How to Identify and Prevent Workplace Bullying


Workplace bullying is a risk to health and safety of any person working in any workplace, irrelevant of the type of business being conducted. Like most risks, prevention is the key to mitigating the risks or harm to personnel along with responding quickly and professionally if it does occur.


The longer the bullying behaviour continues, the harder it is to fully address and it becomes more difficult to repair working relationships and can further damage workplace morale.  Everyone at the workplace has a legal obligation to prevent bullying from occurring.




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


‘Repeated behaviour’ refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can refer to a range or pattern of behaviours over time (for example, verbal abuse, unreasonable criticism, isolation and subsequently being denied opportunities.


‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, after careful thought of all the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including actions that are victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

A single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not considered to be workplace bullying however it may have the potential to escalate and should not be ignored.  Bullying does not include reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.




Workplace bullying can be harmful to the person experiencing it and even to those who have witnessed it. The effects will vary depending on the individual’s characteristics or circumstances as well as the specific case and may include one or more of the following:


  • distress, anxiety, panic attacks or sleep disturbance
  • physical illness for example 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, possibly leading to thoughts of suicide.


Workplace bullying can also have a negative impact on our work place, damage the reputation of our 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:

Some examples of bullying behaviour can include:

  • aggressive or intimidating conduct
  • belittling or humiliating comments
  • spreading malicious rumours
  • teasing, practical jokes or ‘initiation ceremonies’
  • exclusion from work-related events
  • unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below or beyond a worker’s skill level
  • displaying offensive material
  • pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner.


Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that their actions do not negatively affect another person's career, health or well-being.   This includes not condoning bullying by failing to do anything about it, such as raising the matter with the bully or with a supervisor.

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