Workplace bullying

Bullying in the workplace can cause serious risks to a person’s health and safety and is best dealt with by aiming to prevent it from occurring in the first place as well as responding to it quickly if it does occur. The longer the bullying behaviour continues, the harder it is to address it and to repair working relationships.

All workplaces, regardless of their size need to have systems in place to prevent bullying as well as having clear procedures to respond to any allegations that may arise. This is required under the Work Health and Safety Act to provide a safe and healthy workplace.

In addition, after 1 January 2014, if you are bullied at work and there is a risk that the bullying will continue, you may be able to lodge an application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to stop the bullying. The FWC will have the power to issue an order to the alleged bully or bullies, to put a stop to the disputed behaviour. Additionally, the FWC is obliged to act on the application within 14 days.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Repeated behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.

Unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard for the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

Examples of bullying may include:

  •  verbal abuse
  •  physical and violent aggression
  •  harassment
  •  repeated and continuous unjustified criticism or complaints
  •  excluding someone from workplace activities on purpose
  •  deliberately withholding information or resources that is vital for effective work performance
  •  unreasonable timeframes of tasks or constantly changing the deadlines
  •  setting tasks that are unreasonable such as below or above a worker’s skill level
  •  spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
  •  changing work arrangements (such as rosters, leave, on-call) to deliberately inconvenience the employee/s
  •  intimidation.

What are the impacts of workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying can be very harmful to the person experiencing it and to those who witness it. The effects of workplace bullying may include one or more of the following:

  • distress, anxiety, panic attacks or sleep disturbance
  • physical illness, such as muscular tension, headaches and digestive problems
  • reduced work performance
  • loss of self-esteem and feelings of isolation
  • deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family and friends
  • depression
  • thoughts of suicide.

Workplace bullying can damage the reputation of a business and can lead to:

  •  high staff turnover and associated recruitment and training costs
  • low morale and motivation
  • increased absenteeism
  • lost productivity
  • disruption to work when complex complaints are being investigated
  • costly workers’ compensation claims or legal action.

What to know more?

If you have experienced workplace bullying or harassment, contact us on 13 43 63 or send us a message via our Contact Us form.

You can find additional information on workplace bullying at the Safe Work Queensland website.