Bullying and Harassment

by Andrew Wood

The impact of bullying and harassment

The effects of bullying and harassment should not be underestimated. It can bring misery, not only to the victim, but also to their families and friends. The results can impact on team morale and the general productivity of the organisation as a whole.

Whilst accidents and assaults injure and kill people quickly and spectacularly, bullying and consequent prolonged negative stress injure and kill people slowly and secretively. The outcome, though, is the same.

Tim Field

On the victim

Each person who is the victim of bullying and/or harassment will have a very individual reaction, which will vary according to their own personality and state of health, plus the intensity or nature of the bullying and harassment. The following are examples of common reactions:


It is suggested that bullying and harassment account for around 50 per cent of stress-related workplace illnesses.

  • Loss of self-esteem and confidence
  • Reduction in quality of work
  • Sleepless nights
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Stress and fatigue.

On the organisation

According to one estimate, workplace bullying and harassment costs employers 80 million lost working days and up to £2 billion in lost revenue each year. The further impact on team morale and productivity are much harder to measure. The following are examples of likely impacts:


According to one estimate, workplace bullying and harassment costs employers 80 million lost working days and up to £2 billion in lost revenue each year.

  • Lost productivity
  • High rates of sick absence
  • Above average staff turnover
  • Damage to reputation
  • Loss of respect for managers
  • Poor morale and employee relations
  • Employment tribunal awards and costs.

On the accused

It is usual for the accused be suspended during investigation and in some cases they may lose their job. The following are examples of likely impacts:

  • Loss of respect in the organisation
  • Likely suspension during investigation
  • Possible loss of job
  • Being the subject of gossip and recriminations
  • Possible costs and awards involved in tribunal.

The impact of false allegations

Where false bullying and harassment allegations are made, the impact on the accused can be devastating and invariably the individual does not recover from the incriminations. Their credibility is often destroyed and the allegations become impossible to shed. This typically results in exactly the same stressful reactions as those suffered by a victim of bullying. In fact, in their own way, these people become a victim of harassment themselves.

This highlights two important points. Firstly, when raising a complaint, it is crucial that the complainant is fully aware of the implications of their actions. If there is an element of doubt as to whether the behaviour of the individual concerned constitutes bullying and harassment, then the possibility of complaint should be carefully reviewed.

Secondly, it is absolutely critical that the complainant follows the correct procedure, which is addressed in more detail in Handling allegations of bullying and harassment. In simple terms, it is always best to attempt to address the situation informally first. This can often put an end to the problem immediately and will ensure that the impact on all concerned is minimised.


Research carried out by the Equal Opportunities Commission says that nine out of ten people who bring a sexual harassment case to tribunal lose their job or resign as a result.