One definition of workplace bullying is "the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates a worker." (Source ACTUQ/QCCI/Qld Govt Dept of Workplace Health and Safety).
Bullies usually utilise power attributed to their status, skills or position in the workplace, and both men and women can be the targets and/or the perpetrators. Workplace bullying can occur between a worker and a manager or supervisor, or between co-workers.
Bullying behaviour can range from very obvious verbal or physical assault to very subtle psychological abuse.
This behaviour may include:
physical or verbal abuse
yelling, screaming or offensive language
excluding or isolating employees
assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job
giving employees impossible jobs
deliberately changed work rosters to inconvenience particular employees
undermining work performance by deliberately withholding information vital for effective work performance.
The costs of bullying in the workplace
There are a range of psychological and physical illnesses and injuries that can be caused by exposure to bullying in the workplace, including anxiety disorders, stress, depression and insomnia.
The effects on a workplace can include decreased productivity, increased staff absenteeism, staff turnover and poor morale. Financial costs can include legal and workers' compensation and management time in addressing cases of workplace bullying.
Protections against bullying
Everyone has the right to work in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employers and employees have a legal responsibility to comply with any measures that promote health and safety in the workplace. Because of this duty, employers need to eliminate or reduce the risks to employees' health and safety caused by workplace bullying.
Employers should ensure that they have a written policy in place which sets out their position regarding workplace bullying and the fact that it will not be tolerated or accepted in their workplace. All employees should sign off on this policy, and it can be included in a staff induction program along with other liability issues such as anti-discrimination and sexual harassment. It is important that these policies are expressed in writing and that the employer can demonstrate that they have brought these to the attention of all employees to ensure that the employers liability is limited as much as possible.
The information contained on this website is provided as a guide only and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action visitors to this site may take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.