How to identify and prevent harassment?

3. Identifying bullying

Bullying refers to activity in which one or several people repeatedly insult, harm or discriminate against someone in a way that prevents them from influencing the situation. Bullying always involves different positions of power – it is not a conflict between two parties in equal positions. The bullied person is at a disadvantage and cannot defend themselves against the bully or bullies.

Examples of bullying include baseless criticism, disparagement and humiliation of another person as well as belittling their skills and achievements. Insulting, name-calling and threatening as well as any name-calling or discrimination aimed at personal characteristics are also forms of bullying. Bullying can further take the form of damaging another person’s social relationships and social exclusion. Physical bullying is rarer in higher education institutions than in comprehensive school, for instance, but it does occur too.

Bullying may occur both between students and between students and personnel. Students being bullied by staff members is less frequent than students being bullied by other students. According to the Finnish Student Health Survey (2021), 7% of students have experienced bullying by another student, whereas 5% have experienced bullying by staff members.

You should remember that all disagreements and conflicts between people do not automatically constitute instances of harassment or bullying. However, even if a situation is not considered harassment or bullying, this does not mean that it could not cause distress among the participants or that the organisation should not process the case.