It’s estimated that 1 in 4 employees in the UK have been affected by workplace bullying at some point in their career.

Bullying can be such a subtle process of emotional and psychological manipulation, and conducted over such a long period of time, that it can be difficult to detect.

Here are some obvious signs of bullying that you SHOULD be able to notice:

  1. Yelling, shouting or being aggressive
  2. Tampering with someone’s belongings or work-space, stalking or spying
  3. Forcing or persuading someone to do or say things against their will
  4. Punishing undeservedly, either by physical discipline, passive aggression or isolation
  5. Disparaging someone or their ideas, opinions or work
  6. Publicly embarrassing or humiliating someone
  7. Being vindictive or retaliating against an employee
  8. Threatening someone with dismissal, discipline or other punishment
  9. Offensive communication, demeaning jokes or gossip
  10. Launching a campaign to get rid of an employee
  11. Impeding progression or growth unfairly

Here are some signs that may be harder to notice:

  1. Repeatedly lying or not telling the truth
  2. Overt or veiled threats
  3. Purposefully ignoring someone
  4. Intentionally isolating someone
  5. Justifying or defending own behaviour
  6. Minimising other’s concerns or feelings
  7. Dodging issues or changing the subject to avoid it
  8. Shaming an employee for no reason
  9. Undermining another’s work
  10. Pitting employees against each other
  11. Taking away someone’s responsibilities without cause
  12. Setting impossible expectations, setting an employee up to fail
  13. Constantly changing expectations or boundaries
  14. Frequently changing moods
  15. Criticising others for unwarranted reasons
  16. Intentionally withholding information or giving misleading information
  17. Shifting blame to others, scapegoating
  18. Stealing credit for other’s ideas
  19. Excessive flattery and compliments
  20. Rarely delegating or communicating

It can be really hard for employees to realise they are being bullied – they may feel something is wrong that they can’t put their finger on, or they feel unfairly treated but can’t understand why. They may also start to fear coming to work and can become mentally and physically unwell.

Make sure you have a policy in place to cover bullying and ensure your managers are trained in how to identify and deal with workplace bullying.

Encourage employees to report problems and have a confidential way for them to do this.

Look for signs that an employee may be feeling distressed or uncomfortable and never pass a complaint off as a personality clash – be sure to investigate fairly and take appropriate action.