A BORDERS man is warning people about workplace bullying, pointing to his own decade-long struggle.

Derek Stewart, 55, from Hawick, landed his ideal job at the turn of the century.

But he eventually became ill and went on to quit, he says, after being bullied by his manager.

Mr Stewart told the Peeblesshire News: “Work bullying is really common and it’s horrible and there’s nothing you can do about it apart from plan to get a new job and leave.”

Mr Stewart, who wishes to withhold the identity of his ex-employer, says his former role was in the field of “heritage”.

He was bullied in a variety of ways by his line manager, he says. Despite making a formal complaint, he feels he was given little help – and some staff ultimately added to his troubles, he says.

“Work bullying is very sneaky and covert,” said Mr Stewart, going on to list some examples of the practice.

“It’s micro-managing, being hyper-critical all the time, not being given enough time to do a job, the goalposts changing.”

Other examples are the fostering of a “blame culture”, or a manager taking credit for employees’ work, said Mr Stewart.

Describing his state of mind as the bullying took its toll, he said: “There’s a worry about being late or getting things wrong – I was on edge all the time.

“You don’t realise it’s happening to you before it’s too late.”

Mr Stewart himself did not realise he was being bullied until he was advised by an occupational health specialist, he says.

Armed with that knowledge, he filed a formal complaint against his manager.

“I felt compelled to do a grievance and I thought my employer would help – but they did the opposite,” Mr Stewart said.

“It’s human resources’ job to help the boss. In effect, they help the bully, so they ignore your concerns and it’s not worth complaining.

“In my case, HR went against me and I got worse ill after that.”

Mr Stewart’s health deteriorated both mentally and physically, he reveals.

In 2005, he began suffering from irritable bowel syndrome due to stress, he says, before developing other ailments – including a chronic headache.

“In 2006, I was in tears on and off – it was like my head was being crushed in a vice 24/7,” Mr Stewart said.

“The manager was causing my headache,” he said, adding that a visit to the doctor contributed to leaving his job in 2011.

“I worked in a toxic workplace and the GP told me the best way to avoid that toxic workplace is to leave your job,” Mr Stewart said.

Since making that decision, Mr Stewart has written books, completed long-distance walks and taken on a new career in community support work. In his current role, he helps people with various conditions, including autism.

But now Mr Stewart is also committed to raising the profile of workplace bullying as a problem.

He wants the UK to adopt new laws addressing the issue and has written to local and national politicians in an attempt to further his mission.

“In Australia it’s illegal to bully your staff, but in Britain you can bully your staff – there’s no legislation to protect staff,” said Mr Stewart.

Asked what advice he can offer anyone facing workplace bullying, he suggested that people “keep a paper trail and find witnesses in case you have a decent HR department”.

“But ultimately your health comes first and you might need to move job,” he added.

“I should have left in 2006-7 and got a transfer within the company, but I didn’t and my health got bad.”