What is Workplace Bullying?

Amanda Beattie

Amanda Beattie


08 Feb 2019


Bullying, just like harassment in the workplace can have detrimental effects of the productivity and morale of your employees. It involves behaviour that might make other staff feel intimidated, insulted or offended.

While harassment and victimisation have specified meanings in the Equality Act 2010, bullying does not.

You have the duty of care which makes you liable for any harassment suffered by your workers.What is workplace bullying?

Signs of bullying in the workplace

You’re responsible for monitoring issues surrounding dignity at work. So as an employer, it’s important to be able to identify the signs of bullying in the workplace.

  • Constant/unfair criticism.
  • Removal from duties.
  • Social alienation.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Over-supervision.
  • Unfounded threats about job security.
  • Refusing reasonable requests.

What does the law say about bullying?

While bullying isn’t unlawful, it’s pretty similar to harassment which is against the law. It can be any form of unwanted behaviour that’s related to one of the following:

  • Gender reassignment.
  • Or sexual orientation.

Examples of mistreatment in the workplace

Although opinions differ about what makes up mistreatment in the workplace. The law defined it as, ‘'offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”.

Some types of bullying in the workplace include:


  • Unfair treatment.
  • Spreading malicious rumours.
  • Denying training, promotion or leave requests.
  • Intimidating an employee.
  • Physical or threatening abuse.
  • Underserved punishment.
  • Making offensive jokes.
  • Intruding, stalking or spying.

You should also be aware of signs of subtle bullying in the workplace. This could include anything from intentionally concealing the truth, purposefully ignoring team members, excluding or isolating employees or undermining them.

While these forms of bullying at work may be harder to spot, you shouldn't tolerate it when you recognise it.

What are the effects of workplace bullying?

Intimidation and bullying in the workplace can have various effects on your employees and business.

Victims of workplace abuse may feel more stressed about their job, which increases anxiety. You may also notice a decline in their commitment to the company. Other effects include:

  • Trouble with decision making.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Lower productivity.
  • Incapability to concentrate.

These forms of harassment can have detrimental effects for you. In addition to disrupting workflow and a decline in employee morale, it can also cause:

  • A hostile work environment.
  • Promote absenteeism.
  • A risk of employee tribunal claims.
  • Decline in employee loyalty.

Cause of bullying in the workplace

Understanding the causes of workplace bullying goes a long want to helping you deal with it. While it can be difficult to pinpoint one cause, phycologists determine that it's motivated by an individual’s lack of self-esteem.

While personality is one factor, there’re many other mitigating circumstances that can contribute to harassment at work.

It can also occur in the context of an organisational environment that may diminish the incidence of workplace victimisation.

What can employers do to prevent bullying at work?

Employers are increasingly scrutinised on their ability to identify and respond harassment.

You're encouraged to promote a good workplace culture. This prevents the risk of potential loss of reputation, profit and productivity.

The first step to preventing workplace bullying is by fostering an environment where harassment behaviour is unlikely to flourish.

Other tips for preventing problems includes:

  • Creating a well-developed anti-bullying policy.
  • Having an open door policy.
  • Providing regular and respectful feedback.
  • Training managers to identify signs of bullying.
  • Promoting productive and respectful working relationships.

Expert Support

Are you currently dealing with bullying and other issues around employee conduct? Talk to Croner’s employment law experts on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Amanda Beattie

Amanda represents corporate clients and large public bodies, including complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims. Amanda also drafts and delivers bespoke training regarding all aspects of employment law, including ‘mock tribunal’ events; in addition she also frequently drafts employment law articles for various publications for Croner and their clients.

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