Workplace Bullying

What is Bullying?

It is important to understand that there is no universal definition for what constitutes ‘bullying’. Broadly defined, bullying is the repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to the health and safety of those workers. It can be perpetrated by either individual or a group and can be physical, psychological, verbal or social.

Some examples of bullying are:

  • Behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates a workers, possibly in front of fellow team members
  • Acts of sexual harassment or discrimination
  • Unfair and excessive criticism
  • Constantly setting and altering unrealistic work targets
  • Setting impossible deadlines
  • Physical abuse
  • Deliberate isolation from other employees

However the following actions are not bullying:

  • Counselling regarding concerns about work performance
  • Giving critical feedback about work when it is done in a private and respectful way
  • Someone disagreeing with your opinion in a respectful way


What are the effects of bullying?

Effects on Employees

The effects of bullying on individuals can be very serious, including but not limited to:

  • High stress levels
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of self-confidence and self esteem
  • Feelings of social isolation at work
  • Incapacity to work
  • Ill health
  • Reduced output and performance
  • High levels of absenteeism from work

Effects on Employers

As well as creating a risk to the health and safety of individual employees, bullying can have a profound impact on a business through:

  • Reduced productivity
  • High Staff turnover
  • Legal costs
  • For Employees

    What to do if you are being bullied?

    Some steps that Employees can take if they are being bullied;

    1. You first need to recognise that what is happening to you is bullying
    2. If you feel comfortable, approach the bully and ask them to stop the behaviour
    3. Obtain a copy of the Company bullying and harassment policy and the complaints handling procedure policy (if applicable). These documents may name a specific person to make a complaint to.
    4. Approach your manager/supervisor and make complaint about the behaviour; let them know how the behaviour is affecting you.
    5. If you feel the complaint will not be taken seriously, remind your employer that they have a duty under workplace health and safety legislation to provide a safe working environment.

    Other Tips for handling bullying:

    • It is good to keep diary notes documenting any specific instances of bullying
    • Keep copies of any letters/emails that are evidence of the bullying behaviour
    • If you feel you need support to make a complaint, confide about the situation in a trusted fellow work colleague
    • Seek counselling and support from a medical professional if necessary
    • You do not need to make a formal written complaint in order for your employer to take action and investigate the matter.

    *If you believe you are being bullied because of a particular reason such as your age, sex, disability race or other personal attribute, you may have grounds to lodge a complaint against the perpetrator and or your employer for breach of Anti- Discrimination Legislation. Alternatively if the bullying is of a sexual nature you may have grounds to lodge a complaint against the perpetrator and or your employer for sexual harassment.

    If you think this may apply to your situation please feel free to contact IRIQ for further assistance.

  • For Employers

    Employers have a duty under workplace health and safety legislation to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe working environment.

    What Employers should do to prevent workplace bullying?

    1. Make sure that you have a comprehensive harassment and bullying policy stating that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated.
    2. Ensure that all staff read this policy and made to sign stating a statement confirming they have read and understood it.
    3. Conduct regular training courses for employees in bullying and harassment annually.

    What to do if you are an Employer and bullying is going on in your workplace?

    1. As an employer you do not need to wait for a formal complaint to be made before you take action. As soon as you become aware that bullying may be going on in your workplace you should investigate immediately.
    2. Suspend the alleged perpetrator of the bullying or ensure they are not working with any alleged victims of the bullying.
    3. Conduct a thorough investigation of the situation by gathering all of the facts including interviewing witnesses and taking statements.
    4. Present the allegations to the alleged perpetrator of the bullying and give them a chance to respond to the allegations.
    5. Weight up the evidence and take into account any response the alleged perpetrator may have given.
    6. Make a decision and give reasons for your decision.
    7. If the allegations are found proven, take the appropriate disciplinary action which may include the following or a combination of the following:
    • Re-training in bullying and harassment
    • Formal warning
    • Final warning
    • Termination of employment

    *IRIQ runs training courses on how to deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace. If you are an employer who needs assistance please feel free to contact us.

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Angela Liebke, Group HR Manager
Watpac Limited

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David Ash, Chief Operating Officer
Procast Australia Pty Ltd

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Transfield Worley

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