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Bullying & Cyberbullying for Small Charity Employees – What Can You Do?

Bullying remains a significant workplace issue even with an increased awareness of the problem. The change in how we engage with our colleagues and workspaces, has changed the nature in how bullying manifests. Many small charities and not-for-profits do not have an HR department, which is why we want to give members an outline of what bullying can look like in the workplace, what to consider and what to do.


What is Bullying & Cyberbullying?


Bullying, with the birth of the internet, has stretched its arms to reach people far and wide. Cyberbullying can be treated as secondary to in-person bullying, due to physical distance between perpetrator and victim. This does not however lessen the real and palpable harm it can cause. But bullying in the workplace, especially during COVID-19, has changed in nature and there has been an increased workload for HR teams. For clarity, harassment is a term which is defined by being offensive, intrusive, with a sexual racial or physical element. There isn’t however such a singular outline for bullying, but ACAS suggests it’s the following: Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate, or injure the recipient. Examples of bullying and cyber bullying at work could include:

  • someone has spread a false rumour about you

  • someone keeps putting you down or frequently interrupts during virtual and in person meetings

  • your boss keeps giving you heavier workloads than everyone else

  • your team never lets you join social events

  • someone at the same or more junior level as you keep overruling your authority

  • unkind emails

  • repeated and excessive emails from managers.

  • some employees may “hide behind their screens” and not uphold the usual standards expected of them.


What To Consider

Break downs in working relationships are usually through a lack of communication. Speaking with Sonia Wilson, HR consultant from Populo, she explains, “HR Teams are rectifying issues which could have been resolved through management working on stronger team building. By doing this there is going to be less chance of a misunderstanding and misinterpretation’. With most communications being online, understanding different styles of communication and being wary of different priorities and workloads, is something to consider before beginning a formal process. However, it should be your management who is encouraging stronger links between colleagues in the workplace, for example, through team get togethers.

Many small not-for-profits are unable to afford inhouse HR expertise, which will mean that you need to consider what policies are in place. We would recommend that you take a closer look at whether your organisation has a retain or a dignity policy. How you proceed and what support is available is dependent on what your organisation has in place.

What To Do

Linda James MBE is the CEO and Founder of BulliesOut. It is an organisation which provides e-mentoring support and interactive anti-bullying training and workshops for schools and workplaces. Here is her outline of ways in which you should proceed:

Firmly tell the person that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop. You can ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach the person. Keep a factual journal or diary of daily events. Record:

  • The date, time and what happened in as much detail as possible

  • The names of any witnesses

  • The outcome of the incident

Keep copies of any letters, memos, e-mails, faxes, etc., received from the person. Report the harassment to your manager or the relevant person identified in your workplace policy. If your concerns are minimised, proceed to the next level of management. If this doesn’t work, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. If you are being bullied or harassed at work or see it happening to someone else, Speak Out. If you don’t break the silence, who will?”


If you are experiencing bullying in the workplace, in person or online, try to follow the above steps to ensure your being protected and listened to. For further advice take a look at ACAS, CPD or get in touch with Sonia Wilson, for more specialised support.

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