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FAQ – Bullying

What is “bullying”?

Bullying at work: Means that you are repeatedly attacked by one or more people over a longer period of time. This can happen through hostile/hurtful remarks (verbally) but also physically. The aim of bullying is usually to exclude you or to drive you out of your job. Not all conflicts at work are bullying. Bullying is something that happens over a longer period of time and is usually targeted at one particular person.

How to identify bullying

Bullying can come in many forms. The same behaviour by colleagues can count as bullying, or not as bullying. It depends on the situation and on how it makes you feel.

The following can be examples of bullying:

  • Colleagues/boss stop their conversations when you join in.
  • Colleagues/boss don't listen to you (but they do listen to others).
  • Colleagues/boss don't greet you (but they greet everyone else).
  • Colleagues/boss shout at you.
  • You get hurtful criticism for your work, for example criticism that is not factual, like "a three-year-old could have done that better!"
  • You are assigned tasks that are too difficult or too easy (the aim here is to put you under too much or too little strain).
  • Aspects about you are insulted, such as where you come from or your private life.
  • You are exposed to physical or psychological violence.
  • You are sexually harassed.

If this happens frequently, regularly and systematically, then it is called bullying.

It may be the case that you are bullied by your boss. This is known as “bossing” in German. For example, superiors may give you incorrect instructions and criticise you in an inappropriate tone. Your appearance can also be attacked with insults or sayings.

Please note: (physical or psychological) violence and sexual harassment are criminal offences! Get help immediately from your Fair Integration advice centre!


How to defend yourself against bullying!

If you are being bullied, it is particularly important that you always write everything down in detail. You can keep a bullying diary. If there is an incident, it is important that you write down the following points:

  • Place, date and time
  • Which people were present and what they did or said
  • Any witnesses (people who weren’t involved but heard everything)

Make sure not to leave these documents lying around at the workplace.

You might get a formal warning for which there is no proper reason. You can also defend yourself against this. If you think you are being bullied, you can complain. There are various people you can contact:

  • Your superior
  • Works council or staff council
  • HR department
  • Fair Integration advice centre
  • Trade union, if you are a member
  • Bullying advice centres
  • Doctor or psychotherapist.

It is important that you talk to other people about your problems and get support. You can also find support here:





Can your employer help you?

If you are being bullied by your colleagues, you can also speak to your employer. Employers have a duty to protect their employees. Let your employer know that you are being bullied. He or she must do something about it straight away. For example, he/she must punish the employees who are bullying you because of their behaviour.


How can a works council/staff council help you with bullying?

If your company has a works council/staff council, it can advise you on bullying. This is because the works council or staff council must ensure that occupational health and safety is complied with. This means that your health must be protected in the workplace.

Is workplace bullying a punishable offence?

Bullying at work in itself is not a punishable offence. However, there are certain actions that are punishable and that you can report. For example:

  • Sexual harassment – such as if someone repeatedly approaches you or touches you (against your will).
  • Physical harm – such as if you become ill as a result of bullying and a doctor certifies this.
  • Slander – such as when deliberate lies are told about a person.
  • Duress or coercion – such as when you are forced to do something that you do not want to do or cannot do.
  • Verbal abuse – such as if you are insulted.

It is helpful if you have evidence of the offence, like text messages, WhatsApp messages or witnesses. If you experience any bullying, always contact your Fair Integration advice centre!