Bullying and harassment


Bullying is an abuse or misuse of power that may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Harassment, in general terms, involves unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an offensive, intimidating or hostile environment.

It is unlawful if it is related to age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion or similar philosophical belief, nationality, ethnic origin, race or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or a single incident. Further, if the individual can show that the conduct has created a hostile and degrading environment for them, it will not matter that the harassment related to another individual. The key element is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable by the recipient.

Unhappy and unproductive workplaces with poor morale and poor employee relations are usually a sign you could have bullying and harassment present. Further signs include; loss of respect for managers or supervisors, absence and resignations.

Steps that employers can take to provide a workplace that does not tolerate a culture of bulling.

  • Ensure that a formal statement or policy exists and is supported by senior management.
  • Issue a clear statement that bullying and harassment is totally unacceptable.
  • Investigate alleged incidents thoroughly and immediately.
  • Provide access to counselling and advice for recipients, where practicable, or consider giving time off for these activities.
  • Make appropriate use of grievance and disciplinary procedures, or introduce a harassment procedure.
  • Train your managers to increase knowledge and awareness.

What to do if you are being bullied?

If you feel you are a victim of bullying or that you are being harassed, you should take action as quickly as possible. It is always best to try to resolve this in an informal way in the first instance as this can be all it takes in the vast majority of cases. If this isn’t successful there are a number of options you can consider:

  • see someone in HR or someone in the company you feel happy discussing the matter with
  • talk to your team leader or manager
  • keep a record of any incidents including dates, times, witnesses etc
  • keep any communications such as emails, letters or notes