Home / Resources / Covert v Overt Bullying Examples

Covert v Overt Bullying Examples

In light of ongoing 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.

The 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 that 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

Recent articles on our blog....

A row of well thumbed cream coloured paper folders

Workplace wellbeing resources – some helpful recent additions

May 16, 2024

Our latest collection of external resources to help workplace wellbeing includes guidance and recommendations relating to a range of topics – autism employment, ensuring EDI is for everyone, information sharing in mental health emergencies at work, menopause in the workplace and women at work.

Read More →
Group of people working around a desk beside a cork board with coloured notes

Why we should focus on minimising employee illbeing to aid workplace wellbeing

May 16, 2024

This post begins with some research which concludes that efforts to improve wellbeing at work are directed too narrowly. It then goes on to highlight some courses that can help employers looking to minimise employee illbeing in the workplace. They present opportunities to explore strategies that can enhance a culture of psychological safety and trust.

Read More →
A row of clear clips with yellow heads showing various emoticon faces clipped onto a cork board

Moving more at work for our mental health

May 15, 2024

In line with the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we offer some simple suggestions for building movement into our working day.

Read More →



Our purpose is to provide training and consultancy services to enhance resilience, health and wellbeing in the workplace.


Differentiation is one of the most strategic and tactical activities in which companies most constantly engage


It's natural to have questions about training and how it fits with your organisation. Our FAQs can help you find out more.


View case studies for some of the in-house training courses we have delivered to different types of organisations across the UK.