Some early warning signs may include:
- the working relationship feels different from any you have previously experienced;
- you are being persistently ‘got at’;
- your work is being criticised even though you know that your standards have not slipped; and
- you start beginning to question whether these mistakes you are supposed to have made really are your fault.
If this is an accurate picture of what is happening to you at work, reflect on what has happened in the recent past and consider the following:
- what has changed?
- do you have a new boss?
- do you work for two bosses and there is tension between them?
- has pressure on your current boss increased?
- have you recently changed jobs?
- are your objectives being repeatedly altered?
- have you been asked to do things outside your job description?
- are you under more personal scrutiny?
- are you feeling less involved?
If you feel you are being bullied or harassed, there are a number of options to consider. It is always worthwhile trying to resolve a matter informally and at an early stage before the matter escalates. The most important issue is getting help and taking constructive steps through formal or informal routes. Writing a diary of problems and building up evidence is not recommended as a means of resolving conflict. The following steps should be considered:
- if you are able to do so, tell the person to stop whatever it is they are doing that is causing you distress as they might not realise what effect their behaviour or actions is having on you - if you find this difficult you could ask someone else to act on your behalf
- talk to your manager or, if it is about your manager, speak to someone in HR or another manager or partner in the firm. We recognise this can be difficult, particularly if these people are seen by you as part of your employers’ management structure, and that in smaller organisations you may feel that there is no one else you can talk to. In these cases we strongly recommend that you contact LawCare and ask them for help and support on resolving this matter informally.
- larger employers may have confidential employee support schemes you could access.
- find out if there is access to mediation or staff who are trained in conflict resolution or dealing with matters at an early stage;
- if you have exhausted informal options or you don’t consider this can be dealt with informally and you decide to make a formal complaint, follow your employer’s procedure. Your employer is required to have a grievance procedure, so this should be available to you.
- if you have raised a formal complaint then keep copies of anything that is relevant, for instance letters, memos, notes of meetings or emails.
A free confidential helpline, entirely independent from the Society but funded by us to support our members. LawCare can also come to your faculty and provide CPD (at a small fee covering only transport and materials) on bullying and harassment, stress, and other issues. Contact: www.lawcare.org.uk, 0800 279 6888
ACAS provides guidance for employers and employees on bullying and harassment at work. They also have trained mediators. Contact: 08457 47 47 47; www.acas.org.uk
We run a free, confidential helpline for trainee solicitors. Contact: 0131 476 8162