Bullying in the Workplace

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed at a person or group of people by an employer, co-worker or other individual(s) at work that creates a risk to health and safety. It is a risk to health and safety because it may affect the mental and physical health of workers. Taking steps to prevent it from occurring and responding quickly if it does is the best way to deal with workplace bullying.

Bullying can take different forms including verbal, physical or psychological abuse, and can be obvious or subtle, which means it’s not always easy to spot.

Bullying may also be discrimination if it is because of age, sex, race, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, religion or other reasons. Discrimination based on a protected trait in employment may be unlawful under anti-discrimination, equal employment opportunity, workplace relations and human rights laws. For more information on  anti-discrimination laws, you can refer to Australian Human Rights Commission (link included below).

Everyone has the right to be in a safe workplace free from violence, harassment and bullying. When someone is being bullied, it’s important that they know there are things they can do and people who can help.

Examples of Bullying 

Bullying includes humiliation and undermining someone’s confidence, and may involve any of the following types of behaviour:

  • aggressive or intimidating conduct
  • deliberate withholding of information needed for getting work done properly
  • belittling or humiliating comments including teasing, practical jokes or initiation ceremonies
  • spreading malicious rumours and or scapegoating
  • exclusion from work-related events
  • being set unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below a worker’s skill level
  • displaying offensive material and/or the experience of pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner
  • consistent denial of  promotion and/or training opportunities.

Effects of Bullying 

If someone is being bullied at work, they may:

  • feel stressed, anxious or depressed
  • have less drive to stand out and achieve success in the workplace.
  • lack confidence in their work, themselves and those around them
  • exhibit signs of mistrust towards others in the workplace
  • experience difficulty in relationships outside of work; family, study, sports.
  • suffer from repeated or consistent illnesses; headaches, backaches, sleep problems, colds etc
  • Show a desire to stay away from work

 Responsibility of Employers

 Employers have a legal responsibility under Occupational Health and Safety and anti-discrimination law to provide a safe workplace. Employers have a duty of care for workers’ health and wellbeing whilst at work. An employer that allows bullying to occur in the workplace is not meeting this responsibility.

What to Do if You Experience Bullying

Workplace bullying is best dealt with by immediate action such as taking steps to prevent it from bullying in the workplace occurring again and responding if it does occur. The longer the bullying behaviour continues, the harder it is to repair damage and thus a greater the risk to health and safety.


If there is Bullying or Conflict at Your Workplace, Consider the Following Steps:

1.     Communicate If you feel safe and comfortable doing this

  • Speak to the other person that you object to their behaviour and ask them to stop it.
  • share your experience with others around you as you may find allies or possibly others in a  similar situation

2.     Report 

  • If the behaviour continues, lodge a report with your employer
  • Follow your workplace bullying policy and complaints procedure (if available)
  • List the behaviours of concern
  • State clearly the effects it has had on yourself and others around you.
  • Discuss what action is to follow (mediation, investigation)

3.     Follow up 

  • If you have not received a response from your employer since submitting your report, ask for an update.

4.    Seek External Resolution Options,including:


 Australian Human Rights Commission
Fair Work Commission
Safe Work Australia


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