Do you feel bullied by someone in a position of some authority?
Write to a senior figure in the organisation where the bully is employed or contracted in. Ask for a copy of their organisation/company anti-bullying policy. Also ask for a copy of the organisation/company policy (they are required to have one by law). Ask also for a copy of the official job description of the individual concerned. Lastly, ask for confirmation in writing that the corporation/company does not tolerate discrimination and will take action against employees who discriminate in contravention of national and international law.
You will of course receive an anti-bullying statement saying they have a zero tolerance policy. You will also have it confirmed that not only does that organisation observe all human rights laws but that it is written into the bully’s job description.
Note that whenever an employee steps outside the written confines of their job description then they are acting on their own and personally liable for their actions. That is why job descriptions exist! That alone is ground for serious complaint against an individual.
Generally the anti-bullying policy will offer a zero tolerance policy resulting in disciplinary action or sacking for anyone breaching it. Most of these anti-bullying policies have large omissions though. They may only refer to bullying of staff by members of the public. They may include children or other such special vulnerable people. They will invariably not include a definition of the word ‘bullying’ or mention the rest of us unwashed peasants being protected from bullying.
We suggest that whenever there is an absence of a definition in an anti policy you refer to the Health & Safety Executive definitions:
Bullying at work can take many forms – some can be directed at you personally, others relate to work activities
There is no legal definition of workplace bullying. However, experts believe that bullying involves negative behaviour being targeted at an individual, or individuals, repeatedly and persistently over time.
Negative behaviour includes:
- Ignoring or excluding you
- Giving you unachievable tasks or ’setting you up to fail’
- Spreading malicious rumours or gossip
- Giving you meaningless tasks or unpleasant jobs
- Making belittling remarks
- Undermining your integrity
- Withholding information deliberately
- Making you look stupid in public
- Undervaluing your contribution –not giving credit where it is due
I’m sure you’ll agree this is a comprehensive and useful definition to base a complaint upon? How many of these apply every time you deal with some public or private corporation by phone or letter? Now, realistically, which organisation or company is going to argue with the HSE? Trust us, when the HSE says “jump!”, it would be a foolhardy organisation or company that argued with them… If the HSE define a word it would be foolhardy to challenge that definition.
The HSE are limited in their jurisdiction but you can try and ask them to intervene in a private matter, much as you would if you suffered any other harm, loss or injury as a result of corporate negliglence or misconduct. Good luck with that….
Where is the fun, though, in running to these agencies and quangos like a big kid hoping someone will sort out your life for you? Its always better to ‘have a go’ yourself. You’ll learn more and get experience in dealing with these guys as an equal.
Once you have all this information (you can use http://www.whatdotheyknow.com to lodge a freedom of information request (FOIR) with the offending organisation or company as long as you are only asking for generic public documents as listed above) you then write back to their Managing Director or Chief Executive or whoever the head honcho is. They are the directing mind (important phrase!) of the business and therefore carry personal liability for the activities of the organisation or company that is operating under their direction. Ask whether the company discriminates – in that it does not provide equal protection to employees as it does its customers against bullying. Surely, under Human Rights protections we all have the right to be treated equally and therefore we, the ‘customers’, can insist that the organisation or company treats with equal rights and protections as for their own employees.
It would be a very silly man or woman that would admit to discrimination as they would be creating information that would be very damaging to that company if made public. It is also potentially a very damaging civil or criminal case against them. They will either try not to answer or will fend you off with waffle. Keep at it and demand a straight response. If the company has shareholders, write to them and ask them what they feel about the subject. There are various ways to bring pressure to bear to get a response. Note that a lack of response is, according to the HSE definition, above, just further evidence of a policy of bullying the public/customers. Keep it a general enquiry and don’t waste time talking about you or your situation. Keep it impartial and professional. Use the absolute minimum of words. Make no accusations at this stage! You are just asking for an official organisation or company statement. Keep emotion out of it!
Now, you can start making formal complaints and accusations!
Write to the head honcho with a timeline of all the bullying events against you. If you are a member of society that does obviously have increased protections under human rights legislation (elderly, disabled, an ethnic minority, a female etc) then feel free to mention that. Its more leverage. You are now ‘demanding’ and ‘requiring’ a full internal investigation and report. Do not ask for one. Demand it! Let them know you are copying all these communications to the Dignity Alliance, a journalist, and your MP. Let them know this is not going to go away and you are deadly serious. If you can get a letter from an MP supporting your complaint then include that. The more pressure/leverage you can bring to bear, the better.
These organisations and companies spend a fortune creating a good brand image and protecting that image. You have now put them and their brand in a bad place. Individual employees will quickly be sacrificed if its in the interests of the organisation or company. The senior guys will quickly find a junior scapegoat to punish if it looks like they be personally dragged into something so potentially damaging to their corporate reputation and career. Have no mercy. Bullies deserve no mercy! Demand action be taken against the individual employee responsible but do always! leave an exit door for their bosses to reach a compromise or agreement with you. For example, you will be satisfied if immediate and appropriate action is taken against the individual bully and if company policy is tightened up to stop it happening again. That sort of thing…
Words to use are ‘negligence’ and ‘breach of policy’. The head honcho has a duty (hence can be found negligent if in breach of that duty) to ensure adequate provisions are in place to stop bullying and human rights breaches, and to ensure that company policy is observed. If any of the bullying events did in fact breach company policies and/or the law, then that is also actionable in a court of law. Generally, you will find these guys will back down under pressure as it’s cheaper and less embarrassing dealing with it privately than taking the issue out into the fickle public arena of a public court.
If they do decide to fight then you have developed a pretty strong case to take to court yourself as a self-litigant or to take to a decent solicitor. This will cost the organisation/ company a lot of money. They will balance the benefits of going to court against the liabilities. As a self-litigant you are in a strong case as your actual costs are minimal. They can’t hope you will run out of lawyer money. Also, don’t forget you are developing a file that will be damaging to their image. Isn’t this now a case of the organisation or company bullying you to protect one of their bully staff?
You have that trump card of bad publicity up your sleeve. Don’t play it too early. Don’t use it if you do a deal with the company. If you decide the time is right to damage their public image then choose how you do it wisely and take some advice if you haven’t done it before.
If enough of us use this simple, risk free way of reminding these organisations and companies that the customer is not going to stand for being bullied then we can start to en masse change the culture of nastiness and bullying that – let us not forget – can lead to people taking their own lives and other lives being wrecked. Debt recovery is a specific example…
Lastly, please do not use this to try and fiddle a few quid out of an organisation or company. The idea is to use methods that are positive and get positive results that will help everyone else. If you think this is an easy way to make money then you are no better than the bullies and have no dignity.
Please post your results in the comments section for others to read.