A BBC television series running this week to coincide with the imminent start of the new school year examines "the pain caused by bullying in schools, the army and the workplace". But, harrowing as the tales from school and the army are, perhaps the most shocking are those in the programme "An Occupational Hazard" to be shown on 30 August.
Many will feel that life in the current working environment is tough enough without being subjected to abuse, threats and even physical harm. Yet this programme looks at three cases in which quite different forms of bullying each led to workers losing their livelihoods.
In one case, a man suffered 10 years of bullying and humiliation. Despite his attempts to become their friends, his "workmates" frequently "sent him to Coventry", filled his lunchbox with grease and pornographic pictures and tampered with his belongings, reveals the programme. When he was hit in the face, he called in the police and the bully concerned was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm. But when the company said he should carry on working alongside the assailant, he felt he had to resign.
Eventually, an industrial tribunal found that he had been forced to resign as a result of bullying, but - while the bullies remained at work - he was unemployed for two years before he found a new position.
The programme features another worker who won an industrial tribunal hearing after she felt forced to resign because a new manager consistently undermined and was rude to her. While off work suffering from stress she had a nervous breakdown. "You start to doubt yourself and wonder, am I imagining it?" she says. Eventually she could face it no longer and felt forced to give in her notice - "which is what he wanted all along".
A third case also ended with one person out of a job, but it concerned much wider issues about the difficulties of reconciling family life and work. While women have long had to deal with such matters, the film explores how a man working as a delivery driver in a small business came under pressure from his boss when he said he wanted time off to be with his wife at the birth of their child, but could not guarantee when that time might be.
"Bullying can ruin lives," says the series' executive producer, Grant Mansfield. "I hope that the season will highlight this enormous problem and will encourage victims and even bullies to spot some of the danger signs and seek help before it is too late."
The programmes - produced by the BBC Education department - are accompanied by a booklet, Bullying Survival Guide, and a telephone helplineReuse content