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Bullying in the workplace

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Bullying in the Workplace

What Does It Mean?

There are many different ways that someone can be bullied at work. Your emotional health can be severely affected if you’re experiencing bullying in the workplace, and it can be a very distressing and upsetting issue. If you find yourself taking your work home with you, this bullying can also begin to affect your family life and you might feel very anxious and unhappy about the idea of going back to work the next day. Today we’re going to discuss these issues and try to suggest things you can do to improve your situation.

What Does Bullying at Work Look Like?

Everyone knows what classic cases of bullying look like: a school-yard, one or more “big kids” picking on a smaller kid, kicking and punching, maybe stealing lunch money. But it doesn’t have to look like that. Workplace bullying can be split into three main distinctions: Physical (someone’s body or possessions are damaged), verbal (mean things are said or written down) and social (also known as relational bullying). Friendships and social status are deliberately harmed.


Cyberbullying is a name given to bullying that takes place online or through a mobile phone, e.g. through instant messaging, social media or texts. It can cause severe emotional distress and is just as serious as the other forms of bullying even if no physical harm is inflicted.

Effects of Workplace Bullying

Trusting friends and colleagues can be very difficult if someone is being bullied at work. According to a survey carried out by BullyingUK, 60% of workplace bullying instances were social including being ignored, feeling lonely and left out, while 73% had a verbal element such as being made to feel bad or receiving threats. Even though it makes up the majority of workplace bullying experiences, social bullying is often swept under the rug as being “no big deal”.

Many people are made to feel as though they are overreacting or reading too much into certain situations, even though these situations can have a major impact on an individual’s physical and mental health. The victim’s professional credibility within the workplace can also suffer. Management and senior members of staff can end up getting incorrect information if rumours and lies are allowed to circulate for too long. The individual’s chances of promotion and stability within the company can be affected as a result, a devastating impact for unfair bullying to have on someone’s career.

20% of survey respondents said they were signed off work with stress, while a worrying 48% explained that they felt like they had to just keep working and try to ignore the bullying.

What Does the Law Say?

Although bullying in itself isn’t illegal, managers and co-workers who behave in an offensive or threatening way could be committing harassment. Thanks to the Equality Act 2010, this is illegal.

If you’re being bullied about any of the following, it can be deemed as harassment:

    Gender, sex, sexual orientation or age;

    Religion, ethnicity or race;

    Disabilities and additional needs.

    Pregnancy, paternity/maternity rights or marital status.

In the Equality Act 2010, these are known as “protected characteristics”.

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