Difference Between Bullying and Harassment

Main Difference – Bullying vs Harassment    

Bullying and harassment are both unpleasant experiences that can traumatize victims for life. The main difference between bullying and harassment is that bullying is not punishable by law whereas harassment is an offense under the law. Bullying can be a type of harassment, but harassment is something more than bullying.

What is Bullying

Bullying is an intentional act that causes harm to others. Bullying can include verbal or non-verbal threats, physical attacks, taunts, manipulation, or even blackmail. So it can result in both psychological abuse as well as physical abuse. Spreading rumors about the victim, ignoring him/her, name calling, etc. are also acts of bullying. Using technology such as email, social media networking sites, etc. to threaten, intimidate people is known as cyber bullying.

Bullying indicates an imbalanced power relation – the relationship between the victim and the bully. The bully uses force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate the victim. The causes behind bullying can be bully’s low self-esteem, inadequacy, jealousy, narcissism, etc. When bullying is done by a group of people, it is called mobbing.

Bullying is often repeated and habitual. Although it may not be as considered as grave as harassment, bullying can traumatize a person for life. However, there are no laws against bullying in many countries.Difference Between Bullying and Harassment

What is Harassment

Harassment is the intentional act of annoying, threatening, intimidating, or causing fear in another person. Unwanted behavior that offends, degrades, or threatens another person can also be termed harassment. This type of behavior causes a hostile environment. Actions and behavior such as offensive comments, improper propositions, slurs, assault, physically impeding or blocking behavior, visual insults, etc. fall under harassment.

Harassment is punishable by law. It is also a form of discrimination. A person may be harassed due to his or her age, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. Harassment can occur in any place; it could be a public place, the victim’s workplace or even home. Sexual harassment is harassment in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. This is mostly experienced by women.Main Difference - Bullying vs Harassment

Difference Between Bullying and Harassment    


Bullying is an intentional act that causes harm to others.

Harassment is the intentional act of annoying, threatening, intimidating, or causing fear in another person.


Bullying can include actions such as verbal or non-verbal threats, physical attacks, taunts, manipulation, blackmail, etc.

Harassment can take the form of insulting comments, improper propositions, assault, physically impeding or blocking behavior, visual insults, etc.


Bullying is not punishable by law in many countries.

Harassment is punishable by law.    


Bullying is not considered to be as serious as harassment.

Harassment is considered to be more serious than bullying. 


Bullying is a form of harassment.

Harassment is a form of discrimination.Difference Between Bullying and Harassment - infographic

Image Courtesy: 

“bully” by Charles LeBlanc  via

“Harassment of a waitress” by Johann Michael Neder – Germanisches Nationalmuseum, (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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