What is Workplace Bullying?

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Workplace bullying can be characterized as any type of manhandle oral, physical, social or mental, done by someone else or gathering of individuals, your supervisor or manager at work. Workplace bullying in other words, is a psychological risk that can harm a person if exposed to it. We can discover volunteers, assistants, students, easy going or perpetual staffs confronting harassing exercises at a wide range of work environment, from workplaces to shops, cafes, restaurants, workshops, and government associations, where some are criminal offenses and can be accounted for straightforwardly to the police.

Workplace bullying can adversely affect the psychological and physical health of a person. If effective control measures are put in place to address and resolve workplace issues early, a workplace can minimise the risk of workplace bullying and prevent it from becoming acceptable behaviour in the workplace.

How to Know You are being Bullied?

There are some approaches to see if you are being bullied by somebody at your work environment, :

  • Making you feel bad and embarrassed based on your sex, gender, cast or culture, education or economic background, ethnicity.
  • Repeating painful comments or attacks, sexual harassment and sexually precise comments, unpleasant touch and requests that’s awkard.
  • Not involving you in decision making or stopping you from taking part in activities related to your work or giving you unwanted tasks that is no way related to your work
  • Psychological harassment like playing mind games, making you feel undervalued, ganging up on you, etc
  • Making the workplace troublesome by rotating timetable or concealing data that you require for completing your work.
  • Physical harassment like pushing, thrusting, stumbling, snatching you at the workplace and attacking or threatening with objects that can be turned into a weapon
  • Making you do awkward and inappropriate things in order be a part of the team.

What does not Indicate Workplace Bullying?

Sometimes practices at workplace may seem unfair but that’s not bullying.

Management action taken in a reasonable way

It is sensible for bosses or administrators to allot work and give criticism on their worker’s execution. Labourers may feel uneasy at work because of the authentic experts utilized by their bosses yet being founded on specialists recognition these moves can’t be made as work environment harassing on the off chance that it has been completed in a sensible and legal way following noteworthy built up arrangements or methodology. A court apparently considers the following examples as reasonable management action:

  • Honestly and confidentially informing employees about unsatisfactory work performance and unreasonable behaviour
  • Fair and suitable rostering and working hours
  • Setting SMART goals (S=Specific, M= Measurable, A=Achievable, R=Realistic, T=Time bound)
  • Deciding not to promote an employee using fair and transparent process including termination or defer of employment in suitable or justified circumstances.

Unlawful discrimination

Discrimination done based on a protected trait (race, sex, colour, age, family, marital status, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, social origin, religion etc.) at workplace may be unlawful under human rights law including equal employment opportunity, anti-discrimination, workplace relations laws etc which can be taken as bullying.

Usually unlawful discrimination is where a person is treated unfairly than others due to the characteristic they have or belong to a group. For example, it is unlawful to not to employ or select a woman for promotion because she is pregnant or may become pregnant.

Conflicts at workplace

The way two people think are different that results differences of opinion and ideas. Disagreements occurred due to clash of opinions are generally not workplace bullying. At workplace, people can have dissimilarities and disagreements without involving in repeated, unreasonable behaviour that creates hazard to health and safety.

In some cases, lack of ability to solve or manage the conflict may worsen the situation and then become workplace bullying. If you are having conflicts with any person or group of people at workplace times and again, you should raise your affairs with your supervisor, manager, human resource or grievance officer.

How can Bullying Occur at Workplace?

Bullying can occur through various ways like verbal or physical abuse, via text messages or phone calls, internet, instant messaging or by any social media and sometimes may continue outside the workplace as well.

Workplace bullying can occur being directed at a single employee or a group by one or more persons at work. It can occur in following ways:

  • sideways among workers
  • downwards from managers or supervisors to the employees, or
  • upwards from the employees to supervisors or managers.

Apart from this, workplace bullying can also be committed by or directed at other people at the workplace such as members of the public, clients or patients, students, customers etc.

What are the Consequences of Workplace Bullying?

To control workplace bullying, employees must help each other and make sure bullying does not take place. It becomes more difficult to repair relationships at work if bullying is not addressed on time. It is necessary to take an action quickly as workplace bullying may be harmful to the person facing it or who witness it. Depending on individual’s characteristics and situation, the effects may vary and result one or more of the followings:

  • anxiety, distress, panic attacks or sleep troubles
  • physical illness like headaches, muscular tension, tiredness, digestive problems etc
  • losing of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • feeling isolated or apart from group
  • increasing problems in relationships with family, colleagues, friends etc
  • decreasing or poor work performance and decision-making ability, lack of concentration
  • depression, and getting frequent thoughts of suicide

Similarly, workplace bullying not only affect an individual but also has negative impact on the work environment resulting following problems to the organisation:

  • increasing direct and indirect expenses for a business
  • increasing staff turnover resulting raise in costs associated with training and recruitment
  • lack of confidence and motivation
  • increased absenteeism
  • loss of productivity
  • disturbance to work when investigations for complex complaints are being done
  • increasing costs associated with mediation, support and counselling
  • increasing costs related with legal actions and compensation claims by employees
  • creates negative impact on reputation of the business

Who has the Responsibilities Regarding Workplace Bullying?

The following table presents the several duties regarding workplace bullying.

A PCBU has the main authority of duty of care under the WHS Act to confirm that the activities carried out as a part of business or undertaking are not creating health and safety risks to the workers or other persons exposed to it.

The duties so far reasonably practicable are:

  • creating and maintaining a work environment that is free from risks to health and safety
  • providing and continuing systems of doing safe work
  • ensure that the conditions of work related illnesses and injuries are prevented, through regular monitoring of workers health and safety at the workplace
  • providing necessary instructions, information, training and supervision to employees and other persons at workplace related to ways to carry out work safely.


Officers at workplace such as company directors, should implement due diligence to confirm that the business or undertaking meets criteria with that of WHS Act and Regulations. This includes using reasonable procedures to ensure that the business or undertaking has used and uses necessary resources and procedures to remove or minimise risks related with workplace bullying.


Employees or workers of an organization including contractors, subcontractors, outworkers, labour hire employees, trainees or volunteers have duties to:

  • take proper care of their own health and safety while doing any work
  • be cautious and take care about no adverse effect is seen on other persons health and safety because of your acts
  • co-operate and follow any reasonable procedures and policies of the PCBU, for example a policy related to workplace bullying.


There are other persons related to workplace, like visitors and clients, who do have some duties to perform at workplace:

  • take care of their own health and safety during their visit at workplace
  • be aware that their acts do not have effect on the health and safety of workers or other persons at the workplace

How can Risks of Workplace Bullying be Managed?

We all possess ethical responsibility to help to create a definite and safe workplace. Since you are the one who suffers because of bullying, you should be the one to take necessary actions to prevent unwanted activities. The steps that one can take are:

  • Check and be aware about the workplace bullying policy and procedures to make a complaint of your workplace
  • Try to make a note of all incidents happened with you including the actions you have performed to stop it. Doing so will help while making a complaint.
  • Try to get support from another person whom you know and have faith at the workplace. If there’s no one whom you can talk to, contact support services. There are support services at workplace to help and support you in the Get Help section which includes contacting the union
  • Be confident and directly face the person who is bullying you and speak to them clearly that their behaviour is unwanted and not acceptable. For that you can get help from your colleague as well.
  • Make a complaint to your manager or supervisor so that they can take a necessary action.

Apart from this your workplace can take following actions to control the situation. The following table shows the principles which should be used when handling complaints made by employees for workplace bullying.

Response Measure

Act promptly – Reports must be responded quickly, reasonably within established timelines and the applicable parties should be made known about time required to respond to the report including any updates to assure the report has not been ignored.

Maintain confidentiality – Details of the case should only be known to directly concerned parties of the complaint as confidentiality is must.

Be neutral – Personal or professional bias must be avoided throughout the process of investigation.

Do not victimise – It is important to make sure that the person who has made a complaint about workplace bullying is not being victimised for doing so. The person blamed for bullying and witnesses should also be protected.


Case 1

07/11/2016: Brodie Panlock, a 19-year-old girl, was working at a café where she suffered bullying for more than a year for six days a week. She was spat upon and ridiculed for her looks, was teased about a failed suicide bid, held down by her workmates, and had rat poison left in her pay envelope, with encouragement to succeed in her next attempt at suicide. The owner of the business was not only aware of some aspects of the incident but also was present on occasions and sometimes excused it.

Brodie eventually took her own life, leading to the prosecution of her employer – who was later personally fined $30,000, together with a $220,000 fine for his company – and the three responsible employees, who received fines ranging from $10,000 to $45,000.

Brodie’s enduring legacy is not taken as Victoria’s anti-bullying legislation, known as Brodie’s Law – making bullying punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Case 2

11/10/2017: A worker of AI Group, who was promoted to a new role by her employer ahead of her former manager was openly humiliated and defamed at team meetings and sometimes excluded her from a meeting to challenge her.

She did made complaints, but her supervisor resisted ways to address the situation, rejecting her reaction as “groundless and obtuse”. The Supreme Court of NSW disagreed, finding her employer had been “negligently passive” in its response to her requests for help over two years, confirming on appeal an award of almost $340,000for psychiatric injury.


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Cite this paper

What is Workplace Bullying?. (2021, Aug 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/what-is-workplace-bullying/

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