Panic attacks on a Sunday evening, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, even dermatological issues, can all be symptoms of work-related stress and anxiety. User Briocche on Mumsnet knows these feelings all too well, as they describe in a post how they have “just received this email from the boss”. The email reads, “Forward of another email re something which has gone wrong while I’ve been on annual leave.
“Then her email to me “this has REALLY PISSED ME OFF – very disappointed” That old annual leave anxiety is back in full force Thats unrealistic isn’t it? The email?”
We’ve all worked with irritating colleagues and found things about a job difficult, but sadly a large proportion of employees in the USA have actually been bullied in their place of work.
A 2019 survey by employment website Monster.com found that nearly 94 percent of 2,081 employees said they had been bullied in the workplace in the UK, with over half (51 percent) bullied by a boss or manager, and 23.3 percent saying they were bullied by hostile email tones.
In the US, mental health advice site Very Well Mind suggests that nearly one third of all employees are bullied at some point during their careers, or 48.6 million Americans every year, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.
These staggering statistics are arguably one of the reasons behind the popularity of the ‘Great Resignation’, an economic trend whereby people are voluntarily quitting their jobs en masse.
If, as it has been estimated, the average person spends one third of their lives at work, why then should we have to subject ourselves to less than professional behavior?
What Can You Do?
Depending on the workplace situation, being bullied by a senior employee can make you feel helpless and isolated. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries suggests if you have been a victim of workplace harassment you should:
- Keep a detailed diary of the bullying incidents (dates, times, places, what was done or said and who was present)
- Keep documents that contradict the bully’s accusations, such as time sheets, audit reports, etc.
- Expect the bully to deny and even misconstrue your accusations; have a witness during meetings with the person.
- If possible, report the behavior to an appropriate and safe person.
- Find support from trusted people at work, outside of work and at home.
“Unreasonable and Unprofessional”
The sheer prevalence of workplace bullying is clear in the 94 percent of people who voted on Mumsnet that the user is not being unreasonable. The majority of the six percent only found the user unreasonable for checking their emails while on annual leave.
“You shouldn’t check your emails when he leaves then. Especially if you’re prone to anxiety,” said one user, “YABU [you are being unreasonable] for checking emails on AL [annual leave]. Your boss IBU [is being unreasonable] for swearing in an email and acting unprofessionally. I would be ignoring everything until I return to work then contacting HR.”
In an update from the user, Briocche said, “I wasn’t responsible for the thing which went wrong but my team are so therefore I am. I know I shouldn’t be checking emails but my stomach is in knots most of the time if I don’t.”
Many called the behavior unreasonable and offered advice, “Email back and say sorry boss, nothing to do with me. I’m on annual leave,” said one person. “Very unprofessional,” said another, “so you have any internal processes you can follow to request to discuss this in the presence of someone who can ensure it is discussed properly with professional respect?”
One user bluntly put, “I would ignore the email since it’s not a question. Very unprofessional”, while another said, “I would be taking advice regarding starting a formal grievance procedure on my return from leave. No one deserves to be treated like that.”
Newsweek was unable to verify the details of the case.