Bullying at work

Anti-Bullying Week: 16th-20th November 2020

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Health Assured team

27 October 2020

According to a recent survey, 23% of the British workforce has been bullied at work.

While the results of a Europe-wide survey found that Ireland is the 7th worst country in Europe when it comes to workplace bullying.

Bullying is not just limited to the playground. Almost a quarter of UK workers have been bullied at work. This is a major cause of stress and anxiety, and if bullying is tolerated—or hidden—then this can contribute towards a negative workplace culture.

Signs of bullying at work

Spotting the signs of bullying in the workplace can be difficult. Both the bully and victim may be good at hiding their respective roles, or in some cases, they might not even realise they’re playing these roles. The bully might excuse their actions as a joke or workplace “banter”, while the victim might convince themselves that they’re being over-sensitive.

Workplace bullying can appear at work in a variety of ways, including physical or emotional abuse. Bullying behaviour can include berating a colleague, taking credit for other people’s work, excluding others (ostracism), threatening others and dictating unfair criticism.

Cost of workplace bullying

Workplace bullying can have a severe impact on employee wellbeing which in turn, can have a negative effect on the performance of an organisation. Mental health problems in the UK workforce cost employers almost £35 billion last year, according to research published by Centre for Mental Health. While in Ireland, reports suggest that mental health issues cost the economy €8.2 billion every year.

These staggering figures reaffirm that workplace bullying can have detrimental effects on employers, not just the victim and their co-workers who witness it. If not dealt with swiftly, workplace bullying can contribute to:

  • High employee turnover: A survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that for 25% of respondents, the best solution to stop being bullied was to quit their jobs. By addressing the issue of bullying at work, you could be preventing the loss of many key team members.
  • Decreased productivity: A victim of bullying will likely feel less motivated and encouraged to excel in their role. On the outside, it may appear that they are uninterested or disengaged with their work, however on the inside, they will be battling with anxiety and fear.
  • Increased absenteeism: A bullied employee may go to great lengths to avoid a high-stress situation at work, including calling in sick. This may have a knock-on effect on other team members and reduce the output of your team, costing the organisation as a result.

Preventing bullying at work

While a challenge, detecting and eliminating bullying in the workplace can be an effective way to boost morale among employees, improve your workplace culture and create a positive effect on the productivity of your organisation. Here, we have listed a couple of points on how to combat bullying at work...

  • Education: 72% of cases the bullying is carried out by a manager. In order to be more proactive, you can offer education opportunities for managers, supervisors, and other authority figures on the best way to approach bullies, as well maintaining their impartial stance.
  • Cultivate positivity: Sometimes, people simply don’t get on. It’s as true in the workplace as it is everywhere else. Try team-building, placing like-minded people together on projects—and above all, listen to anything they have to say.

Addressing bullying is not an easy fix. Culture, especially shared culture in a small space like a workplace, is difficult to navigate. But once you get to the root causes of bullying in your workplace, you can begin to implement change to support your people.


If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

UK: 0844 892 2493

ROI: 01 886 0324

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