Workplace bullying can be harmful to the person experiencing it and to those who witness it. It ruins lives and destroys workplaces, and it’s up to you and your employer to put a stop to it.
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 considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is:
What is workplace bullying?
Examples of bullying behaviour—whether intentional or unintentional—include:
- language or comments that are:
- unjustified criticism or complaints
- deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities
- not sharing important information that a person needs to work effectively
- setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
- setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person's skill level
- spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
- changing rosters or leave to deliberately inconvenience someone.
What isn’t workplace bullying?
Examples of what isn’t bullying behaviour include:
- a single incident of unreasonable behaviour
- unreasonable behaviour that involves violence
- reasonable management action that:
- is in connection with a worker's employment
- is carried out in a lawful and reasonable way
- takes the particular circumstances into account
- acts of unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment
- workplace conflict (e.g. differences of opinion).
Single incidents of unreasonable behaviour shouldn’t be ignored as they may be repeated or escalate.
If you are experiencing or witnessing any behaviour that involves violence (e.g. physical assault or the threat of physical assault) you should report it to the police.
Experiencing or witnessing workplace bullying
To be able to take the most appropriate action, you should first establish whether the behaviour you are experiencing or witnessing is workplace bullying. Consider these questions to determine if the behaviour is workplace bullying:
- Is the behaviour being repeated?
- Is the behaviour unreasonable?
If you are experiencing behaviour repeated and unreasonable, you can:
- talk to the person
- seek support
- report it within your workplace
- make a bullying complaint outside of your workplace
- seek an order from the Fair Work Commission (you must still be employed in the business where the bullying was occurring).
If you witness bullying in the workplace you should encourage the other person to speak up or seek support. If you have a health and safety representative at your workplace, you or the person experiencing the bullying could bring it to their attention.
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual attention. You can be sexually harassed by anyone. Sexual harassment does not have to be repeated or ongoing to be against the law.
According to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, sexual harassment includes:
- unwelcome physical touching
- sexual or suggestive comments, jokes or taunts
- unwelcome requests for sex
- the display of sexual material (e.g. photos or pictures)
- sexual reading matter (e.g. emails, faxes or letters).
According to the Queensland Human Rights Commission, you can be discriminated against across a number of matters including but not limited to:
- your age
- your gender
- an impairment
- pregnancy and breastfeeding
- your race
- your religion
- your sexuality.
- Read the Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying to find more information about what constitutes workplace bullying.
- Read Dealing with workplace bullying – a workers guide to help you determine if workplace bullying is occurring and how it may be resolved.
- Find out more about discrimination and your rights.