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Help & Information

Bullying Behaviour in the Workplace

Bullying behaviour in the workplace can take on many different forms and isn’t always easy to recognise. Defining bullying is simple enough – repeated, intentional behaviour that seriously damages the confidence, self-esteem and emotional well-being of an individual. Identifying the actions can be more difficult, especially as some bullying behaviours are so covert.

The Definition

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s). It is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that can jeopardise your health, your career and your confidence.

Identifying Behaviours

While bullying behaviour is a form of aggression, the actions can be both obvious and subtle. It is important to note that the following is not a checklist, nor does it mention all forms of bullying behaviour. This list is included as a way of showing some of the ways bullying may happen in a workplace.

Types of Bullying Behaviours at Work Include:

  • Verbal aggression or yelling
  • Humiliating initiation practices
  • Unrealistic workload
  • Underwork – creating a feeling of uselessness
  • Assigning unreasonable duties or workload, which are unfavourable to one person, in a way that creates unnecessary pressure
  • Continuous criticism of an individual and/or their work
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work
  • Removing areas of responsibilities without cause
  • Constantly changing work guidelines
  • Establishing impossible deadlines that will set up the individual to fail
  • Withholding necessary information or purposefully giving the wrong information
  • Constantly interfering and dictating
  • Being overly critical
  • Demotivates
  • Belittling a person’s opinions
  • Purposely preventing career advancement
  • Intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking
  • Blocking applications for training, leave or promotion
  • Selectively includes and excludes people
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Isolation
  • Calling someone derogatory names
  •  Humiliation
  • Physical and/or Threatening Abuse
  • Rumour Spreading
  • Exclusion
  • Intimidation

It is important to remember that bullying behaviour is a continued pattern of behaviour and not an isolated incident. It can come from colleagues, team leaders, managers, employers and external sources.

The Cost of Bullying Behaviour to the Workplace

If you’re fortunate enough to be employed in a business that is friendly and supportive, you may not understand the scale to which workplace bullying is a problem. Bullying and Harassment  creates an unhappy and unproductive workplace which can result in poor morale and poor performance:

  • A survey sponsored by the TUC found that 3 out of 10 employees have suffered from bullying behaviour in the workplace
  • 47% of Britain’s employees have witnessed workplace bullying
  • According to UNISON, 80% of employees had experienced some form of online-bullying. It also showed that nearly one in five people faces online-abuse at least once a week
  • Acas claims that bullying behaviour at work costs the UK economy £18 billion a year. This figure combines sickness-related absences (as a result of bullying behaviour), staff turnover and the reduction of productivity. Of course, there’s much more to bullying behaviour than just the financial implications, with operational and human costs also being high.
  • Recent research shows that 52% of employees feel burnout, and “signs of burnout” have increased by 24% throughout 2020. Read the full article here

The effects of bullying to the individual

People who are affected by bullying behaviour may experience a range of effects. These include:

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Feelings of frustration and/or helplessness
  • Increased sense of vulnerability
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem

Physical symptoms such as:

  • inability to sleep
  • loss of appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Ulcers

Psychosomatic symptoms such as

  • Stomach pains
  • Headaches
  • Panic or anxiety, especially about going to work
  • Family tension and stress
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low morale and productivity

Many individuals who suffer from prolonged bullying at work, experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Individuals may become irritable, obsessive, hyper-vigilant or overly sensitive. They experience mood swings, indecision or a loss of humour.

They may begin biting their nails, grinding their teeth or rely on substances such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or sleeping aids.

What should you do if you're affected by bullying behaviour

  • Firmly tell the person that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop. You can ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach the person.
  • Keep a factual journal or diary of daily events. Record:
    • The date, time and what happened in as much detail as possible
    • The names of any witnesses
    • The outcome of the incident
  • Keep copies of any letters, memos, e-mails, faxes, etc., received from the person
  • Report the harassment to your manager or the relevant person identified in your workplace policy. If your concerns are minimised, proceed to the next level of management.

If this doesn’t work, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. If this doesn’t work and you’re still being harassed, you can take legal action at an employment tribunal.


  • RETALIATE. You may end up looking like the perpetrator and it may exacerbate the situation. Retaliation will almost certainly cause confusion for those responsible for evaluating and responding to the situation.

If you are being bullied or harassed at work or you see it happening to someone else,

Speak Out

If you don’t break the silence, who will?

What to do if you witness bullying behaviour

Bystanders play an important role in the process of workplace bullying because they have the power to help end it by standing up to the bully or reporting it to management. Witnesses of bullying behaviour should be encouraged to report any such incidences, but sadly many don’t. Although they recognise and disagree with the unfair behaviour towards a colleague, many people do not know what to do and don’t want to be labelled as a troublemaker for saying anything.

It is the responsibility of everyone to report bullying. If you are concerned about any repercussions, you can report it anonymously.

  • Inform your HR department immediately
  • Help and support the person who is bullied. Let them know you are there for them
  • Don’t be afraid to take action. Many organisations fully understand the personal, health and organisational damage that bullying can cause
  • Remember that not only are you helping the individual and the organisation but also yourself. Research suggests that witnesses themselves can be damaged indirectly by a bullying culture … so you may be preventing your own ill health

If you are being bullying or harassed at work or you see it happening to someone else,

Speak Out

If you don’t break the silence, who will?

E-safety information for Remote Working

Working remotely has become the new norm for many of us. Despite the difficult times, cyber security threats are not on a pause. In fact, there is a clear increase in phishing and other cyber ­crime activity now that most people are working from home.

In the workplace, there is usually someone who takes care of online security, but when working from home, it is up to each of us to be more aware.

The below best practices and tips will help ensure you can safely enjoy your working from home experience.

  1. Where possible use a VPN (virtual private network). Avoid the free services.
  2. Enable two factor identification on all devices.
  3. Install anti – virus software on your computer or laptop.
  4. Ensure malware software is up to date.
  5. Improve WiFi security by encrypting your network. If your WiFi requires a password that’s a good start. If it does not then change this in your router settings.
  6. Change router passwords from their defaults to personal passwords.
  7. Consider the risks if you utilise a free WiFi connection in a shared space.
  8. Use separate devices for work and personal. This prevents crossover and inadvertent information leakage.
  9. Be careful with emails. Remote working has created the perfect environment for scammers to exploit. People are feeling under pressure and trying to multi task. Don’t click on any links before first checking the authenticity of the email address.
  10. Reduce information leakage by blurring the background on zoom or teams.
  11. When sharing your screen in meetings avoid overshare. Better to share direct from PowerPoint or DropBox than to share your desktop. If you do have to share your desktop ensure all tabs are closed.
  12. Avoid sharing photos of your remote work space on social media. You can inadvertently share private or confidential information.
  13. Consider whether work colleagues need to be on your personal social media accounts.
  14. Consider setting boundaries for yourself on what is professional and what is a personal discussion. Define working hours for professional digital communications to take place and adhere to those. Differentiate between the professional and the private.
  15. Be aware of content in group chats. WhatsApp is being used more and more as a communication tool in the workplace. If inappropriate content is shared and you are part of that group you too can be liable.


Creating a Positive and Empowering Workplace Training

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Need to talk?

If you are being bullied or are concerned about someone who is, you can receive help and support from one of our trained Mentors through our e-mentoring service.

If you would like a Mentor to email you, please contact: mentorsonline@bulliesout.com

If you would rather speak to someone over the telephone, you can call Childline on: 0800 1111

For any community-related issues, such as anti-social behaviour, we would suggest contacting your landlord, the local police or your local environmental health department (where applicable), as we are unable to deal with these types of complaints.