Covert v Overt Bullying Examples

Covert v Overt Bullying Examples

Posted by Jan Lawrence

In light of on-going press coverage surrounding bullying allegations we thought it might be useful to make reference to some of the facts about bullying behaviour.  From a training perspective a key point is that managers and employees are aware of what bullying is and what it is not.  The HSE Stress Management Standards specifically highlight managers responsibilities in creating a workplace which is free from bullying and harassment.

Current Definition of Bullying according to ACAS

Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual (perhaps by someone in a position of authority such as a manager or supervisor) or involve groups of people. It may be obvious or it may be insidious. Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual. (ACAS 2010)

Examples of overt bullying

  • Verbal abuse, such as shouting or swearing at staff or colleagues either in public or private
  • Personal insults
  • Constantly humiliating or ridiculing others, belittling them in front of others, persistent criticism or sarcasm
  • Terror tactics, open aggression, threats, abuse, and obscenities towards targets, shouting and uncontrolled anger triggered by trivial situations
  • Persecution through threats and fear, physical attacks
  • Making threats or inappropriate comments about career prospects, job security or performance appraisal reports

Examples of covert bullying

    • Subjecting targets to excessive supervision, monitoring everything they do and being excessively critical about minor things with malicious intent
    • Taking the credit for the other person’s work, but never the blame when things go wrong
    • Personal insults and name-calling, spreading malicious rumours
    • Freezing out, ignoring, excluding and deliberately talking to a third party to isolate another
    • Never listening to other’s point of view, always cutting across people in conversation
    • Overruling an individual’s authority without prior warning or proper discussion
    • Removing whole areas of work responsibility from a person, reducing their job to routine tasks which are well below their skills and capabilities
    • Setting impossible targets and objectives, or changing targets without telling the person
    • Deliberately withholding information which the person requires in order to do their job effectively


View our short film about bullying behaviours here: 

How is bullying sometimes excused?

      • Abrasiveness
      • An attitude problem
      • A personality clash
      • Autocratic style of management
      • Macho management
      • Strong management
      • Unreasonable behaviour
      • Poor interpersonal skills