What counts as bullying in the workplace?

Experiencing unfair treatment in the workplace can be distressing and can have an impact on your life both in and out of work. You may be worried about your financial situation if you leave, your performance at work, or suffer from low self-esteem. However, there are laws to protect employees from such treatment, but you must first understand what type of negative treatment you are experiencing under the law. In this article, I will look at what bullying in the workplace is, and what you can do if you are a victim.

What is bullying?

Bullying is where you experience behaviours from a person or group of people that make you feel uncomfortable, frightened, made fun of, or put down.

What are some examples of bullying in the workplace?

Bullying can take many different forms, but typical examples include:

  • Someone continually putting you down in meetings or in front of superiors
  • Someone spreading rumours about you
  • When you are prevented from joining in social events by the rest of your team
  • When your manager doesn’t let you attend training or social events but allows everyone else to

Bullying can be a regular pattern of behaviour or a one-off incident and doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the workplace. It is possible to experience bullying at a workplace social event, on social media, by email, phone or face-to-face. It is also possible to experience bullying from junior members of staff if you are a more senior employee. This is known as upwards bullying and may include actions such as:

  • Refusing to carry out instructions or tasks you have delegated to them
  • Spreading rumours about you
  • Showing disrespect towards you
  • Doing things to make you seem incompetent

What is the difference between bullying and harassment?

Bullying is deemed to be harassment under the law where it is related to a protected characteristic. The protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

What can I do about bullying in the workplace?

You should speak to those involved in the bullying and explain how the behaviour makes you feel. If you do not wish to speak to them face to face, you could set out the facts in an email. You may also be able to speak to a trade union representative or someone else at work who may be able to help you.

Where there is a pattern of bullying, you should try to keep a record. Include details such as:

  • The date and time of the incidents
  • Evidence such as emails, screenshots or details of any witnesses
  • The effects of the bullying such as how it made you feel or any impact on your performance at work

To discuss this, or any other employment related matter, please contact Jane directly on 01483 887766, email info@hartbrown.co.uk or start a live chat today.

*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Jane Crosby

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises...

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane Crosby

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises in employment Law and commercial litigation and brings more than 15 years' experience to her role.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the aviation industry. This experience is appreciated by many of Jane's clients who note that she is able to take a commercial and pragmatic approach to any legal issue that they face.

Jane acts for a wide range of individuals and businesses and her areas of specialism include aviation, property related industries and IT. Jane regularly advises on aspects of employment law, such as settlement agreements, employment contracts, policies and procedures, redundancies, equal pay, data protection, issues arising from TUPE and reorganisations, the calculation of holiday pay, bonus and commission payments, disciplinary and grievance issues, dismissal and termination issues, the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. Jane gets involved in GDPR training for her clients and she is able to deliver tailored employment law training sessions upon request.

As a commercial litigation lawyer, Jane also deals in shareholder and directors disputes, commercial contract disputes and the enforcement of restrictive covenants.

Jane has been involved in successful high value commercial litigation for clients in the High Courts, she is an accredited mediator and she is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Jane is often asked to write for a number of well known publications, including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Week and she has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

Here is small selection of the feedback that Jane has received:

“Jane, I cannot sincerely thank you enough for your wise counsel and am delighted to have made your acquaintance. If I am blessed with a new position somewhere I will hand over my contract in the first instance to you. Likewise, any of my friends, peers, romans and countrymen wanting advice, I will point them in your direction.”

“Jane, you have been most resilient on my behalf for which I sincerely thank you for all your endeavours. I have a tremendous working relationship with Hart Brown and you have undoubtedly compounded this further."

“I appreciated the clarity of advice given at a stressful time”.

“A sensitive and highly professional approach and efficient work in the interests of the client”.

“Your advice, conduct and assistance have been indeed outstanding and very professional but also – and most importantly – very humane”.