This week is National Anti-Bullying Week and we are turning our thoughts to this important topic. Bullying can be defined as behaviour that is intended to hurt someone emotionally or physically and is carried out repeatedly. It can take many different forms and the line between bullying and harassment can be difficult to define.

We are thinking about workplace bullying which can have a serious negative impact and is unfortunately very prevalent. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, up to a third of people at work may be the victims of abuse by workplace bullies. 20% of such workplace bullying crosses the line into harassment.

What constitutes workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is ‘…repeated…abusive conduct  that is…threatening, humiliating, or intimidating or…work interference [sabotage] which prevents work getting done…or verbal abuse.’ (Source: Workplace Bullying Institute)

Instances of workplace bullying are many but can include:

Shouting, aggressive behaviour

Being criticised

Being ignored or excluded regularly

Responsibilities being taken away without good reason

Spreading malicious rumours

The effects of workplace bullying on employees can include:


Absenteeism/lowered productivity

Health implications such as high blood pressure, insomnia, digestive issues

Detrimental impact on both work and family relationships and emotional health

Post traumatic stress disorder

The potential impact for employers as a result of workplace bullying includes:

Decreased productivity (due to absenteeism and lack of motivation)

High turnover of staff

Difficulty recruiting/retaining talent

What steps can be taken to combat workplace bullying?

An organisation should have a clear policy on bullying, partly as a duty of care to its employees and also because of the potentially detrimental company-wide effects as above. Some companies implement a zero tolerance policy – if an employee is bullied they are encouraged to document specific incidents and present their case to a designated senior manager (not a direct line manager as this can be very difficult to do if the manager is carrying out the bullying).

Regular communication is also important to remind employees what workplace bullying is, how they can report incidences and that the consequences of any bullying are serious and constitute gross misconduct.

However marvellous a bullying and harassment policy may be in place, just words alone won’t change a thing; remember that an organisation needs to be committed to creating a culture that truly values every individual. To ensure this happens, managers should be trained to understand what constitutes bullying behaviour. Opportunities should be given for managers to reflect on their style of management and take responsibility to build awareness of discrimination characteristics which can be the precursor for ridicule.

Bullying in the workplace is a serious matter; if you are aware of bullying behaviour taking place either towards you or a colleague, please seek help to take positive action.

We offer Learning and Development Training on awareness of diversity, how to deal with discriminatory behaviour and other topics around Bullying and Harassment Training. Take a look at our website at and remember we are here to help you and your team fulfil your potential.