bullying in the workplace

If you’re being treated unfairly at work it could be classed as bullying or even harassment. But forms of bullying can vary dramatically, and affect individuals as well as groups. Whatever form, and in whichever way, bullying can largely impact a person and their mental health.

In fact, bullying was included in a list of one of the main reasons for work-related stress, depression, or anxiety in 2020-2021 HSE. Thus affecting productivity, performance, and even attendance at work. As an employer, it’s vital to understand what bullying is, what forms it can take, and how to tackle it. 


What is workplace bullying?


Bullying can involve a whole range of unwanted behaviour towards a person or group of people. It can be very subtle, or very apparent, and can happen a few times, or over a long period of time. 

Bullying can include: 

  • Overloading people with work 
  • Ignoring a person or people and their contribution 
  • Excluding a person or people and their contribution 
  • Spreading malicious rumours about a person or people 
  • Unfair treatment of a person or people 
  • Picking on someone or a group of people 
  • Undermining someone or a group of people 
  • Denying a person’s or people’s opportunities 


Where can bullying happen?

  • Face-to-face 
  • On emails 
  • Via text or other messaging platforms 
  • At work social events 
  • On social media 
  • By letter 


What can a person be bullied for?


A person can be bullied for a vast number of reasons. Anything from the age or race of a person, to the way someone talks or their skills at work. The important thing to remember is bullying is explained as unwanted behaviours, and therefore if a person is not comfortable with the way they are being treated, this could be classed as bullying. 


When is bullying classed as harassment?


There is no legal definition for bullying, and therefore isn’t illegal. However, harassment is illegal. It is explained as when ‘bullying behaviours’ are concerning or about any of the below, protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010

  • Age 
  • Disability 
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Pregnancy or maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief 
  • Sex 
  • Sexual orientation 


Dealing with bullying and harassment as an employer 


People have the right to be treated fairly at work, and to be treated with respect and dignity. Employers should take this seriously and ensure to create an inclusive and respectful work environment where employees feel comfortable. Implementation of a bullying and harassment protocol that sets out what is not tolerated in the workplace sets out rules and ensures people know the rules. Outlining a zero tolerance policy for bullying behaviours. Even if there is no policy, an employer has a legal duty of care to protect you whilst you’re at work. 


What to do if you’re being bullied in the workplace


In some cases, the person who is doing these unwanted behaviours may not be aware of the effects of their actions. If you are comfortable, it may be a good idea to speak to them directly, explaining how you are feeling, and how you have been affected as a result of their actions. 

However, if this isn’t an option, there are a few other routes to take: 

  • Talk to your manager or line manager. Explain the facts, how the actions of a person have made you feel and how this is affecting you. This could be via a phone call or email if you aren’t comfortable speaking face to face. 
  • Keep a record. It’s a good idea to note down the unwanted actions from a person and the dates when these occurred. Plus, how the actions made you feel. This can be useful when explaining the situation to others, rather than relying on your memory in a time of potential upset and distress. If the actions happened online, take screenshots. Or if it happened in a public place, as people if they saw it and ask if they would provide a statement. 
  • Make a formal complaint. If the bullying or harassment continues, you can make a formal complaint, which could be to an HR department, or your manager. Formal complaints should be handled formally and follow any procedures which are set out. 


Contact Us 


If you’d like more information on bullying in the workplace and how this can affect a person’s mental health. Or, if you’d like to discuss our range of services, please get in touch with our team. Visit our FAQs page, call us at 01260 277797, or email us at website@acornoh.co.uk

Want to know more about the Occupational Health services we provide at Acorn, and how they could benefit your business and your employees? Please get in touch.