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More than half of UK workers have experienced bullying, says survey

As newspapers report on a 'bruising' culture at Amazon's high-pressure Seattle headquarters and equally bad treatment of UK workers, a survey reveals most British workers outside of Amazon have experience of personal bullying.

At Amazon HQ, "workers are encouraged to tear apart one another's ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and [hold] to standards that the company boasts are 'unreasonably high'," says NYT.

"The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another's bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: 'I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.')"

'Just part of the culture'

The UK staff bullying survey, by solicitors Slater & Gordon, reveals that more than two thirds of those who witnessed bullying said their colleague was subjected to a sustained period of harassment, usually involving swearing.

More than a third felt they had been bullied themselves. Shouting, shoving, intimidation and threatening behaviour were all reported by respondents to the study, which polled 2000 working Britons.

Fewer than half of respondents did anything about the bullying they had suffered or witnessed. Tight deadlines, personality clashes and office politics often caused tensions to run high. A quarter thought bullying was just part of the culture of where they worked.

  • One in 10 had heard racist insults.
  • One in six saw a co-worker subjected to inappropriate sexual remarks.
  • One in 20 said they had witnessed physical violence between workmates.

Dismissed as 'banter'

Claire Dawson, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: "Bullying in the workplace is all too common and comes in many forms.

"As our research shows the majority of bullying comes in the form of verbal abuse or intimidation. This is often dismissed as 'banter' between colleagues but the workplace shouldn't be a place where people are insulted. The idea that people can be subjected to physical violence while at work is quite alarming. This can have a devastating impact on the person who is being bullied and can result in depression and anxiety."

Acas offers the following advice to employers wishing to prevent bullying and harassment.

Develop and implement a formal policy: this can be kept simple, but you should consider involving staff when writing it

Set a good example: the behaviour of employers and senior managers is as important as any formal policy

Maintain fair procedures for dealing promptly with complaints from employees

Set standards of behaviour with an organisational statement about the standards of behaviour expected; this could be included in the staff handbook.

Acas publications and services

Acas offers a wealth of guidance on workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination. If you feel the behaviour you witness is based on one of the nine protected characteristics, it is potentially unlawful and you should report it.


For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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We recommend that you explore further information and advice available on this website, particularly within our Advice A-Z guidance pages. If you have questions about workplace rights and rules visit Helpline Online.
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