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Help & Information

What is Workplace Bullying?

Bullying at work 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 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. 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:

  • Rumour Spreading
  • Exclusion
  • Intimidation
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work
  • Physical and/or Threatening Abuse
  • 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
  • Humiliation
  • Intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking
  • Assigning unreasonable duties or workload, which are unfavourable to one person, in a way that creates unnecessary pressure
  • Underwork – creating a feeling of uselessness
  • Yelling or using profanity
  • Being overly critical
  • Belittling a person’s opinions
  • Purposely preventing career advancement

It is important to remember that bullying is a continued pattern of behaviour and not an isolated incident.

The Cost of Bullying

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 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 each year, bullying is responsible for the loss of 18 million working days and this costs the UK economy £18 billion a year

What should you do if you're being bullied

  • 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.

What to do if you witness bullying

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


Creating a Safe and Healthy 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.