Human Resources

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour

Examples of Bullying or Harassing Behaviour

Bullying and harassment may be misconduct which is physical, verbal or non-verbal, e.g. by letter or email.

Examples of unacceptable behaviour and conduct that are covered by this policy include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • physical conduct ranging from unwelcome touching, patting, pinching, brushing against another person’s body, coerced sexual intercourse, rape or assault;
  • any form of physical threat or physical intimidation;
  • unwelcome lewd comment, innuendo or sexual advance;
  • the offer of rewards for acquiescing to sexual advances, e.g. offers of supported promotion, access to training, allowances, increased course/exam marks;
  • threats for rejecting sexual advances, e.g. suggestions that refusing advances will adversely affect an individual’s employment or study prospects;
  • “outing” a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons;
  • unsolicited questions about a person's sex life or sexual orientation;
  • demeaning comments about a person's appearance;
  • the use of patronising titles or nicknames especially relating to a person's age, race, sexual orientation or disability;
  • unwelcome jokes, banter or abusive language which refer to a person’s (or a group’s) gender, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins, disability, sexual orientation or age;
  • abusive written comments including graffiti which refer to a person’s (or a group’s) gender, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins, disability, sexual orientation or age;
  • the use of obscene gestures, leering or whistling;
  • the open display of pictures or objects with sexual or racial overtones, even if not directed at any particular person, e.g. magazines, calendars or images displayed on a VDU;
  • transmitting inappropriate and/or offensive material through mobile and/or electronic media such as text messages or social networking websites;
  • spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone;
  • picking on someone or setting him or her up to fail;
  • making threats or comments about someone's job security without good reason;
  • persistent criticism;
  • ridiculing someone;
  • the spreading of malicious rumours or gossip;
  • isolation or non-cooperation at work or study;
  • purposefully excluding someone from social activities; and
  • any other conduct that denigrates, ridicules, intimidates or is physically abusive of an individual or group, including stalking.


Whilst many of the behaviours outlined above would be easily recognisable as unacceptable to the majority of people, some conduct can constitute harassment or bullying even where the person did not intend their behaviour to be offensive.  The key point is that everyone has the right to decide what behaviour is acceptable to them, and have their feelings respected by others.

Where it is not clear that one person’s behaviour or conduct would cause offence to a particular individual or group, first-time conduct unintentionally causing offence may not constitute bullying or harassment (which by definition implies repeated conduct).  However, if the behaviour continues after the complainant has made it known to the other party involved that such behaviour is unacceptable to them, then this is far more likely to be recognised as bullying and/or harassment.

This is not however to preclude the fact that a single incident, if sufficiently serious, can constitute bullying or harassment.

back to top
The HR team is based on the first floor of Egmont House
Postal address: Human Resources, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Email:; Fax: 020 7380 3172.