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Bullying Harassment Definitions

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The equality act 2010 defines harassment as ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating an individuals dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual’.

Behaviour that is considered bullying by one person may be considered firm management by another. Most people will agree on extreme cases of bullying and harassment but it is sometimes the ‘grey’ areas that cause most problems. Here are some examples of what is unacceptable behaviour, including:

  • spreading malicious rumours, or insulting someone by word or behaviour
  • copying emails that are critical about someone to others who do not need to know
  • ridiculing or demeaning someone – picking on them or setting them up to fail
  • exclusion or victimisation
  • unfair treatment
  • overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position
  • unwelcome sexual advances – touching, standing too close, display of offensive materials, asking for sexual favours, making decisions on the basis of sexual advances being accepted or rejected
  • making threats or comments about job security without foundation
  • deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism
  • preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities.
  • personal insults

Bullying and harassment is not necessarily face to face, it may occur through written communications, visual images (for example pictures of a sexual nature or embarrassing photographs of colleagues), email, phone, and automatic supervision methods – such as computer recording of downtime from work – if these are not universally applied to all workers.

Those making a complaint usually define what they mean by bullying or harassment – something has happened to them that is unwelcome, unwarranted and causes a detrimental effect. If employees complain they are being bullied or harassed, then they have a grievance which must be dealt with regardless of whether or not their complaint fits with a standard definition.

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Case Study:

Nisa is a nurse on a ward, she is regularly criticised in front of colleagues by a particular manager.  Nisa’s colleagues are not criticised even though they have made the same mistakes.  Her colleagues think this is amusing and repeat the managers criticisms to others.  Nisa feels that she does not have her colleagues support to make a complaint.

Are Nisa’s colleagues colluding with this bullying behaviour?


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Last updated - 31 August 2016
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