Bullying in the workplace

Rates and Impact of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying affects approximately one in ten workers, with research typically finding rates are generally slightly higher for women compared to men[1][2]. Furthermore, research has unfortunately revealed that sexual and gender minority individuals are at higher risk of being bullied in the workplace[3]

Personal Impacts: 

  • Those with prior mental illness are more likely to suffer from workplace bullying, which often leads to the condition worsening[4]
  • Workplace bullying increases the risk of developing a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and an increased suicide risk[5]
  • Workplace bullying increases the risk of physical illnesses such as acute tiredness and pain (fibromyalgia) and cardiovascular issues[6]

Financial Impacts:

  • Loss of productivity and absenteeism: The stress, isolation, and anxiety that workplace bullying causes not only results in significant mental strain for the individual but also means those suffering are less able to work productively. This leads to loss of productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Turnover of staff and reputation damage: Staff turnover due to individuals leaving costs companies significant amounts of money and this comes with reputation damage if the individual is leaving due to workplace bullying.

What is being done to help victims and reduce rates of workplace bullying?

  • ‘Bullying’ is not illegal in UK workplace, however workplace harassment is illegal according to the Equality Act of 2010. Harassment is when someone behaves towards you in an undesirable or intrusive way, causing feelings of humiliation and intimidation. Whether the perpetrator does this purposefully is not relevant. Harassment can be classed as unlawful discrimination if perpetrated on the basis of on gender, sexuality, age, religion, race or disability. Legal action can be taken against the perpetrator of harassment.
  • For sexual and gender minorities there has been an increase in more inclusive company policies in terms of equal treatment in the employment process and awareness raising and education for staff. This is key as studies show that the presence of other sexual and gender minority individuals and more accepting work environments are linked to less incidence of workplace bullying and increased job satisfaction for sexual and gender minorities[7]
  • More legal progress is needed in terms of the whistleblowing process as bullying, harassment and discrimination are not covered by the whistleblowing law in the UK (unless your case is in the public interest). This acts as a barrier to reporting abuse as workers who make complaints when they see colleagues being abused or harassed still face fears of losing their jobs.

What can you do if you are being bullied at work?

The main internal options are to contact your manager or speak to somebody in your HR department. When doing this, be factual about your experiences and firm about how you feel about the situation. Employers have a legal duty of care which should include policies on how to deal with workplace bullying. However, you may feel uncomfortable about approaching your manager as they may not take the abuse seriously or even openly allow it, or they may be the perpetrator themselves, often passing off abusive behaviours as part of their managing style. Furthermore, HR departments can be neglectful as they often care more about the company reputation rather than the wellbeing of employees. Companies across the UK are increasing their measures to ensure worker welfare, especially since the advent of the pandemic. However, if you are suffering from workplace bullying and do not feel comfortable about discussing it internally, there are many places where you can seek help and advice:

BULLIESOUT:

Email: mail@bulliesout.com

Telephone: 02920 492 169

Acas Helpline:
Telephone: 0300 123 1100

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

Telephone: 0808 800 0082


[1] Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2015). Workplace bullying: a tale of adverse consequences. Innovations in clinical neuroscience12(1-2), 32–37.

[2] Rosander, M., Salin, D., Viita, L., & Blomberg, S. (2020). Gender matters: workplace bullying, gender, and mental health. Frontiers in psychology11, 2683.

[3] Hollis, L. P., & McCalla, S. A. (2013). Bullied back in the closet: Disengagement of LGBT employees facing workplace bullying. Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture4(2), 6-16.g

[4] Rosander, M., Salin, D., Viita, L., & Blomberg, S. (2020). Gender matters: workplace bullying, gender, and mental health. Frontiers in psychology11, 2683.

[5] Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2015). Workplace bullying: a tale of adverse consequences. Innovations in clinical neuroscience12(1-2), 32–37.

[6] Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2015). Workplace bullying: a tale of adverse consequences. Innovations in clinical neuroscience12(1-2), 32–37.

[7] Richard A Prayson, MD, MEd, J Jordi Rowe, MD, LGBTQ Inclusivity and Language in the Workplace, Critical Values, Volume 12, Issue 2, April 2019, Pages 28–30, https://doi.org/10.1093/crival/vaz004

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