What is Workplace Bullying?
The following definition is included in section 55A (1) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986:
'Workplace bullying means any behaviour that is repeated, systematic and directed towards an employee or group of employees that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten and which creates a risk to health and safety.'
Repeated refers to the persistent or ongoing nature of the behaviour and can refer to a range of different types of behaviour over time.
Systematic refers to having, showing or involving a method or plan. Whether behaviour is systematic or not will depend on an analysis of the circumstances of each individual case with the general guideline in mind.
Risk to health and safety includes the risk to the emotional, mental or physical health of the person(s) in the workplace.
Bullying behaviour can be obvious and aggressive.
- Abusive, insulting or offensive language;
- Behaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades, including criticism that is delivered with yelling and screaming;
- Teasing or regularly making someone the brunt of practical jokes;
- Displaying material that is degrading or offending;
- Spreading gossip, rumours and innuendo of a malicious nature.
assault and stalking are extreme forms of bullying that constitute
a criminal offence. Such behaviour should be reported directly to the
Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Harmful or offensive initiation practices;
- Physical assault or unlawful threats.
Workplace bullying can also be subtle and could include behaviour such as:
- Deliberately excluding, isolating or marginalising a person from normal workplace activities;
- Intruding on a person’s space by pestering, spying or tampering with their personal effects or work equipment;
- Intimidating a person through inappropriate personal comments, belittling opinions or unjustified criticism.
Covert behaviour that undermines, treats less favourably or disempowers others, is also bullying, for example:
- Overloading a person with work;
- Setting timelines that are very difficult to achieve,or constantly changing deadlines;
- Setting tasks that are unreasonably beyond a person’s ability;
- Ignoring or isolating a person;
- Deliberately denying access to information, consultation or resources;
- Unfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements, such as leave or training.
As stated in section 55A (2) of the Occupational Health, Safety
and Welfare Act 1986 bullying
behaviour does not include:
- Reasonable action taken in a reasonable manner by an employer to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or dismiss an employee;
- A decision by an employer, based on reasonable grounds, not to award or provide a promotion, transfer, or benefit in connection with an employee’s employment;
- Reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner by an employer in connection with an employee’s employment; or
- Reasonable action taken in a reasonable manner under an Act affecting an employee.