What Is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated unreasonable behaviour by an individual or a group of individuals towards a worker, or group of which the worker is a member, and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

  • Repeated means that the unreasonable behaviour occurs more than once. There is no specific number of incidents required for the behaviour to be repeated. Further, the repeated unreasonable behaviour does not have to be the same kind of behaviour each time.
  • Unreasonable behaviour means that a reasonable person, having considered all the circumstances, would see the behaviour to be unreasonable. This would include but is not limited to behaviour that is offensive, intimidating, humiliating, victimising, or threatening.
  • Risk to health and safety means the possibility or chance of a risk to the mental or physical health of the person or group involved. There must be a causal link between bullying behaviour and the risk to health and safety.

Examples Of Workplace Bullying

Examples of workplace bullying include physical abuse, verbal abuse, cyberbullying, inappropriate management action, and covert bullying.

  • Physical abuse includes hitting or kicking, throwing objects with the intention of harm, and other forms of aggressive and intimidating physical conduct or stalking.
  • Verbal abuse includes insults, belittling or humiliating comments, yelling or screaming, abusive and offensive language, unwarranted criticism or threats of punishment or dismissal, and inappropriate comments about personal attributes or cultural and social practices.
  • Cyberbullying includes sending emails or posting content on social media that is offensive, intimidating, humiliating, or threatening, or deliberately excluding someone from email and social networking forums.
  • Inappropriate management action includes micro-management by repeated, excessive or unreasonable monitoring of tasks, over or under-utilising employees including by unreasonably reducing or reallocating responsibilities or tasks, deliberately withholding information, resources, and training, or giving unwarranted or unreasonable criticism that is pedantic and fault finding.
  • Covert bullying includes spreading hurtful rumours, lying to damage a worker’s reputation, negative facial gestures or body language, or influencing others to exclude or isolate an employee.

Workplace Bullying and The Law

Workplace bullying is a serious issue and will not be tolerated by organisations that have a safe, inclusive, and respectful workplace culture. If an employee, contractor, or volunteer is found to have engaged in workplace bullying, it may be treated as misconduct, and in very serious cases, workplace bullying can be considered a criminal offence. Laws protect the rights of individuals to ensure a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace. Behaviour that is workplace bullying will lead to potential disciplinary action being taken, up to and including termination of employment. These laws apply to all workplaces in Australia, regardless of their size. They protect employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and visitors.

The Duty of a Supervisor and Manager to Eliminate Workplace Bullying in The Workplace

It is the responsibility of every person to act professionally and create a workplace that does not tolerate workplace bullying.

Employers will be vicariously liable for acts of workplace bullying carried out by their workers or agents unless they can show that they have taken reasonable precautions to prevent the conduct from occurring and have responded appropriately to resolve incidents of workplace bullying.

As a supervisor or manager, you also have a duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate workplace bullying from occurring as far as possible. This is a requirement by law and will enable a workplace that is safe, inclusive, and respectful.

Like To Learn More?

To find out more about the responsibilities of a supervisor and manager when it comes to preventing and responding to workplace bullying, please refer to the Sentrient series of online compliance courses for supervisors and managers.

To Get a Free Demonstration of The Supervisors and Managers Suite of Online Compliance Courses, please get in touch with Us Today!