Bullying and harassment can be obvious, with openly aggressive, humiliating or insulting behaviour. But sometimes it manifests itself in more covert ways making it harder to identify.
Examples of bullying or harassing behaviours
- Physical or verbal abuse that directly attacks or ridicules a colleague
- Inappropriately criticising or humiliating a colleague in front of patients or colleagues
- Regularly ignoring a colleague and excluding them from meetings or events.
- Making derogatory comments or offensive jokes about women, disabled people or people of a particular race or faith background, sexual orientation or age
- Inappropriate touching, sexualised comments or trying to elicit sexual favours through threats or promises
- Using threats (e.g. about job security or patient care) to get someone to comply with work demands
- Setting someone up to fail by overloading them, giving inadequate support and blaming them for failure afterwards
- Constant criticism, excessive scrutiny and micro management of tasks.
What constitutes bullying and harassment?
There is no legal definition of bullying but ACAS defines it as:
"Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”
Employers have a duty of care to employees and a duty to protect their health and safety at work, including protecting them from harmful acts like bullying.
The effect of behaviour on the recipient is key to identifying whether bullying or harassment has taken place. This is why, when it comes to preventing bullying and harassment, it is important to reflect on how our behaviour is received by others.
The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as unwanted conduct that is related to a protected characteristic (age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation) or unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. It has the purpose or the effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Harassment is unlawful.
Bullying or harassment is often top-down but it can occur between peers or be upwards from junior to senior staff. It may be one-on-one or it can be a group of staff bullying or harassing a colleague or another group.
If you feel you are being bullied, whether or not you are a BMA member, please call our professional and confidential wellbeing support services on 0330 123 1245 to get support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you're a BMA member, you can contact us at any time to talk through any challenges you might be experiencing. For advice and information contact 0300 123 1233 or email us.