What is Workplace Bullying?

20th November 2017

Bullying in the Workplace has hit the news recently as a new study published in medical journal Diabetologia shows that workplace bullying increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in victims by up to 46%.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, found that around 9% of participants in the study reported they had been bullied in the past year, and this group was more likely to develop diabetes later in life.

Workplace bullying is a severe social stressor’ and can have an effect on the victim’ s metabolism, appetite and weight in ways that make diabetes more likely.

Understanding the wider health impacts of workplace stress is particularly important as a report earlier this year showed a third of UK workers are experiencing anxiety, depression or stress.

So what is workplace bullying, what are the signs of workplace bullying and who can bullying in the workplace be mitigated


What is workplace bullying

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) defines workplace bullying as  offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviour, abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees and which may cause them to suffer stress .

A survey by the TUC revealed that nearly a third of people have been bullied at work  with women experiencing it more than men. The highest incidences of workplace bullying is among 40 to 59-year-olds, where 34% of people are reported as victims.



What counts as workplace bullying

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying at work means repeated, health-harming mistreatment of a person by one or more perpetrators.

It is abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work interference or sabotage which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse.

It is driven by the bully’ s or perpetrator’ s need to control the targeted individual.


What are the signs of Workplace Bullying

Bullying UK identifies that there are many instances of bullying behaviour in the workplace, such as the following:

  1. Being constantly criticised, having duties and responsibility taken away without good reason
  2. Shouting, aggressive behaviour or threats
  3. Being put down or made to feel like the butt of the jokes
  4. Being persistently picked on in front of others or in private
  5. Being constantly ignored, victimised and excluded regularly
  6. Constantly mocking and attacking members of staff
  7. Spreading malicious rumours about members of staff
  8. Misuse of power or position to make someone feel uncomfortable or victimised
  9. Making threats about job security without any basis or substance
  10. Blocking promotion or progress within the workplace

These are just a few signs of bullying and there are many more and it is dependent on the organisation or the industry too.


Who are most likely to be bullies

A study by Career Builder identifies bullies as peers (46%) as well as managers (45%) and sometimes even higher-ups in the organization (25%), while 31 percent have been picked on by customers.

The study found that the most common way workers reported being bullied was getting blamed for mistakes they didn’t make followed by not being acknowledged and the use of double standards. The full list includes:

  1. Falsely accused of mistakes 42 percent
  2. Ignored 39 percent
  3. Used different standards/policies toward me than other workers 36 percent
  4. Constantly criticized 33 percent
  5. Someone didn’t perform certain duties, which negatively impacted my work 31 percent
  6. Yelled at by boss in front of coworkers 28 percent
  7. Belittling comments were made about my work during meetings 24 percent
  8. Gossiped about 26 percent
  9. Someone stole credit for my work 19 percent
  10. Purposely excluded from projects or meetings 18 percent
  11. Picked on for personal attributes 15 percent


How can Bullying in the Workplace be mitigated

While it’s important for employees to stand up for themselves against workplace bullying, ‘CIO Magazine‘ argues that most of the work avoiding a negative and disrespectful work environment must be done from the top of the organization down.

Here are some other ways that companies can respond to workplace bullying:

  1. Understand That Workplace Bullying Happens: A lot of bullying activity may be covert and may not be visible to company leadership until the damage has been done. Also, bullying victims themselves may not recognize what is happening to them, even when it causes physical or mental distress or a deterioration in work performance.
  2. Take Workplace Bullying Reports Seriously: Even if managers do recognize the bullying behavior, they may be hesitant to address the behavior, especially if the bully is productive or profitable to the company. Reporting the behavior is also critical, as difficult as that may be. Companies should have a reporting structure in place that can help ensure that management takes the report seriously
  3. Respond Quickly and Decisively to Reports of Workplace Bullying: Management and company leadership need to respond quickly to reports of bullying. Conduct an investigation immediately and, even if names are not provided, the organization needs to let others in the company know when it has taken action and what the consequences were.


Where can we get Workplace Bullying training

Marshall E-Learning’s ‘Workplace Bullying and Harassment e-learning course‘ looks at an increasingly serious workplace issue from a staff and management perspective. Course One is aimed at staff, while Course Two is a supplementary course for managers.

The e-learning course covers the following topics:

  1. What is bullying and harassment
  2. Recognising bullying and harassment in the workplace
  3. The difference between fair management and bullying
  4. The effects of bullying or harassment on the individual
  5. The effects of bullying or harassment on the organisation
  6. Your role in helping to reduce bullying and harassment.
  7. What to do if you are being bullied
  8. Overview of legislation

Find out how you can raise awareness and reduce bullying in the workplace with  Workplace Bullying training from Marshall E-Learning. Contact us now on +44 (0)845 123 3909 or at’ contactus@marshallacm.co.uk.

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