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Martin Baker

Clear Lessons & The Charity Learning Consortium


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Video: How to deal with bullies in the workplace


In this video, Zenna Atkins, former Chair of OFSTED, shares her experience of being bullied and offers advice to anyone being intimidated in the workplace.

“Back in about 1990 I set up an organisation with a board. It was a very small organisation working with young homeless people. And the chairman of the board was bullying me. He would phone up and hurl abuse at me and really had taken against me.

I spoke to a couple of other people on the board and discovered that one of the women who had worked with him historically had experienced a very similar thing. So I was quite quickly then able to form, not an alliance to oust him, but somebody who gave me an anchor in the fact that I wasn't alone, I wasn't making this up, and this was actually quite a difficult individual.

Unfortunately, he was a very well-respected, very liked individual and the majority of people on the board were his friends. So I had to tread quite carefully because they were social friends as well as professional friends.

I kept a log, I did all the sensible things. At one point I actually told him, ‘I'm going to record this,’ when he was hurling abuse at me on the phone. 

I very nicely then spoke to the vice-chair and said I was going to have to take action if the board wasn’t able to do something about this. The chairman was up for re-election in three months and I suggested that somebody stood against him, to deal with this in a professional and courteous way without me having to make formal complaints and potentially go to the police - because this is bullying and harassment in the workplace - and that's what happened.

It was deeply, deeply unpleasant. And that isn't the only time that I've been bullied or harassed in the workplace, but it is an example and it happens to a lot of people.”

Watch the video for the full story...


Zenna shares her advice on tackling bullies in the workplace:

  1. Make sure that you have evidence of what is going on if you’re being bullied, harassed, intimidated, or sexually harassed for any particular reason. Record it all. Take contemporaneous notes and date them, and keep them.
  2. Try and find an alliance with somebody to talk to who's going to be sympathetic.
  3. See if you can raise the issue at a level above them to get it resolved.
  4. Understand what your formal grievance procedures are in the workplace, because you may well need to take them.
  5. If you're going to have a meeting to discuss the behaviour, make sure you've got a third party there. It never goes well one-on-one - ever. So make sure you've got a third party who's respected and trusted by both of you to try and broker your way out of it.
  6. Remind yourself this isn't about you. And if you can feel yourself mentally slipping and going under, get support early on.

This video is taken from the Clear Lessons video learning library. Clear Lessons is absolutely free for charities and anyone working or volunteering in the third sector. Corporate organisations can purchase a licence, which supports free access for charities. Find out more at

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