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 22-Sep-2017 12:27 AM
"I have been accused of bullying a fellow colleague for no reason. She fancies my boss- others can see that and because I sit next to him she does not like this. She is loud, disruptive, self centred and very two faced.I am not like this and just want to have some peace to get my job done. Unfortunately for me she is friends with the HR Manager so there is no one in the company I can turn to for advice. Best of all I was called into a meeting with HR and my manager with no prior warning and my manager told me he is not replying to my email- I said nothing. he told me if I have any problems with noise in the office then go to HR in the future as it takes up too much of his time.. so can't go to HR so have said nothing and left the meeting. Disgusted to find out the next day copy of the email I sent him re the noise and the note they made at the meeting had been loaded onto the HR system against my name without my consent or consultation. The person who has accused me of bullying is getting away with it. Time for a new job hopefully in a Company that will appreciate my hard work and good ethics and a HR manager that does not have a big gob and knows what they are doing."
Anonymous commented on 22-Sep-2017 08:23 AM
"Same boat here. In it right now. Asked to stay home while I'm investigated. Not sure for what. They won't tell me. I'm a wreck. All over one person that I became too close to. Decided to approach them and simplify our friendship. And here we are. At home going insane.

Karma. That's all I say."
Anonymous commented on 07-Nov-2017 04:20 AM
"Falsely accused of bullying by low performing assistant. For a year she has been making mistakes. I have asked how I can help minimize the errors; to which she didn’t reply. To make matters worse, my supervisor has created animosity throughout the department and barely speaks to me. My supervisor was waiting for an opening to throw me under the bus. She is new and since her hire, six out of ten employees have left. She encouraged my assistant to file a bullying claim with HR. I’m left to defend myself against this false allegation while the supervisor and assistant continue their escapades. Unbelievable."
Anonymous commented on 03-Dec-2017 11:23 AM
"Bullying is a serious issue and employees need to know that it is treated seriously. To that end what are the repercussions on the accuser (employee) if and when it is proved that no bullying was evident or occurred? It’s become too easy for a disgruntled employee to file a non recourse complaint which is in fact bullying itself. We need strict policies on what bullying is and how to prove it so everyone is clear that bullying did occur. If someone falsely claims a bullying charge and no proof of it occurring is determined, there needs to be disaplinary actions, potentially legal, against the accuser. Maybe this will make people think before falsely accusing ever again."
Anonymous commented on 01-Feb-2018 04:17 PM
"Hi All, stumbled upon this site while searching for "accused for harrassment". i am facing a considerable amount pressure due to the incident that i have encountered. 2017 has been fantastic year for me. i won multiple awards externally while representing the company. my team performed excellently topping the department of 100 strong for most months of the year. in Dec 2017, my manager/director spoke to me about applying for a Senior Team Manager role. it's a promotion of sort - a higher grade, with different set of responsibilities. I prepared a topic for presentation, underwent an assessment and an interview with 5 different section heads. My manager fought for me, got me the job and was expected to be offered the job officially by HR. 27 Jan was our company's annual dinner and during this time, i was mingling around with my colleagues who i consider friends and they were only a handful of them. greeted some and took photos. My spouse who works in the same company was nominated and due to represent her department as Supervisor of the Year. at almost 8pm that night, someone wrote anonymously to our MD via feedback form online (which does not allow us to trace back the source) and my manager texted me showing me this online feedback form slandering my name. Requesting that "the management team do something about me to protect the staff from pervertic managers like myself." and how "its a shame to have my wife working in the same company". Monday came, i explained to my manager what i did, and i was clean. said manager trusted me and shared the same with our HOD. said HOD nentioned that they believe me, but will need to suspend my promotion indefinitely in fear that this phantom of a person will write in again or may approach HR. Asked me to wait until all passes and "will revisit" my promotion. There was no sign of any confirmation that i will still get it, it was more of a notion - there will be another chance. you can try again. it was told to me that HOD needed to show something to the MD for this. so, by suspending my promotion, is this not a sign of admission, that indeed i am at fault? even without the slightest thoughts or intention?"
Anonymous commented on 05-Mar-2018 11:44 AM
"I have just joined the falsely accursed bullying and intimidation club.... A female untrained care worker set up the latest situation where she screamed at me and then complained to the facility secretary who was sitting 30 metres away in another room that I screamed at her to create a false witness. I've now been advised a formal complaint has been made and this comprises a 'formal warning'.... So, I'm currently applying for Workers Compensation and I'll get a Work Place lawyer involved. This is screwing with me psychologically and now affecting my health."
Anonymous commented on 19-Apr-2018 04:25 AM
"It is a real issue that an underperforming employee can make accusations of bullying when they are made aware they are not meeting lenient targets.

It is a bigger issue if you are in charge of said employee and have highlighted the underperforming employee several times over long periods to senior staff members to no avail... banging one's head of a wall so to speak.

Reports of bullying should come with consequences if no wrong doing is found. Simply being told you are not meeting targets with documented evidence is not bullying. Being asked to do a task by a senior employee which is part of your job description is not bullying.

Wrong accusations cause stress to the accused even more so if under performing has been reported to seniors with no action taken over long periods of time......

The workplace can be tough especially if seniors bury their heads in the sand with issues raised.

To the people wrongfully accused, keep your head up always document underperformance , if no action is taken keep yourself right ,pop your concerns in a mail to your senior so you have evidence to back up and prove no wrong doing.

Anonymous commented on 23-May-2018 11:57 PM
"My story is a bit odd. A co-worker who for two years I got on well with decided one day to launch an unprovoked, premeditated verbal attack in an attempt to extract very personal information from me. I was shocked but mulled over it for a few days. It was no good, it was bad from every conceivable angle. My trust in her faltered and got worse especially as she did not say 'sorry, it won't happen again' but instead continued digging for weeks, months. When that didn't pan out for her, she started 'stalking' me around the workplace, watching my every move, glaring at me, distracting people from speaking from me (i.e. isolating me) etc. I was still greeting her morning and evening and still happy to talk about work related matters. However, approaching her to converse with became understandably more difficult with time. Also when no-one was looking she would make subtle provocative jabs at me. I believe this was insidious abuse. After a while people started ignoring me, including management personnel. They adopted 'tactical ignoring'. Maybe she was hurt that I no longer talked about my private life though it is hard to do with someone who continually escalates abuse and who seem to collect personal information like someone might hoard ammunition. She played the victim and manipulated people's perception of me, making me out as a bully. "
Anonymous commented on 17-Nov-2018 08:28 AM
"I totally agree with the comment above. If people came to work and just did their job and what they were supposed to do they they wouldn't be challenged. It is so easy to say your stressed and bullied especially if it means you can take time off work. The manager or senior person is never given the same support as the accuser and it is so unfair. Your an easy target if your in management. If it is a genuine complaint then fair enough but if it isn't then it can be so upsetting and extremely stressful."
Anonymous commented on 16-Apr-2019 02:04 PM
"Does anyone have experience with suing the accuser for defamation in the case of malicious bullying claims? Someone has accused me, and has since decided that they mis-used the word bullying, but the damage has been done."
Anonymous commented on 02-Aug-2019 01:33 AM
"So I have been accused of bullying not by the actual person who is supposed to be the bullied party but by upper management who says my complaints about this person constitute bullying. I am confused because again the other party has not complained about me but because I have complained about some of the things she has done that apparently is considered bullying. I was also told that if it continued I could look for employment elsewhere, that they could also start micromanaging me if that's what I wanted and that the company had enough going on without me adding to it. Just wanted to know if that is not considered bullying on their side?"
Anonymous commented on 19-Oct-2019 12:45 PM
"In a recent meeting at work, I said a curse word. Even though I apologized immediately and this event was truly out of character for me, I played right into the hands of one of the people I supervised. She is hypersensitive. I was accused by this woman of harassment and fired. I am devastated. Management and HR seemed intent on not hearing my side of the story even though this particular employee had been to HR multiple times through the years. Instead they reached back 8 years in my employee file to find that I had a dispute with an employee who had been stealing my mail as they only other evidence beyond the curse word. I assume that is all I had done as they rejected my attempts to get additional Information. I understand she threatened to sue the company if I was not fired. Three months later she resigned because of the cold shoulder she received from other employees. I was very well liked and respected. The only way I found out the allegation was harassment was when I was rejected for unemployment insurance by the State of Texas."
Anonymous commented on 13-Dec-2019 02:13 PM
"I too was recently fired after a false allegation of bullying and harassment was made by a person I supervise. After working for 18 years for my company with nearly a perfect record, I was terminated. I had firmly but fairly corrected an employee for going around me to my boss. My boss is friends it’s this younger coworker. My family and I are in disbelief."
Anonymous commented on 19-Dec-2019 04:28 AM
"I must be the most naive supervisor. I actually thought I was working with a mature and forgiving team. One slip of the tongue and HR is weighing the pros and cons of my continued employment. I have never gone to HR to report anyone - - instead I haven always chosen to assist those who had momentary lapses in judgement. I learned this behavior from my boss 20 years ago. Without fail, this strategy always turned out for the good. The tattletale is the corporation’s worst enemy for minor infractions. People have emotions and bringing in HR is not needed for an occasional curse word or 2."
Anonymous commented on 26-Jan-2020 03:21 PM
"The worlking world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Companies are OVERLY afraid of litigation, so much so that they will jettison any employee who has been ALLEGED have belittled any special interest minority. How many good people have been fired due to the undue cowardice of their management?"
Anonymous commented on 26-Jan-2020 03:22 PM
"The worlking world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Companies are OVERLY afraid of litigation, so much so that they will jettison any employee who has been ALLEGED have belittled any special interest minority. How many good people have been fired due to the undue cowardice of their management?"
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