What is workplace bullying?

Here are some notes that can be useful as regards workplace bullying according to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by your employer, manager or any other person or group in the work environment.

Workplace bullying can happen in any type of workplace, from offices to shops, cafes, restaurants, workshops, community groups and government organisations.

Workplace bullying can happen to volunteers, interns, apprentices, seasonal and permanent employees. Some types of workplace bullying constitute criminal offences. If you have experienced violence, assault and stalking, you can report it directly to the police.

What does bullying in the workplace look like?

  • Repeated hurtful remarks or attacks, or making fun of your work or you as a person (including your family, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race or culture, education or economic background)
  • Sexual harassment, particularly unwelcome touching and sexually explicit comments and requests that make you uncomfortable
  • Excluding you or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relate to your work
  • Playing mind games on you, ganging up on you, or other types of psychological harassment
  • Intimidation (making you feel less important and undervalued)
  • Giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job
  • Giving you impossible jobs that can’t be done in the given time or with the resources provided
  • Deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to make it difficult for you
  • Deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly
  • Pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the workplace
  • Attacking or threatening with equipment, knives, guns, clubs or any other type of object that can be turned into a weapon
  • Initiation or hazing – where you are made to do humiliating or inappropriate things in order to be accepted as part of the team.

How bullying can affect your work

If you are being bullied at work you might:

  • be less active or successful
  • be less confident in your work
  • feel scared, stressed, anxious or depressed
  • have your life outside of work affected, e.g. study, relationships
  • want to stay away from work
  • feel like you can’t trust your employer or the people who you work with
  • lack confidence about yourself and your work and derive no satisfaction from your work
  • have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches, sleep disorders

What is not workplace bullying?  

Some practices in the workplace may not seem fair but are not considered acts of bullying.

Your employer is allowed to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or sack you (as long as they are acting reasonably).