Have You Been Accused of Bullying or Harassment at Work?

- Wednesday, March 09, 2016

We first ran this blog in 2014 and from the number of comments we received, it clearly raised issues that resonated with many of our readers.  So by popular demand here it is again.  We welcome your comments, as always.

Bullying and harassment legislation is in place to protect employees from being bullied by their co-workers. If you have been accused of bullying at work, it’s important to follow company procedure and co-operate with any internal or external investigations.

Although most bullying and harassment claims are legitimate, sometimes accusations can arise from misunderstandings, communication difficulties or can be brought against a manager, co-worker or subordinate out of malice or revenge for a perceived slight.

Accusations of bullying commonly occur where managers or supervisors have provided feedback to an under performing employee, or taken disciplinary measures against them. Management direction isn’t considered bullying, and as long as any actions taken were documented and reasonable, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

If you are managing employees and providing feedback on performance it’s important to document all your discussions, and ensure that any actions you take are in line with organisational policies. This can help protect you against false accusations of bullying, and make the investigation process easier and more straightforward if a situation is escalated.

If you have been accused of bullying at work, it’s important to follow company procedure and co-operate with any internal or external investigations. If you are accused of workplace bullying, even if you don’t believe it’s justified, it’s important to be open-minded and listen to the other person’s perspective. Here are a few suggestions to help you deal with an accusation of bullying or harassment without making the situation worse:

  • Remain calm if someone approaches you about your behaviour. Although it can be extremely upsetting to be accused of bullying, getting angry will only aggravate the situation.
  • If you believe that the accusations are false, speak to a senior level employee or your HR department. In many cases where bullying stems from a misunderstanding, the matter can be resolved with mediation from a third party
  • Be prepared to change your behaviour or style of communication. It may be that a few modifications to your actions or manner of communication is all that’s needed to resolve the situation. It’s important not to get defensive and to stay open to any constructive feedback you receive.

With the recent increased awareness of workplace bullying, more employees are becoming aware of the ability to lodge a bullying complaint, especially if they feel they are likely to lose their job, or as a form of revenge against a supervisor.

To reduce the likelihood of false claims, it’s a good idea for managers to provide training to employees to help them distinguish between normal management direction and actions, and bullying. Many bullying claims are a result of misunderstandings or miscommunication and these can easily be prevented with the right training, clear expectations, performance indicators, and documentation of feedback and disciplinary actions taken against individuals.

False claims can be extremely distressing to the person who is wrongly accused of bullying, and can even be a form of harassment in themselves if they are taken out for malicious purposes.
Anonymous commented on 28-Apr-2015 09:45 AM
"I was accused of bullying at work, I am not sure if this person understands the full meaning of bullying. I am a manager of the department in a hotel . I never shout or humiliate my staff. As a manager I pointed out the area or issues to my staff directly and honestly. It's my job to ensure that their productivity are in high standards quality and yo be completed on time. And now I am accused of bullying her. I feel so upset with this person it is very easy for her to just accuse. Me of bullying her.nw"
Anonymous commented on 28-May-2015 12:50 PM
"I bear the claims of a deceitful professional She had no support from staff, and had a history of unacceptable work performance , when advised she was being considered for termination she submitted a bullying/harassment claim, and she is off so far for 5 months !!. Monkey see Monkey do. She "is" a pay clerk- she commented how easy it was to make compo claims and expressed her jealousy . The employers do the right thing and are prosecuted - where is the personal support for people bullied and harassed by people making false claims. I hope she is hurting because she has caused a lot of pain in her path of destruction to more than just her boss. I think there is more of this than the Compo people care to believe, its easier to process a claim and keep a job than to dismiss."
Anonymous commented on 05-Jul-2015 05:06 AM
"Unfortunately, there ARE people in the workforce who have no idea what bullying truly is. These morons will gladly use the bullying legislation as a weapon against anyone they don't agree with. Completely ignoring the fact that bullying has serious consequences for the TRUE victim. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that there are vile, ill informed workers out there who think its OK to label co-workers, bosses etc as bullies for the sole purpose of either monetary gain or to be seen as a victim."
Anonymous commented on 25-Aug-2015 11:43 AM
"Well I've just been welcomed to the bullying club. A staff member has accused me of bullying them so now being investigated. I don't understand where the complaint gas come from and no one will tell me what the context of the complaint is. I complained about this person to management over a month ago and nothing was done now I'm being labelled a bully..where's the support for us managers! It's just too easy to be able to make these accusations in the workplace these days and not be accountable.. So stressful and really not worth it "
Anonymous commented on 23-Sep-2015 03:27 PM
"I was just terminated from my career for being accused of harassment/bullying. A 4-month employee accused me of teasing her from the state where she was from, lied, said I called her corn-fed, then told HR she asked me to stop teasing her and I didn't. However, this girl spoke to me every single day about personal stuff, showed me pictures on her phone, actually, the day before she filed her complaint on me for brushing my badge against her hair and saying "what's up girly." BTW this girl had to be moved next to me because she had another problem with another employee. HR didn't consider that and I provided them with a two page list of conversations we had and things she told me about. When you feel harassed and bullied, you don't talk to that person daily or invite them to dinner. HR believed everything she said. I'm out of a job, no insurance, my reputation is ruined, I have to fight for unemployment now, and I'll never find another job again. All because of some unknown reason. I offered apologies, a mediation meeting, but was refused. Just devastated. "
Anonymous commented on 29-Sep-2015 04:14 PM
"It is the worse feeling ever being falsely accused by an employee, you feel alone and you lose trust in the human race, specially when you have been there for the accuser from day one! jealousy can destroy, people and end carers.
No one is safe, no support.

The accuser has the upper hand"
Anonymous commented on 03-Oct-2015 12:45 PM
"I have recently been accused of being a bully.
I have been over every conversation I have had with this person and I just don't understand.
I am now scared to talk to any of the other people I manage for fear there will be more claims.
I am at a loss right now.
I am not sleeping properly, I am having nightmares, I saw her car in a shopping centre and kept looking over my shoulder to make sure I didn't bump into her; I didn't want her to add stalking to the list.
She is alleging things that happened in conversations where only her and I were present.
As a victim of bullying at different times of my life and it makes me sick to think someone thinks I am doing that to them.
I broke down at work and the person I was working with was so nice.
I can't concentrate properly and this is affecting my work.
I used to dread walking into work when I knew she was working and held my breath when I would see her pull up.
I love my job and really take my role as a manager seriously.
I want to support the staff and make sure they feel supported.
I just don't know what to do"
Anonymous commented on 05-Oct-2015 09:36 AM
"I have not only been wrongly accused of bullying by a co worker, she had taken legal action against me with the intent of getting me fired. I have not been able to go to work for 3rd week running, have had to incur legal costs of over $3000 to defend myself against lies, and STILL face the possibility of losing my job "
Anonymous commented on 05-Oct-2015 11:59 PM
"Wow the last comment here was pretty sad :(. We have an HR manager who is not very smart unfortunately. She enforces rules that are incorrect - I point out this is incorrect - I am right unfortunately. This has happened repeatedly - I have worked with her and my boss showing them guys this is not correct we have rights as managers it is not just the union that has rights. Again I am right - they checked with the attornies. Now HR has their feelings hurt. She withheld information that I needed on salary info. She kept promising and missing deadlines to deliver the info. I finally just asked for only 1 piece of information - the rest could wait and I have been waiting for a month and just needs only 1 item. Har then accusers me of badgering their work performance! I was dumbfounded - this person has made comments to me that I'm not perfect....that I'm too aggressive and provide them too much information but tells me I guess that's just how you are. Now she is attacking on a personal front and this is totally not personal. I think the boss is aware that this person HR takes things too personally and has even commented to me that she's a bit too thin skinned - but I think he wants to sweep the problem under the rug. Which is fine - apparently he wants to have all : of us talk today - hopefully HR does not make up a bunch of untrue stuff - something tells me that she will / I am gonna suggest a polygraph for both if she starts lying."
Anonymous commented on 14-Oct-2015 03:30 AM
"Apparently, I am not the only one. Yesterday I was suspended from my job, up to two weeks unpaid, pending investigation. I have been (falsely) accused of bullying. When I asked what the specific allegations were, the HR rep would not give me any information. Not who the accuser was and not the specific "incident(s)". I have previously had issues with a co-worker, which I me with HR about (the same person who suspended me yesterday). I left that meeting feeling it was a waste of time and, to my knowledge, no action has been taken thus far. Prior to my suspension, I have had no reprimands of any kind, no remedial plan, not anything indicating anything I should be doing or not doing. I rarely talk to co-workers unless it is work-related, because of prior issues. Aside from company lay-offs, I have NEVER involuntarily left a company for which I work. By the way, my annual reviews with my current employer have always been good."
Anonymous commented on 29-Oct-2015 10:25 PM
"I was wrongfully accused of bullying in the work place.These allegations were all fabricated from another co-worker using the system to get revenge on me and making a harassment claim. My accuser was trying to give other employees a bad name. Saying there morons and they should be fired. I told him to stop it. "It's not fair. If that's how you feel. Say it to there face" He didn't stop. So I made the people he was slandering aware of what he was saying. These people were furious with him and came down on him hard. It seemed to be really difficult for him to face these co-workers with what he was saying about them behind there backs. He tried to say I lied and these are false claims. He pulled the race card and everything else he could possibly say to make me look like a person that was fueled by hate. The investigation was very traumatic. It's difficult to be accused of something that you are so completely not. Just the investigation and interrogations was philologically damaging enough. I also did get fired on Christmas Eve. I believe that the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency we have. Everything in your life will eventually die rote and fall apart and all that will be left of you is what you had in your heart. Being jobless and depressed I became so negative about life and transformed into a different person. I try to forget it all. But the pain is in me. It's everywhere. I try to get away from all the pain inside me. Go out with my wife to a nice restaurant. Spend time with my kids. But the pain follows me everywhere I go. I try to leave it behind but it will find me anywhere and everywhere. But if you have ever experienced anything like this? You just have to remember who you are and how you are truely a good person and that life can be dark. But don't give up on yourself. Stand up for yourself and don't let anyone tell you who or what you are. There's a lot of bad people out there and they will get what the deserve in time."
Anonymous commented on 23-Nov-2015 10:39 AM
"since when is is bullying or harassment to tell someone that their actions, work and demeanour are inappropriate?"
Anonymous commented on 28-Nov-2015 01:30 AM
"I feel the pain resounding in this message board. The employee accusing me of bullying him is so unscrupulous, devious, manipulative and frankly in total denial of the behaviour HE needs to change that he has not only turned my world upside down through his own allegations of not bullying but that my incompetence too and at the same time has poisoned others to twist their perception of me and jump on the band wagon. I genuinely care about people and the biggest lesson I've learned is to wisely pick those people who you know you can absolutely trust to support, guide and remind you everyday that they believe in you. That's what matters and yup, he'll get his one day!!"
Anonymous commented on 12-Dec-2015 03:02 AM
"I was given a verbal write up at work for harassment, what I dont understand is the gental man accusing me, I dont talk to I dont say anything around I stay away from him, he said I was always disrespectful toward him, and my company did not get my side of the story they just put me a fault without proof of his claims is this legal "
Anonymous commented on 17-Dec-2015 06:04 AM
"I have been falsely accused of bullying by a women who didn't get her own way with leave. She has boasted previously how she accused her previous employer of similar behaviour. All I can say is the karma truck will be heading her way. Not only is it stressful for the person being wrongly accused but costly to the organisation on terms of money and time and invariably when the accuser doesn't achieve their desired outcome they resign and move on to the next target."
Anonymous commented on 08-Jan-2016 01:20 PM
"I am in the midst of going through the process of clearing my name after being accused by one of the employees I manage. While the claims will be proven baseless, the whole situation was extremely stressful and such an incredible waste of time and emotional capital. In my experience, the accuser was an underperforming employee equally matched by a streak of malevolence, gossip and misplaced ambition. My advice for anyone going through this is to not lose sight of the contributions you have made to your organization, document any previous or current issues you have had with the accuser and be prepared to stand up for yourself. Outside of work, stay healthy--get exercise, eat healthy and try not to let the situation consumer you. What you are going through will come to pass and at the end of the day it's just a job. Bad people do get their come uppance."
Anonymous commented on 18-Feb-2016 11:17 PM
"It was great to find an article about being accused of bullying. All websites just seem to tell you what to do if you are being bullied, not what to do if you are the accused. It was also helpful to read comments by others in the same boat as I am. I recently needed to speak to a fellow middle manager about a timetable issue. I was calm, explained the situation, why I was upset and possible solutions. The next thing I knew he put his hands up and yelled at me to get out of his office. He stood up, walked to his office door and yelled at me to get out. Our manager heard his raised voice and later on asked us both into her office to discuss the timetabling issue. She started the conversation, but he interrupted and said he couldn't discuss the timetable until another matter was discussed. He then (with a raised voice) accused me of being inflexible...a string of other things and then called me a workplace bully. I declined to respond when asked by my manager, except to acknowledge his perceptions and to ask him to stop making negative comments about the suburb where I live. (I was too shocked and didn't know how to respond.) We then continued to discuss the timetabling issue. At the end of the meeting my manager suggested we sit down and discuss the problem (with or without her as a mediator). He said he wanted to talk to me straight away, but I decline and said I needed time. Three days later, I am still crying everyday and finding it very difficult to complete tasks at work. I don't know what I have done wrong (just called a list of names)...if anything I thought I have been supportive since he started in the new role a year ago (made permanent 4 months ago), in fact he has told me on several occasions how helpful I have been. I still can't believe I was yelled and called a workplace bully. I don't think I will ever be ready or want to sit down and discuss the issues he has with me. Best I can do right now is say good morning and good afternoon to him with as little as possible interactions with him in between."
Anonymous commented on 19-Feb-2016 11:18 PM
"Thank you to the anonymous 8th January 2016. You have inspired and uplifted my spirits - I find myself in this unjust situation at the moment - your advice about not losing site of the contributions one has made to the organisation and to stand up for yourself resonated with me as I face work next week. unfortunately one feels immediately deflated and dispirited with such unjust accusations. Thank you"
Anonymous commented on 21-Feb-2016 03:10 AM
"A friend of mine was falsely accused of sexual harassment by a guy she used to work with and consequently suspended from Duties. He gathered around himself false witnesses and used everything he could just to make his story believable. She left in the end and he was eventually fired for not turning up to work and being sick. Till this day he continues to slander her name, anywhere and anytime. She will be suing him for defamation and is currently gathering the evidence."
Anonymous commented on 28-Feb-2016 05:04 PM
"Irrespective of who is right or wrong if an employee is accusing management of bullying, management will take the hit, as the company doesn't want to get sued. Even if you reprimand an employee for misconduct or performance issues watch out!!! Australia is heading in the same direction as the US, anybody can sue anybody for anything at anytime. Good one Australia just another mark against your name as one of the most unintelligent countries in the world. I will be leaving this country and taking my expertise and engineering doctorate overseas where it will be appreciated. Goodbye to a daft country full of backward thinking copy cats."
Anonymous commented on 29-Feb-2016 09:04 AM
"I have just been approached by a colleague and told that I am being accused of bullying someone. As I am the equality and diversity officer this is a cry serious situation. The accuser has worked a the office for two years and is currently looking for alternative work because she hates the job. Recently when I was very busy I asked her to take a piece of work on that I couldn't deal with because I was overloaded, she refused and when I left the room she bad mouthed me then ran to the boss to complain about me. Since then I am hearing that she is slagging me off to everyone. I had a meeting with my senior that was a personal matter, but this girl thought I was telling tales about her and she started having tantrums, burst into tears and apparently is now going around telling people that I'm bullying her. She is quite a lazy person and has thrown her toys out of the pram on several occasions when asked to take work on - she has never been a team player. I feel very angry and wonder if I should speak to my manager or confront the girl.
Anonymous commented on 04-Mar-2016 04:46 AM
"I was very happy to start my new job as property manager last summer. However, the existing co manager quickly made it clear that he didn't want me there. He felt entitled to the position and has been passed up twice. He frequently raised his voice and talked to me in an authoritative tone. He complained about our policies and working with us in general. When I noticed certain policies weren't being followed, I went over my observations and explained why certain selling practices, policies, etc. need to be followed. He freaked out every time, became defensive, was rude, talked over me, was halfway out the door. He even spoke ill of me to clients. I brought up his behavior to HR and he fired back with false accusations. He claimed that I talked down to him and disrespected him. I, of course, denied that. I was shocked when nothing was done. I filed another complaint and clearly recorded incidents. I was told by HR that this particular employee was part of a "special group." WHAT? He was more likely to sue because he's a senior, overweight, a vet, and has health issues. His allegations were believed over mine. Even though, I was the one who filed the initial complaints about his behavior. I am extremely disappointed and don't know what to do. Everything that I say is met with denial or more lies. I am going to dispute the warning letter that I received. I'm devastated. I feel so helpless."
Anonymous commented on 10-Mar-2016 02:15 PM
"I have been accused of bullying a co worker ,my boss asked me to clean a white board the co worker said she had all ready done it I told her our boss asked me to clean it she accused me of bullying matter still pending it is to easy for people to cry wolf this person is always looking for a quick pay day

Anonymous commented on 16-Mar-2016 10:36 AM
"I have been accused by a third party of bullying two other staff into submission and not allowing them to perform their work, among a host of other issues. One of the 'victims' however is extremely supportive of me and has resolved to discuss the issue with the accuser, whereas the other reported my 'bullying' of the two of them to the accuser. Fortunately I have the support of the managers and a host of evidence to counter his 'evidence' against me.

However my attempts to communicate with the accuser has been met with put downs, shut downs and stark refusals to discuss the issue whether with myself or the alleged victims. The accuser is refusing to work with me and will do his absolute best to stop me working altogether.

While I am aware that I have the verbal reassurance and support of at least two managers including the senior team manager and two colleagues, the spotty history of management of the company leaves me wondering about the stability of my job."
Anonymous commented on 23-Mar-2016 09:31 PM
"Yup, you do your job and remind them of policy then they cry "bully' being picked on and then they are untouchable and you are the one feeling sick and worried about every word you say and they strut about as they know they can do what they like.
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