Workplace bullying is a concerning issue that can significantly impact an individual’s well-being and productivity. In this blog post, we aim to shed light on what constitutes bullying at work, covering overt and covert examples of bullying. Additionally, we will provide a clear definition of gaslighting, a manipulative tactic often employed by bullies. It’s important to note that while bullying is not specifically addressed in the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, it remains a pervasive issue that deserves attention.

Defining Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying refers to persistent, intentional, and harmful behaviour directed towards an individual or a group. It creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, undermining the victim’s well-being and job performance. Bullying can take various forms, including both overt and covert behaviours.

Overt Examples of Bullying:

  • Verbal Abuse: Frequent shouting, using offensive language towards an individual. This can include personal insults, belittling remarks, or derogatory comments about one’s abilities, appearance, or personal characteristics.
  • Physical Intimidation: Engaging in physical acts of aggression, such as pushing, shoving, or other forms of physical harm, which cause fear or harm to the victim.
  • Exclusion or Isolation: Deliberately excluding an individual from work-related activities, team meetings, or social events, leaving them feeling isolated and ostracised.

Covert Examples of Bullying:

  • Undermining Actions: Engaging in actions aimed at sabotaging an individual’s work or professional reputation, such as withholding important information, spreading false rumours, or intentionally misrepresenting their work.
  • Manipulative Behaviour: Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by bullies to undermine the victim’s perception of reality. Examples include distorting facts, denying actions, or making the victim question their memory, competence, or sanity.
  • Cyberbullying: Harassment through digital platforms, including sending abusive emails or messages, spreading rumours online, or engaging in derogatory or threatening behaviour on social media.

Understanding Gaslighting:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the bully seeks to make the victim doubt their own perceptions, memories, and sanity. The goal is to gain power and control over the victim. Examples of gaslighting include:

  • Denying: The bully denies their actions or previous statements, making the victim question their recollection of events.
  • Minimising: The bully downplays the severity of their behaviour, making the victim feel like their concerns are exaggerated or unwarranted.
  • Blaming: The bully shifts responsibility for their actions onto the victim, making them feel guilty or at fault for the mistreatment they endure.

Addressing Workplace Bullying in the UK:

Companies should take proactive measures to prevent bullying behaviours rather than simply react to incidents. By fostering a culture of respect, inclusivity, and open communication, organisations can actively work towards creating a safe and supportive work environment. It is essential for companies to implement policies and training programmes that educate employees about the detrimental effects of bullying and promote respectful conduct.

While the Equality Act 2010 in the UK does not specifically address workplace bullying, it provides protection against harassment related to protected characteristics, such as race, gender, disability, age, religion, or sexual orientation. However, it’s important to note that workplace bullying, regardless of the absence of explicit legal protection, is detrimental to the work environment and individuals’ well-being.

Workplace bullying, whether overt or covert, has a severe impact on individuals and the overall work environment. It involves persistent, harmful behaviour that undermines the victim’s well-being and job performance. Understanding the various forms of bullying, including gaslighting, is crucial for identifying and addressing this issue. Companies should prioritise prevention strategies and actively promote a culture of respect and inclusivity. By raising awareness, providing training, and fostering open dialogue, we can create healthier and more supportive work environments where bullying is not tolerated. Together, we can strive for workplaces that empower individuals and promote their well-being.


Tell Jane can support you in creating a workplace that actively discourages exclusion. As well as anti-bullying and harassment training, our expert HR practitioners can manage workplace investigations, help you set up an ERG and provide you with an anonymous employee hotline. Simply email to find out more.


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