Bullying means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent; it may be persistent or an isolated incident.

Anti-Bullying Week takes place from the 13th to 17th of November this year in the UK. The main aim of the week is to encourage people to take a stand against bullying throughout the year. It also serves to highlight the problem of different types of bullying in various settings.  Ditch the Label produced a report on bullying in the UK in 2016. Key findings included:

• 1.5 million young people (50%) have been bullied within the past year.
• 145,800 (19%) of these were bullied every day.
• People who have been bullied are almost twice as likely to bully others
• Twice as many boys as girls bully (66% of males vs. 31% females).
• 57% of female respondents have been bullied, 44% of male respondents and 59% of respondents who identified as trans have been bullied.
• 24% of those who have been bullied go on to bully.
• 20% of all young people have physically attacked somebody.
• 44% of young people who have been bullied experience depression.
• 41% of young people who have been bullied experience social anxiety.
• 33% of those being bullied have suicidal thoughts.

Bullying is also a problem in the workplace. It can generate a toxic workplace culture and lead to increased stress and anxiety levels in staff.  While overt bullying is generally easy to identify (e.g. verbal, physical and written), low level bullying is harder to identify. This can range from subtle comments to malicious gossiping. The victim is often uncertain as to why they feel uncomfortable and may not realise the damage it is doing to them psychologically. Low level bullying is often written off as part of ‘workplace culture’ and is harder to root out.

Bullying in the NHS

The latest NHS staff survey shows that bullying continues to be an extensive problem in the health sector in England – the rate of reported bullying has doubled in just four years. Twenty five percent of all NHS staff (one in four people) have admitted that they have been bullied in some way, with 30% of all NHS staff sharing that they have suffered some psychological stress due to bullying behaviours.

According to the General Medical Council over 13% of trainee doctors report being victims of bullying and harassment in their training post.

One of the biggest challenges in addressing bullying in any sector is the wall of silence which often accompanies it. The NHS has produced an infographic to help.

NHS Bullying Infographic

What can the employer do to prevent workplace bullying?

  • Have a bullying and harassment policy in place.
  • Make it clear that all kinds of bullying behaviour is considered unacceptable.
  • Have a real commitment to building a healthy workplace environment with good and fair communication.
  • Regularly reflect on management style and raise awareness of different types of discrimination.
  • Have a rigourous support mechanism and process in place for those who are being bullied and those who are the perpetrators. Make sure that there are different people that individuals can choose to see to raise the issue. Having different options and choices acknowledges that different people deal with bullying in a range of ways and may need different types of support.
  • Put up posters, run briefing sessions and keep the issue visible in the workplace to raise awareness and ensure employees feel safe.
  • Further assistance to employers is available from ACAS.

 What can employees do to prevent bullying?

  •  Be honest about behaviour, be prepared to report poor behaviour and support those who have been bullied.
  • Question workplaces which do not address the issue or teams which are silenced by poor behaviour.
  • Reach out for help and assistance – you are not alone. It is hard to come to terms with bullying as it can offer engender feelings of shame and hopelessness. Victims can often feel isolated and alienated. There are people who will help.
  • Keep a log of all incidents that make you feel humiliated, belittled or afraid.
  •  Support workplace initiatives which raise the issue of bullying.
  • You can email us if you need confidential guidance or help.