bullying becomes unbearable and you are forced to leave your job, you may be entitled to claim constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2007.

This means that although you left your job voluntarily, in reality you were forced to do so because of the way that you were being treated. It is recommended that you should obtain legal advice about your rights before leaving your job. Complaints under the Employment Equality Acts and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act must be brought within 6 months. This time limit can be increased to 12 months if “reasonable cause” for the delay can be shown. Check out

I would recommend that you do some work on assertiveness and / or a course on Dealing With Bullying In The Workplace, at the Anti-Bullying Centre Trinity College Dublin.

Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychology and counselling practice in Portarlington, helping with panic attacks, anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD, etc for children, adults and families. Call 087 1302899 or visit

As well as his counselling practice, Dr Eddie does talks, training and workshops for school, community, voluntary, sporting and work groups. Call 087 1302899 or visit