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  • Writer's picturekirstiewright

Why bullying in the creative industries must stop.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

If you have ever been bullied, you will know that it can erode your self-esteem, make you doubt yourself, can impact your work and homelife. Bullying at work can make you dread going to work and lead to depression and anxiety. Bullying at work can make you question why you went into the industry in the first place as you start to lose enjoyment in your work.

Bullying is a social issue that has been present throughout history. It has affected people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. Recent research has demonstrated that bullying is pervasive in the creative industries including Film, TV, Radio, Broadcast, Music, Fashion, Arts, Photography, Architecture and Performing Arts. In a recent survey of people working in the fashion industry, over two thirds of respondents stated ‘it was the norm’ in their workplace. In the Film industry ‘the Looking Glass Report’ found that more than half of people surveyed experienced bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace during the last year. Anecdotal evidence also suggest bullying is highly prevalent in Performing Arts, Music, Radio, Gaming, Publishing, and the wider Arts.

bullying creative industries

Why is bullying so prevalent in the creative industries?

Power Imbalances

There can be huge power differences in the creative industries between people who are established in their career and those starting out. This can lead to established professionals exploiting others or using their power for personal gain at the expense of others, with the people being bullied feeling that they can’t report bullying for fear of reprisals.

Competitive Field

There is high competition in the creative industries to become an established professional. This constant focus on achieving and trying to gain recognition can lead people to resort to bullying tactics to exert power over others.

Freelance work

Many people in the creative industries are freelance. This means people often move between different projects. This can make it difficult to report instances of bullying as sometimes there are no fixed structures to report bullying and people may fear that there may be a loss of future employment opportunities if bullying is reported.

Things are starting to change.

There are many people and organisations in the creative industries that are actively trying to eliminate and address bullying. This is a good start. People are starting to try to creative positive workplace cultures and have policies in place so people can report bullying. Things can and need to change.

change and stop bullying in creative industries

Why is this so important?

Bullying can have a negative impact on people’s mental health, peoples work and can negatively impact the creative industry by affecting the work environment and impacting output.

Individuals self esteem:

Bullying can cause fear, anxiety, depression, helplessness, and hopelessness. If you are constantly exposed to negative comments, verbal abuse, and humiliation you might start to question yourself. This can lead to doubt, and you may be left feeling not good about yourself. This can make victims of bullying vulnerable to mental health difficulties.

Worrying what others think:

Bullying can make us more prone to worrying about what others think about us and can make us feel very self-conscious in social situations. This can lead to the avoidance of social situations. This can increase feelings of isolation and prevent victims from seeing it’s the bully’s behaviour that is out of line as they are not with others who can help support the target of the bullying and label the behaviours for what they are. Isolation can also make us feel not good on top of the negative emotions experienced because of the bullying.


People being bullied at work can feel trapped because they need to work to make an income but are being bullied when they go to work. This can lead to depression.

bullying creative industries


Being bullied can impact how we trust others. Bullying can mean we put our guard up which short term protects us from harm from others, but it also prevents connection to others. Connection with others has been found to have a positive impact on wellbeing.

Impact on work:

Bullying can result in difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions as we doubt ourselves and decreased motivation which can impact work. A constant fear of what the bully is going to do next disrupts concentration, workflow, creativity, and collaboration.

Impact on the industry as a whole:

Bullying harms the creative industry. Bullying can impact people’s wellbeing leading to more sick days and people leaving jobs. Bullying kills creativity. People are usually at their most creative when they can try new things and learn from failure rather than when they are in a place of fear. Therefore, bullying impacts output. The high prevalence of bullying may put people off from coming into the industry and lead to good people leaving. Bullying leads to a negative work culture which has been found to impact productivity, and outputs. Bullying can also lead to high staff turnover as people leave to avoid being bullied. This means there is a high level of loss of knowledge, can disrupt bonds in teams and impact overall morale.

Even if you aren’t the victim if you witness it can impact how you feel about the organisation and project, impact trust, collaboration, and lead to generally people feeling disengaged and not confident to take risks which can harm culture and output.

There may also be legal consequences to not managing bullying. Victims may choose to take out lawsuits which can result in legal fees. A loss of skilled employees and decreased productivity also impacts a company’s or projects output.

bullying in creative industries

What does bullying look like?

Its important to know what bullying is so we can spot the signs. If we cant spot bullying we cant act. Some types of bullying are easier to spot than others but if we can spot when people are being bullied or are showing bullying behaviours we can help stop and eliminate bullying. This will lead to safer working environments for all.

1. Physical: Using Physical force to intimidate, harm, or exercise power over others. This can include hitting, punching, kicking, pushing, tripping, or damaging personal belongings. Physical bullying is often the easiest to spot. 2. Verbal: Verbal bullying involves using words to humiliate, demean and intimate others. This can include name-calling, teasing, insulting, spreading rumours, making derogatory comments being highly critical, or using offensive language. 3. Relational Bullying: Relational bullying involves using the relationship with the other person to impact their social standing. This could include spreading rumours, playing spiteful jokes, giving someone the silent treatment, hurting someone’s professional reputation, leaving someone out deliberately and trying to get others to avoid the other person. 4. Cyberbullying: Using digital technology to harass or intimidate others. This could include sending threatening messages, impersonating people online and using anonymity to post horrible comments about someone. 5. Sexual Bullying: Sexual bullying involves unwelcome sexual comments, advances, gestures, or behaviour aimed at demeaning, intimidating, or harassing someone based on their gender or sexuality. It can include actions unwanted touching, sexual jokes, explicit messages, sexual rumours, or public humiliation related to a person's sexual orientation or identity. 6. Prejudicial Bullying: Prejudicial bullying occurs when individuals are targeted based on their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, disability, or any other characteristic. It involves discriminatory actions and verbal abuse, aimed at marginalising people based on their identity.

spotting bullying in the creative indsutries

Spotting bullying behaviours means we are one step closer to tackling the problem.

It is essential that the creative industries creates a zero tolerance policy towards bullying so that people want to work in the industry, the industry stops losing talent and to improve peoples wellbeing. This includes implementing training for people to spot when bullying is happening, policies on how to stop bullying and providing support for people who have been bullied. If you require training on how to spot bullying for your project or organisation visit for more details. Visit this blog if you wants tips on what policies and behaviours can help prevent and stop bullying.

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