Bullying in the Workplace

An Ofcom survey revealed that 39% of 8 to 17-year-olds have experienced bullying on or offline, but this doesn’t end as we reach adulthood. Findings reveal a fifth of employees have been bullied at work and employment tribunal bullying claims are on the rise. As Anti Bullying Week begins, it is time for us all to challenge bullying.


What is Bullying?

Bullying is not joking around with mates or having a bit of a laugh about a blunder. It is targeted behaviours that are delivered with the intention to hurt or humiliate.


The Advisory Conciliation & Arbitration Service (ACAS), an organisation that receives over 20,000 calls concerning workplace bullying every year, defines it as:


“Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”


An online search of bullying statistics will reveal shocking figures about the number of young people who have experienced cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying. They show that bullying is prevalent in our society and it isn’t just an issue for young people. Research by SME Loans* found that 23% of adults surveyed had been bullied at work.


Further research by Fox & Partners** revealed that bullying claims in employment tribunals had increased by 44% in the financial year ending March 22, compared to the previous year. Their report identifies that the changing work environment has made it more difficult for companies to identify and deal with bullying behaviours or resolve conflicts. Is it time to update your workplace policy?


What Effect Does Bullying Have on Individuals?

The confidence, performance and well-being of victims of workplace bullying decline. Let’s be honest; none of us can feel positive or motivated if we are living in fear. Our focus will be on how else will the bully target or alienate us, rather than on doing a good job.


If the bullying continues, victims may decide to resign. HR magazine published a report*** saying that 27% of employees had left their job in 2021 due to the toxic work culture. Finding a new career might be the best solution for some, but no one should feel pushed out of a job they enjoy and are skilled at because of a bully.


Another option is to report the bullying to someone within the organisation. How they deal with it will impact the individuals involved and the wider workplace culture. When brought to the attention of management, reports of bullying must be handled with empathy, and in a fair and compliant manner.


Ideally, there will be a Bullying & Harassment Policy outlining:

  • What constitutes bullying & harassment

  • Steps for employees to take if they are being bullied

  • How the organisation investigates reports of bullying

  • The consequences for anyone found to be bullying

Following this policy and resolving the issue is essential if you are to restore the situation and avoid a formal grievance.


What Effect Does Bullying Have on the Organisation?

If cases of bullying aren’t reported or identified or aren’t handled effectively, it can escalate to a toxic work culture. This has a detrimental effect on the productivity, attitude, confidence and performance of all employees. In turn, this can impact employee retention, customer relations, output and profitability.


Should an employee believe that their reports of bullying aren’t being addressed, they can issue a formal grievance. The next step is an employment tribunal. Employers have a duty of care to employees and where courts find this to be negligent, fines and compensation to the victim can be issued. These have a financial cost, as well as a negative impact on the reputation of the organisation; talent is lost and recruiting new employees becomes more of a challenge.


These are good reasons to have a workplace policy and culture that encourages the fair treatment of employees and challenges any signs of bullying.


Anti Bullying Week

Monday 14 November is the start of Anti Bullying Week, an annual event organised by the Anti Bullying Alliance.


The 2022 theme is Reach Out:

Reach out to someone you know who is being bullied – we all have a responsibility to help and support

Reach out to someone you trust if you are being bullied – this behaviour is not acceptable


Yes, it takes courage to reach out; for a start, there is fear of repercussions. However, we need to challenge it to change it. Anti Bullying Week encourages you to ‘be the change you want to see’.


Take Action on Anti Bullying Week

Although the focus of Anti Bullying Week is on schools, it is an ideal opportunity for employers to take action.


I invite you to:

  • Review or create the organisation’s Bullying & Harassment Policy.

  • Raise awareness of the issue in team meetings and remind people of what action can be taken to address bullying behaviours.

  • Acknowledge that it can be difficult to reach out, so consider ways to make it easier to report bullying in confidence.

Let’s do our bit to create kinder workplace communities.


* https://www.smeloans.co.uk/blog/bullying-in-the-workplace-statistics-uk/

** https://www.foxlawyers.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Fox-Partners-Employment-Tribunal-Bullying-Press-Release-August.pdf

*** https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/news/employees-quitting-jobs-in-record-numbers-due-to-toxic-workplaces

© 2021 by Helen Pettifer Training. Created by Lawrence Wood - Transformational Communications.

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