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

Workplace Bullying can include:

  • Abusive or offensive language or comments;
  • Aggressive and intimidating behaviour;
  • Belittling or humiliating comments;
  • Practical jokes or initiation;
  • Unjustified criticism or complaints.


An employer has a legitimate authority to direct and control the way work is done. It is reasonable for employers to allocate work and for managers and supervisors to give fair and reasonable feedback on an employee’s performance.

This includes: 
  • Taking reasonable disciplinary action including suspension or termination of employment;
  • Not selecting an employee for promotion;
  • Informing a worker about unreasonable behaviour in a fair and constructive way;
  • Transferring a worker to another area or role for operational reasons;
  • Setting realistic and achievable performance standards and deadlines.

If a worker has obvious performance issues, these should be identified and dealt with in a constructive and supportive way that does not involve personal insults or derogatory remarks.

The most important message is to remain calm and keep an ongoing record of events and incidents.

Australian businesses have a legal obligation under all jurisdictions to provide a safe workplace environment, both physically and psychologically.

Specifically, employers should:
  • Have workplace policies and procedures for workplace bullying that are appropriate for the business;
  • Communicate and promote workplace bullying policies;
  • Encourage a positive workplace culture with a zero tolerance to bullying;
  • Focus on prevention by addressing the underlying risk factors in the workplace that are known to enable or trigger;
  • Provide support and early intervention by addressing workplace bullying as early as possible;
  • Offer assistance and support to employees in a confidential, prompt and respectful manner.

39% of mental disorder claims are from exposure to bullying in the workplace. 


  • Always attempt to address issues early, as you have a much greater chance of de-escalating the situation.
  • Record what has happened;
  • Talk to someone–your manager, a trusted friend, colleague, doctor, union representative.


Don’t be a silent witness to workplace bullying. Co-workers that witness bullying can also suffer negative effects, i.e. fear, stress and emotional exhaustion.

Bullying can hinder organisational dynamics, group cohesion, peer communication and overall performance. If you witness bullying behaviour it is your moral responsibility to report it and help create a positive and safe workplace.

You can discuss your concerns with your line manager, employee contact officer, employee assistance program provider or your health and safety representative.

10% of Australian workers experience bullying.