Definition of Bullying
Bullying is a form of psychological abuse that can have a very serious impact, including the effect of making the victim feel demeaned and inadequate.
Bullying can be defined as: unwanted conduct that is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting to the recipient. Bullying can also take the form of an abuse or misuse of power, which has the purpose, or can have the effect of, intimidating, belittling and humiliating the recipient.
Bullying may be a course of conduct/repetitive behavior (but does not need to be).
Any of these behaviours could lead to loss of self-esteem for the victim and ultimately the self-questioning of their worth.
It is the perception of the recipient that determines whether any particular behaviour may reasonably be viewed as bullying.
Examples of Bullying
Examples of bullying include:
- shouting or swearing at someone
- ignoring or deliberately excluding a person
- persecution through threats and instilling fear
- spreading malicious rumours
- constantly undervaluing effort
- dispensing disciplinary action which is unjustified
- spontaneous rages, shouting or raised voice
Examples of less obvious bullying include:
- deliberately withholding information or supplying incorrect information
- deliberately sabotaging or impeding performance
- constantly changing targets / expectations without good reason
- setting an individual up to fail by imposing impossible deadlines or unrealistic requests
- removing areas of responsibility and imposing menial tasks
- blocking applications for holiday, promotion, or training
- that which is directed from a subordinate to a line manager
These examples listed are not exhaustive.
Definition of Harassment
Harassment is unwanted conduct that intentionally or unintentionally violates a person’s dignity, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for the individual.
Each person has the right to decide what behaviour is either acceptable or unacceptable; if an individual finds certain behaviour unacceptable and they feel damaged by it, then that individual has every right to say so, and their right to do so will be respected. It is irrelevant whether the person who perpetrated the behaviour intended to cause offence.
People can be subjected to harassment on a wide variety of grounds.
- sex or gender
- sexual orientation
- transgender status
- marital or civil partnership status
- pregnancy or maternity leave
- race, nationality, ethnic origin, national origin or skin colour
- employment status, e.g. part-time, fixed-term, permanent, self-employed, agency worker, casual worker, contractor, consultant or volunteer etc.
- membership or non-membership of a trade union
- the carrying out of health and safety duties
- religious or political beliefs
- deeply held personal beliefs
- criminal record
- health, e.g. AIDS/HIV sufferers, etc.
- physical characteristics
- willingness to challenge harassment — being ridiculed or victimised for raising a complaint
Harassment is normally characterised by more than one incident of unacceptable behaviour, particularly if it recurs once it has been made clear that it is regarded by the victim as offensive. However, a single incident may constitute harassment if it is sufficiently serious.
Harassment at work is not only despicable and demeaning, but may also be unlawful. For example, under the UK’s Equality Act 2010, or the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 in the Republic of Ireland. The UK Act protects individuals who have, are perceived to have or who are associated with someone who has particular characteristics.
Any directors or managers of employees who fail to take steps to prevent harassment or investigate complaints, may be held liable for their unlawful actions and could be required to pay compensation to the victim, as may the individual who has committed the act of harassment. Awards for injury to feelings go up to £30,000 and, in exceptional cases, may exceed this. The award to compensate an individual for loss of employment as a result of harassment is uncapped.
Harassment on any grounds may also be a criminal offence.
This means that in some cases, harassment could become a police matter.
Examples of Harassment
Harassment takes many forms — from relatively mild banter to physical violence. Employees and volunteers may not always realise that their behaviour constitutes harassment, but they must recognise that what is acceptable to one employee or volunteer may not be acceptable to another – determining what is acceptable is an individual right that must be respected.
Examples of harassment include (but are not restricted to):
- verbal harassment — examples include crude language, offensive jokes, suggestive or offensive remarks, innuendoes, rude or vulgar comments, malicious gossip and offensive songs related to any of the protected characteristics (e.g. sex, race, religion, etc.)
- non-verbal harassment — examples include wolf-whistles, obscene gestures, sexually suggestive posters / calendars, pornographic material (both paper-based and generated on a computer, including offensive screensavers), graffiti, offensive letters, offensive e-mails, text messages on mobile phones and offensive objects
- physical harassment — examples include unnecessary and unwanted touching, patting, pinching, or brushing against another employee’s body, assault and physical coercion
- pressure for sexual favours (e.g. to get a job or promotion) or victimisation on account of the rejection of such pressure
- isolation or non-co-operation and exclusion from social activities for a reason related to sex, race, religion, etc.