What is bullying?

Last updated: 31 Jan 2024

Bullying can manifest itself in many obvious ways, such as shouting at staff in public and/or private, instantaneous rages, ‘nit-picking’, personal insults and name-calling, persistent criticism or public humiliation.

There are also more subtle methods:

  • setting objectives with impossible deadlines
  • removing areas of responsibility
  • setting menial tasks
  • constantly changing working guidelines
  • ignoring or excluding an individual
  • turning down leave without good reason
  • blocking a person’s promotion.

Harassment and bullying are most often exercised by people in positions of power, such as supervisors and managers, who abuse their authority and impose their conduct upon others as a means of control.

But they may also be used by colleagues of equal status, for example because of cultural differences, or because they are men assuming a higher status over women.

They can also be used to humiliate and undermine the authority of a person of higher rank within the organisation.

Employees may suffer harassment from members of the public or customers with whom they are in contact in the course of their work. It is important that an employer’s harassment policy covers this situation.

Employers should take steps to minimise its occurrence, and assure staff that they will be supported if it does happen. Employees should ensure that they report all incidents of harassment by those they are in contact with in the course of their work.

Support for members

If you’re a Prospect member and you’re unsure whether a situation you’re experiencing classifies as harassment, please speak to your local representative or contact us.

Prospect members

Please call the member contact centre on 0300 600 1878 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 7pm) or email [email protected].

Bectu members

Please call 0300 600 1878.

All enquiries will be treated with complete confidentiality.