What is bullying at work?

A bully is a person who deliberately intimidates or persecutes someone they work with.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that while there is no legal definition, bullying can take many forms and can involve:

  • ignoring or excluding someone;
  • spreading malicious rumours or gossip;
  • humiliating someone in public;
  • giving someone unachievable or meaningless tasks; and
  • constantly undervaluing someone's work performance.

It says that bullies are often, but not always, more senior than the person they are bullying and that they may target groups as well as individuals.

The independent Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) definition of bullying is often used in employment tribunal cases: "Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, involving an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient." This definition concentrates on how bullies abuse their power relationship.

Mental health charity Mind defines work bullying as "when someone persistently acts in a discriminatory way towards an employee which hurts, criticises or condemns them."

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

What is WorkSmart?

A career coach that works for everyone.


Enjoy bite-sized activities delivered to you every week.

Lightbulb brain

Equip yourself with essential skills to be the best you yet.


Get the guidance you need to stay focused and reach your goals.

Worksmart circle