We all need to stand up and speak out against bullying, but if you are a victim it’s difficult to find the strength and confidence to challenge it. Bullying in the workplace can really destroy self-esteem. Bullies often make you feel like you are at fault, so you don’t feel justified in complaining, or in challenging their behaviour.
As chair of Spectrum, our LGBT staff group, I have a particular interest in this issue. Stonewall reports that around a quarter of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff in health and social care settings say they have personally experienced bullying, or poor treatment from colleagues, in the last five years, as a result of their sexual orientation.
This is a shocking statistic and we all need to do more to stamp out bullying. The effects can be long lasting, leaving the victim with continuing psychological distress, and a total lack of motivation. I’m proud of the work we do to combat discrimination, promoting diversity and celebrating our LGBT community, but we should never become complacent.
There’s no doubt that being out and proud disempowers bullies.
If we have nothing to hide we don’t feel as vulnerable. We have the law on our side and more and more people find it unacceptable to bully or discriminate against people from the LGBT community.
Our straight allies are a fantastic support network. Standing up as allies of their LGBT colleagues goes a long way towards combatting homophobic or transphobic bullying at work. I certainly feel confident that my colleagues would support me if they witnessed any attempts to bully me based on my sexuality.
Bullying today is often more insidious with the filter of technologies such as social networking and mobile phones. So we need to be more vigilant and be able to spot the signs of bullying in whatever form it occurs. We need a collective responsibility for changing attitudes and behaviours. Our policies need to be clear on what constitutes bullying. And we need to be robust in our reporting procedures, to make sure that real change can happen. But alongside this we need to continue to create inclusive workplaces, where people can be themselves, without fear of bullying or discrimination.
Bullying can affect anyone in almost any setting. As a manager I have personally dealt with bullying and have witnessed the devastating impact it can have on colleagues. We all need a zero tolerance attitude towards bullying to empower colleagues to challenge it without fear of recrimination.
In November alone, 14.5 million people in the UK will hear offensive remarks about LGBT people. But only a third will do something about it. So let’s be brave, be heard and be kind. Not just during anti bullying week but throughout the year, at home, at work and at play.