Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving the misuse of power. These behaviours can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated, undermined or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority, but can include both personal strength and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation. This can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It might be obvious or it might be insidious. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. It can also occur in written communications, by phone or through email, not just face-to-face.
Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Non-verbal conduct includes postings on social media. Bullying may include, by way of example:
- shouting at, being sarcastic towards, ridiculing or demeaning others
- repeatedly putting down a person or group of people in public or private
- physical or psychological threats
- overbearing and intimidating levels of supervision
- criticising a person in an inappropriate manner or belittling them about their work, personality or appearance
- inappropriate and/or derogatory remarks about someone's performance
- abuse of authority or power by those in positions of seniority
- deliberately excluding someone from meetings or communications without good reason
- creating or using web pages that identify and shame people
- creating images altered to degrade people
- sharing personal information to blackmail or harass someone.
Legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of performance or behaviour, or reasonable instructions will not amount to bullying on their own.
Harassment is unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct which may (intentionally or unintentionally) violate a person’s dignity or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, which interferes with an individual’s learning, working or social environment. It also includes treating someone less favourably because they have submitted or refused to submit to such behaviour in the past.
Harassment may involve sexual harassment or be related to a protected characteristic such as age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Find out more about Sexual Harassment.
Some forms of harassment are considered a Hate Crime. Find out more about Hate Crime.
Harassment may include, for example:
- unwanted physical conduct or ‘horseplay’, including touching, pinching, pushing, grabbing, brushing past someone, invading their personal space and more serious forms of physical or sexual assault
- offensive or intimidating comments or gestures, or insensitive jokes or pranks
- mocking, mimicking or belittling a person’s disability
- racist, sexist, homophobic or ageist jokes, or derogatory or stereotypical remarks about a particular ethnic or religious group or gender
- outing or threatening to out someone as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans
- ignoring or shunning someone, for example, by deliberately excluding them from a conversation or a social activity.
A person may be harassed even if they were not the intended "target". For example, a person may be harassed by racist jokes about a different ethnic group if they create an offensive environment.