A brief look at recent case law involving workplace bullying makes it clear that it’s a serious issue for all employers.

A well developed anti-bullying policy is essential, to define bullying behaviour, to outline employee and employer responsibilities, and to explain the process and  protocols  for dealing with it.

But first, what is bullying? Bullying is repeated behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades, belittles or humiliates someone. Common examples include verbal abuse, spreading gossip, and isolating or excluding someone. Bullying is not always overt – it can often include subtle forms of intimidation that repeatedly undermine or humiliate a colleague.

Workplace bullying can have severe impacts on both the individual concerned and the organisation as a whole. For the person being bullied, it can result in depression or a feeling of isolation. It erodes confidence and distracts from effective work performance. In more severe instances, it can result in panic attacks and physical injury. Workplace bullying creates an unsafe work environment with reduced productivity, affecting overall morale and increases absenteeism. Unaddressed, bullying can result in workers compensation claims and / or legal action.

So, what can employers do to manage workplace bullying?

First, have a policy in place – and let people know about it and provide relevant training Including training for managers and team members on how to identify and deal with workplace bullying. Check the legislation in your state to ensure you fulfil your obligations.

Second, take complaints seriously, respond quickly and investigate any incident.

Third, consider both informal and formal processes – be available to help employees resolve conflicts by themselves, but have a formal process in place.

Recent articles

Remote or isolated work

The impact of poor support on remote and isolated workers: Summary of the webinar

Remote and isolated work encompasses more than just working in a home setting; it taps into the narrative of employees...
Reasonable management.

What isn’t Workplace Bullying? Reasonable Management.

Article updated on 15 April 2024 [Originally published in 2017] Workplace bullying is an organisational problem. It can happen in...
Trauma informed investigations

Trauma-informed workplace investigations: Prioritising ‘care’ over rigid processes

Interviewee: Kirsten Hartmann, Senior Workplace Relations Adviser/Workplace Investigator In August 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released four guiding...
Reverse bullying

Reverse Bullying is a Threat to Your Workplace Culture: Here is What it Looks Like

Article updated on 15 March 2024 [Originally published in 2020] What is reverse [or upward] bullying? Simply put, reverse bullying...