27th December 2019

Blog: Put a stop to bullying

Do you experience bullying in the workplace? As 2020 approaches, St Luke’s wellbeing expert Jan Korris looks at how we can resolve to change bullying behaviour in church life and improve our mental health

Understanding bullying

Conflicts between individuals or groups often arise from unrecognised feelings, miscommunication about our human needs and a tendency to apportion blame. This can be exacerbated by use of coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fear, guilt or shame and at this point it is experienced as bullying.

Bullying is an abuse of power; we need to call it out, flag it up, don’t try and go it alone.

The power and status that lay people inhabit in church life may be unattainable for them in the wider world. They may not inhabit it wisely or competently.

Alternatively, for some people there may be a desire to transfer their power and status from the secular world into the church community, with the expectation it can be used in the same way.

What can I do about it?


‘I feel I am being bullied, it would help to have another perspective on this to assess my situation.  I want this to stop!’

  • Action: ask a friend. Choose someone who will offer you a compassionate but honest answer, not just a collusive, comforting one.
  • Question to self    Are there steps I can take by myself to sort this out?


Yellow card – call it out!  Name the behaviour rather than name-calling the person; amazingly some people really don’t know how their behaviour is being experienced. But don’t delay. This has got to stop!

  • Action: request professional support, pastoral supervision, coaching, consultancy or mentoring. Take a systemic view, look at ways of upskilling, and check your mindsets and possible projections.
  • Question to self    ‘Am I sure I have been heard? Are there any changes I can make that would help? This is stopping right now!’


Red card – ‘I’ve done all I can, I can take this no further.’

  • Action: apply to senior staff for intervention, or if more appropriate, HR.
  • Question to self   Is my wellbeing being compromised? What are my choices?
Beating bullying

Understand how to protect yourself and deprive bullying behaviour of oxygen.

Oxygen: what feeds bullying



Provoking reaction

Making it personal

Disrespecting, demeaning, undermining

Claiming innocence or making reciprocal accusation of bullying




Action: what beats bullying

Speaking to others

Seeking support

Choosing how and when to respond

Focusing on the bigger picture

Identifying it and demanding it stops right now!

Keep good records and have a witness to any conversations