Employers, let's talk about the 'B' word

Bullying. Just like mental health it’s a topic that’s often swept under the carpet in the workplace, yet when ignored and not tackled effectively can cost the UK economy £18 billion a year. But more importantly, it can cost your people their feeling of wellbeing.


Bullying in the workplace


So, let’s talk about it, what exactly is considered as bullying in the workplace?


This repeated behaviour that is often intended to hurt a colleague emotionally, or in some cases physically, happens in many forms both in and out of the office.


It could include members of staff name calling, ignoring, belittling, scapegoating, manipulating roles, spreading rumours, aggressiveness, the list goes on…


Let’s not forget cyberbullying too - something that’s risen massively over the last 18 months and involves all of the above but takes place online via email, texts, and social media.


Surprisingly bullying isn’t against the law. However, in some cases it can be considered harassment, whereby legal action can take place.


Who are the workplace wrong’uns?


In a recent survey by Bupa, more than a quarter of UK employees say they’ve been bullied in the workplace. But who are the culprits?


We wish there was a standard definition that could be used to identify a bully, but the truth is it could be anyone, and annoyingly they’re often pretty good at hiding their behaviour! Or in some cases, don’t actually know that they’re doing it.


According to research, 40% of those who’ve been bullied or harassed say their manager was responsible. This could be because of something as simple as overly micro-managing your team - quite the wake-up call, right?


It’s more damaging than you think


Bullying in the workplace can have a significant negative impact on workplace wellbeing. For victims it can cause feelings of distress, isolation and humiliation, sleep problems and high levels of anxiety and stress.


It’s detrimental to the employer too since those staff who are targeted are more likely to take time off, lack motivation, have poor relationships with other employees and may even lead to resignation from their job.




A duty of care


Every instance and impact of bullying is different, that’s why leaders and management must be effectively trained on how to prevent such behaviour to ultimately protect their people and fulfil their duty of care.


Research shows that those who have received training are much better at fostering healthy relationships in their team and are able to stop conflict much more quickly and effectively.


Training should also be offered to employees to help them to understand the professional standards of behaviour that they are expected to adhere to and the damaging impact that bullying can have.


While training is absolute key to tackle bullying at work, there are a couple of other things we suggest doing too, such as:


  • Reviewing your policy


Do you have an up to date bullying & harassment policy for your workplace that states that this behaviour is 100% not tolerated? Big name businesses like Sky have just enhanced theirs – take a look.


  • Revisiting your reporting system (or create one!)


Do you provide your people with a place or process to report such behaviour? We’d suggest making this anonymous to encourage victims to use it.


  • Being open and inclusive


Placing emphasis where possible on how your organisation has a ZERO-tolerance approach to bullying can not only help to discourage such behaviour, but also help victims open up about any instances where they’ve been bullied.



Having a positive workplace culture is crucial to attracting and retaining respectful, hardworking, and skilled employees. And this starts with YOU, as leaders and management. Here at Key Wellbeing we can equip you with the knowledge to prevent, tackle and handle bullying at work. Get in touch: https://www.keywellbeing.co.uk/

connect with us

Melissa Armstrong and Marie Ranson,
Co-founders of Key Wellbeing Ltd.

Proudly from Teesside in the North East of England, Melissa and Marie have 15 years of wellbeing experience.

We’ve both seen and personally experienced the impact that mental ill-health can have on our families and the wider community and for that reason, we are both super passionate about helping people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, especially at work.