Now’s a good time to talk about workplace bullying through your corporate health program February 15th, 2013, by Ken Buckley

Workplace bullying has been in the news a lot lately, with the Federal Government’s push to have complaints directed to a national body, the Fair Work Commission, along with a proposed new definition of bullying. Then there’s the headline-grabbing news that workplace bullies could face fines of up to $33,000.

This makes “right now” a great time to remind your employees of all the wonderful systems your organisation has in place to help prevent bullying and harassment.

We don’t often talk about bullying in our workplace health and wellness programs, except obliquely in regards to mental health, but it’s important.

Take the time to review  your policies and procedures, and recirculate them to your teams. You could also arm your team leaders with reminders and key messages to relay to their teams.

The key messages don’t need to be fancy, in fact the simpler the better. A simple, strong : “bullying is not tolerated in this workplace, and all complaints will be dealt with immediately and seriously” will suffice.

Remind team leaders and team members of all the things that are considered bullying, both direct and indirect.

The proposed national definition for bullying is: ‘‘Bullying, harassment or victimisation means repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”

Here’s a handy list from WorkCover NSW:

Examples of direct bullying include:

  • behaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades, including criticism that is delivered with yelling or screaming
  • inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle or their family
  • teasing or regularly making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes
  • interfering with a person’s personal property or work equipment
  • spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
  • abusive, insulting or offensive language
  • harmful or offensive initiation practices
  • displaying offensive material.

Examples of indirect bullying include:

  • deliberately changing work arrangements, such as rosters and leave, to inconvenience a particular worker or workers
  • unfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements such as leave or training
  • deliberately excluding, isolating or marginalising a person from normal work activities
  • setting timelines that are difficult to achieve or constantly changing deadlines
  • unreasonably overloading a person with work or not providing enough work
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
  • deliberately denying access to information, consultation or resources
  • withholding information that is vital for effective work performance.

 Looking for more? 

You might also find these resources handy, both for your own benefit and for management at your workplace:

1. Recognising And Removing The Risks Of Workplace Bullying, Checklist for Employers Addressing Workplace Bullying,  by WorkSafeACT.

2. Guide for Preventing and responding  to workplace bullying, by SafeWorkAustralia


Healthworks provides a range of resources on mental health, including our Mentally Healthy booklet and Positively Well seminar. Our Well At Work newsletter also covers work-related issues such as communication and assertiveness at work. Call us now on 1300 90 10 90 to find out more. 

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