Understanding Workplace Bullying: Impact on Businesses and key steps for prevention

Understanding Workplace Bullying: Impact on Businesses and key steps for prevention

Workplace bullying is a pervasive issue that can have far-reaching consequences for both Employees and businesses alike. As an Employer or a member of the HR team, it is crucial that you understand what workplace bullying entails, its impact on your business, and the steps you can take to prevent it.

In our article we aim to provide you with valuable insights into identifying, addressing, and preventing workplace bullying, along with real examples from UK employment tribunal cases to highlight its significance.

Let’s take a look:



How is workplace bullying defined and what are the potential impacts?

Workplace bullying is characterised by repeated and deliberate negative behaviours aimed at an individual or a group.

These behaviours may include:

  • verbal abuse
  • humiliation
  • exclusion
  • intimidation
  • sabotage


Bullying can take various forms, such as public humiliation, spreading malicious rumours, undermining work performance, or even cyberbullying.

It creates a hostile work environment that not only affects the targeted individuals’ well-being but also takes a toll on overall Employee morale, productivity, and your company’s reputation.



What are the key differences between bullying and harassment?

While workplace bullying and harassment often overlap, they are distinct concepts. Harassment usually involves discriminatory actions based on protected characteristics such as gender, race, religion, or disability. Bullying, on the other hand, can encompass a wider range of behaviours that are not necessarily tied to protected characteristics but are still harmful and detrimental to the work environment.



Let’s take a look at an example from a UK employment tribunal case

Understanding the implications of workplace bullying is crucial. Here is an example from a UK employment tribunal case:

 “Mr Shunmugaraja v’s Royal Mail Ltd”

In this case the claimant was awarded a total of: £230,000 this was after his complaints about bullying and discrimination were not adequately addressed, contributing to a decline in his mental health and his subsequent dismissal.

It is clear to see the detriment to the company and financial implications, you can read the full judgment here.


How much could the costs of workplace bullying be in my business?

Beyond legal consequences, workplace bullying incurs substantial costs for businesses. These include:


  • Decreased Productivity: bullied Employees often experience decreased work efficiency and engagement, impacting overall productivity
  • High Turnover: Employees subjected to bullying are more likely to leave your company, leading to increased recruitment and training costs
  • Reputation damage: news of workplace bullying can spread quickly, tarnishing your company’s reputation, and making it less attractive to potential hires and clients
  • Legal Expenses: legal battles resulting from bullying cases can be financially draining for businesses, including fines, compensations, and legal fees



As an Employer how should I be creating a bullying prevention strategy?

To mitigate the impact of workplace bullying and foster a healthy work environment, Employers and HR teams should implement the following measures:


  • Develop Clear Policies: as an Employer you should craft comprehensive anti-bullying policies that clearly define acceptable behaviour and consequences for violations. Ensure all Employees are aware of these policies
  • Promote a Culture of Respect: as an Employer you should foster a culture where respect and empathy are central values. Encourage open communication and make it known that bullying will not be tolerated
  • Training and Education: as an Employer you should provide training to both Employees and managers on recognising, preventing, and addressing bullying behaviours. Equip managers with the skills to intervene appropriately
  • Anonymous Reporting Channels: as an Employer you should set up confidential reporting channels where Employees can report bullying incidents without fear of retaliation
  • Prompt Intervention: as an Employer you should address complaints swiftly and impartially. Investigate all allegations thoroughly and take appropriate action based on the findings
  • Support Systems: as an Employer you should offer counselling or support services to bullied individuals to help them cope with the emotional impact


In conclusion

Workplace bullying is not only a humanitarian concern but also a business issue with significant financial and reputational implications. Employers and HR teams have a responsibility to create a safe and inclusive work environment that promotes the well-being of Employees and contributes to the overall success of the organisation. By understanding the differences between bullying and harassment, learning from real cases, and implementing preventive measures, businesses can take a proactive stance against workplace bullying.



How can we help you further?

We are here to provide you with full advice, support, and guidance. We can advise in any HR or Employment Law matter: you can contact a member of our team on 0333 006 9489 or [email protected]





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