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I would like to know what is the best way to deal with work colleagues who are physically and verbally abusive to me at work. In this case, the bullies are relatives of the HR manager, who I report to directly. The HR manager witnessed these events but did not intervene, which led to even more events.

The Managing Director (MD) and the HR manager have a good relationship. Even though the HR manager reports to the MD, the MD always supports the HR manager, because the HR manager has been there for a long time.

This is in the UK.

  • Is there anyone else in HR or just you and the HR manager? – Myles Apr 19 '16 at 20:54
  • Just the two of us on site – DaChompa Apr 19 '16 at 20:59
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    Physically do you mean they hit you? - call the police and report an assault – Pepone May 2 '16 at 14:27
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    "Almost setting me alight" - are you saying they tried to set you on fire? That would be enough cause for me to immediately go to management and possibly the police. – David K May 11 '16 at 18:55
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    You Sir, should meet a lawyer – user49901 May 11 '16 at 19:30
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This isn't an easy situation as your normal avenues of going to your manager and going to HR are both pretty much off the table.

As with any conflict in the workplace documentation is your friend. Keep track of who did it, what was done, when, where, and who else was there. Once you have a few incidents well documented you will need to go to the MD since your complaint includes the HR manager.

Be prepared for this to end badly for you employment wise, start putting out applications sooner rather than later.

  • Thank you Myles for your advice. I wonder if documenting events will be enough as bullies could just deny? – DaChompa Apr 20 '16 at 21:47
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    It's not a sure fire plan but it helps in a few different ways. Having witnesses will help corroborate your version of events so noting who witnessed it is big. The MD being able to go through your version and not find inconsistencies in your story (like they or some witness was not at work that day) will not gain confidence in your story but will prevent you from being discredited that way. Finally more often rather than completely denying events bullies will often claim the victim is exaggerating, they do this because they will be unsure if any witness corroborated any of the events. – Myles Apr 20 '16 at 23:32
  • By documenting a pattern of repeated behavior you will make it clear to the MD that the problem is them and not you. – Myles Apr 20 '16 at 23:32
  • They always seem to do things when noone is around so noone else sees – DaChompa Apr 21 '16 at 5:23
  • And others afraid to speak out of fear of losing their job etc – DaChompa Apr 21 '16 at 5:27
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If you can't stand up to them, then I would leave if I were you. Start looking for a new job and soldier on until you get one.

There is no realistic way I can see this ending well for you AND you retaining the job.

The rare times I experienced physical bullying ended badly for the aggressor, but also meant I had to move on and I was unemployed briefly. So it's best to have a job offer in hand before retaliating if you decide to go that route. You're well within your rights in legal terms to defend yourself physically.

  • I physically can't stand up to the bullies as they tend to 'gang-up'. I have worked hard for my job and have held in role for years too so don't want to leave. – DaChompa Apr 20 '16 at 21:15
  • Sounds like a terrible situation to be in – Kilisi Apr 20 '16 at 21:23
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    Yes it is but hope I find a new job soon – DaChompa Apr 20 '16 at 21:35
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Am I missing something? You call the police and report assault.

I imagine your employer would be liable for lost wages including throughout your unemployment. It's time to find an employment lawyer. Like, ASAP.

  • Agreed. If there's physical abuse, then the law needs to be involved, stat. – MK2000 May 11 '16 at 19:31
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TL;DR Stay professional, administration/management must handle the abusive colleagues, there's no situation where you should handle them. Have detailed documentation of everything.

Preface: IMO you would benefit from finding employment elsewhere greatly, however, I understand the hesitation to leave a company you've been with for a long time. The following advice is if you 100% intend to commit to resolve the issue internally. And remember: Always have an offer for another job before you leave your current job.

I want to take a moment to point out that companies worth their salt do everything in their power exactly to avoid these sorts of conflicts of interest. I haven't applied to a company that didn't ask me: "Do you have any family members working at [the Company] and in which departments, or otherwise is there anyone you share a relationship with who currently works here, period?"

These create conflicts of interest, and as you can see, the conflict here actually extends bottom-up quite a ways! I'm already pegging this workplace as largely unprofessional on these merits, and the resolution should obviously now come top-down from your managing director. Regardless of the relationship he has with his HR manager, the fact stands that no one want to get sued on the basis of bullying, possible discrimination, and obvious COIs put the employer at a disadvantage IMO. I'm not a lawyer but with the right kind of documentation and appropriate escalations, if your company simply does nothing they could be liable for some level of penalty.

Now if I establish your company is to some level unprofessional, I'm not going to go and say you're unprofessional, so what you want to do first is go directly to your manager, the HR manager, and make a formal complaint. You have documentation, he himself is a witness, but perhaps he doesn't know how you feel. Make sure he knows that regardless of relative status or not, it isn't okay for them to treat you that way. He should resolve the issue himself.

If he doesn't and the bullying continues after some time: you have documented that you're being harassed (I'm phrasing it this way because do it), you made a formal complaint to HR, you gave him reasonable time to resolve the claim, and nothing was done (or his relatives just ignored him). Make a second complaint, direct it to your manager, and CC the managing director. Include your documentation, and the fact that the harassment has not ceased, and that there must be a resolution. This will involve the managing director in the process, and he'll know that his involvement is contingent on a continuing issue.

Don't threaten legal action until you've consulted a lawyer and been assured you have a case. However, if the abuse is physical and you've been assaulted, as noted in the comments you absolutely need to report the assault to the authorities (police).

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