Hang tough: How to deal with a workplace bully

In busy and fast-paced hospitality jobs, with so many customers looking to complain, it is no surprise that you will face some criticism and quick jibes here and there. However, it will get to a point when you will need to clearly distinguish this from an individual who is simply trying to intimidate you. This could be anything from discrimination against someone's race or sexual orientation, sexual comments or being belittled in front of colleagues. It is therefore crucial that you know exactly what the definition of 'bullying' is and how you should take appropriate action against it.

So what is bullying?

If you are facing physical or verbal abuse, being humiliated or having your confidence destroyed by purpose, this all points to bullying. It can fall into any of these categories:

• You are picked on all the time

• You are made fun of in front of fellow employees

• You are being treated differently from your fellow colleagues

• Being given too much to do

• You are regularly threatened with the sack

• Facing verbal or physical abuse

• Being blamed for problems that you have nothing to do with

• There are other signs of workplace bullying, so if in doubt about how someone is treating you, it is always best to speak to a manager or HR consultant as soon as possible.

What can you do?

The first thing to always do is to speak to your fellow colleagues. Not only will they be a source of support for you, but you may realise that it could just be all in your head. Furthermore, if you speak to others, you may be able to find out if someone else is facing similar bullying.

An option may be to confront the actual individual who is bullying you, as they may not actually be aware how their behaviour is affecting you. Write down beforehand what you are going to say and then describe fully what has been happening and why you feel bad. Through the experience, you want to stay calm and be polite.

What could your boss do?

By law, employers have a duty of care to all of their workers, and this does include any workplace bullying. Not only does your boss have a responsibility to make sure that all employees understand what bullying is and why it is wrong, but they should also intervene in an individual's case.

If you are suffering, be sure to speak to a manager, supervisor, HR consultant or an employee representative, such as a trade union official. If even this does not work, you need to make a formal complaint through the company. In extreme situations, there is the potential for legal action, but you should initially seek legal advice from a lawyer or someone who works in the field.

There is a lot of advice and support out there. For example, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) offers free and confidential information.

Nobody should face abuse or harassment at work. Clamp down on it today.

Berkeley Scott provides specialist advice and support to help you find hospitality jobs.