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Harassment and bullying in the theatre industry special report: Bullying

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Introduction and analysis Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Useful resources

Following the wide-ranging and ongoing allegations of harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry and beyond, The Stage carried out a survey to determine the scale to which this has affected, and continues to affect, theatre and the performing arts professionals.

It was also intended to investigate whether there were any parts of the industry particularly hard hit.

It was distributed to a database of registered users in November 2017 and was carried out over a 10-day period by 1,755 people with 1,050 people completing all key questions.

It collected the data of those who work, have previously worked, or are training to work in theatre.

Unfair treatment more likely for backstage workers and people with disabilities


Bullying is defined by Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) as any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.

Examples include spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone, exclusion or victimisation, unfair treatment or deliberately undermining a competent worker by constant criticism. It can happen face-to-face, by letter, email, phone or on social media.

A particular problem

The survey’s results highlighted bullying as the most common occurrence of workplace harassment in the theatre industry.

An average of 43% of respondents who answered the question on this topic said they had experienced it at some point in their careers, and it was consistently highlighted in respondents’ answers as a particular problem in the industry.

It was more prevalent in some groups of respondents, for example individuals employed in backstage and technical roles were the most likely section of the workforce to describe incidences of bullying. More than half of those who work in this area of theatre said they had been bullied.

Inherent in the culture

One backstage worker said it was common for senior staff to give junior employees “undue, unfair and unnecessary criticism” to assert authority, making others feel “seriously uncomfortable”.

Others reported a “culture of bullying in the workplace”, with managers allowing bad behaviour to go unchecked.

Groups at risk

The majority (68%) of disabled workers answering the survey said they had been bullied at work. However, it is worth noting that the sample size for this area of respondents was relatively small.

Freelance respondents did not reveal as high a rate of bullying as their counterparts who work as members of staff at an organisation.

Overall, men were slightly more likely to be bullied than women. This is the only category of workplace harassment that male respondents were more likely to have experienced than women

Introduction and analysis Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Useful resources

Click here for all The Stage’s coverage of harassment in the theatre industry and advice on who to contact if you or someone you know has been a victim

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