Workplace bullying can result in a hugely demotivated workforce, whether the conflict is occurring between employees or managers, it can result in a significantly negative impact.

Studies have been conducted to assess the links between authentic leadership skills and workplace bullying to establish if a manager awareness levels will determine if bullying is more likely to occur.

Regardless of the industry, negative attitudes and the impact of bullying can radiate both up and down a company, creating ripples in the culture and reducing productivity exponentially. Workplace bullying can also result in a negative impact on both physical and mental health, including high-stress levels and even an eventual burnout.

Businesses that fail to address bullying through workplace leadership will likely see a number of issues including high turnover, increased number of sick days from those affected, decreased morale and reduced productivity.

How can leaders identify bullying?

Besides an employee approaching a manager in the workplace, there are also a number of warning signs that managers need to look out for. These are useful for identifying negative behaviours and preventing bullying from continuing, where an employee may not feel comfortable approaching a manager directly about the issue.

So what is bullying? It is defined as a repeated and unreasonable behaviour which is primarily directed towards one worker or a group of workers, which creates a negative working environment and creates a risk to health and safety.  

It can reveal itself in a number of forms, including both obvious and overt, such as repeated negative or hurtful remarks, verbal attacks, extensive criticism, physical harassment, threats, social exclusion from events, outings and team activities, spreading of malicious rumours, misinformation and online harassment. The last being particularly unique as this may not occur during company time or on company premises, however, it should be noted by management that this is still a method of workplace bullying as it can affect the performance, mood and health of workers.

Although a single incident, unless serious, is not often enough to be considered workplace bullying, it should not be ignored and should be noted and monitored to ensure that it does not escalate as time continues.


In order to deter bullying from occurring, to begin with, managers need to develop a bullying policy that establishes how employees can file complaints or concerns, how these will be dealt with and the process to resolve a conflict. They should also ensure that a zero tolerance policy on bullying is in place, from the moment each staff member begins work at the company. This can be written into their contract and should be explained in full once employment commences. It should be made very clear that the consequences of breaching the policy will be severe.

Effective leadership

A manager who is reluctant to address bullying issues is often not a successful leader. In order to protect your employees and ensure they have a safe and welcoming environment, a leader must demonstrate that they will not allow the negative behaviour to flourish under their watch. Instead, managers should look to ways to develop a positive leadership style that allows an easy two-way communication between leaders and employees. Mentoring, providing constructive feedback and building teamwork skills are all attributes which can nip bad behaviour in the bud before it goes too far and ultimately creates a better team.

Identifying key signs of bullying

Even the best leaders may sometimes struggle to recognise the key signs of bullying taking place in the workplace. If an employee is reluctant to voice their concerns or complaints, it falls to the leader to recognise any of these core signs of bullying:

  • Reduced social activity
  • A significant dip in confidence in self and work capability
  • Appears scared, anxious, stressed or depressed
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity
  • Physical signs of stress and anxiety including general health, tiredness and headaches