How to… Spot a Workplace Bully


Workplace bullying is a serious problem that affects your employees and your business, but the main issue for employers is that it can be notoriously difficult to identify.

Spot a Workplace Bully

Being able to understanding the common character traits of workplace bullies can give you an insight into what motivates them, what they’re trying to achieve, and this can ultimately help you stop them in their tracks.

Zee Hussain, Partner and Employment Law Solicitor at Simpson Millar's Manchester office, explains why it’s in your interests to stop workplace bullies and offers tips on how to do this.

What Does a Workplace Bully Look Like?

Workplace bullying can come many different forms and unlikely guises, and unfortunately for employers, this is what makes it often quite difficult to identify. Dr Namie from the Workplace Bullying Institute explains the 4 most common bully personalities:

  1. The Screaming Mimi – characterised by their loud, bolshie and sometimes abusive behaviour, this type of bully is likely to easiest to identify and thrives on instilling fear.
  2. The Constant Critic – typified by unrelenting criticism of a competent worker in an effort to gradually break down a person’s confidence.
  3. The Two Headed Snake“Jekyll and Hyde” personality that may appear as a trustworthy colleague that goes on to make comments to others in an effort to destroy a colleague’s reputation.
  4. The Gatekeeper – may filter out, deny important information, or give unrealistic deadlines in an effort to control another colleague.

Why Bullying is Bad for Business

Workplace bullying is bad news for businesses; the lack of morale in the office will mean your employees are less productive, are absent more often, and there will be a higher employee turnover.

The knock on effect of this is that you’re going to see lower profitability and increased costs, which could all be avoidable by identifying the bully.

Top Tips for Employers

One way of minimising workplace bullying is to make sure you have a clear policy against workplace bullying and harassment. This can include:

  • A clear statement that bullying is against the law and won’t be tolerated
  • Examples of forms of workplace bullying and unacceptable behaviour
  • Emphasis put on the fact that any concerns raised will be dealt with confidentially
  • An explanation of how the investigation process works and any disciplinary procedures.

Whilst a clear policy against bullying is key, providing training on what workplace bullying is and how to identify it can help to drive home the point that bullying won’t be tolerated. In some cases, this could be enough for the bully to realise that their action is wrong and stop it happening.

Zee comments:

“Employers must recognise the importance of identifying and bringing a swift stop to workplace bullying and harassment. It doesn’t just impact on staff morale and engagement; if employees are experiencing difficulties of this type it can have a negative effect on both productivity and profits. Perhaps more importantly your company could find itself in hot water with potential claims for discrimination and harassment. Stamping out bullying and harassment in the workplace will benefit and protect your employees and your business."

Seeking Expert Help

Zee is the founder and CEO of Simpson Millar's corporate HR outsourcing and consultancy service, HR Oracle. The HR Oracle services provide access to our unique blend of Employment Law experts and qualified HR professionals, who you can access at any time for practical help, advice and step-by-step guidance.

HR Oracle provides business owners with complete peace of mind that your contracts, policies and procedures are in line with current legislation, with on-going support for any employee related concerns.

For easy access to quality advice and support, get in touch with our specialists.

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