Bullies fall into two groups: those that intend to hurt and humiliate their targets and those that perceive their behaviour to be reasonable but their target perceives it as bullying.

Bullying at work:

Bullying at work is ‘Repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety’.
Repeated behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can include a range of behaviours over time. Unreasonable behaviour includes behaviour that is 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.

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Bullying behaviour may involve any of the following types of behaviour:
  • Aggressive or intimidating conduct
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Unreasonable criticism
  • Belittling or humiliating comments
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Teasing, practical jokes or 'initiation ceremonies'
  • Exclusion from work-related events
  • Deliberate interruptions
  • Unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below or beyond a worker's skill level
  • Refusing to delegate or withholding information which an employee needs to complete their work
  • Displaying offensive material or performing offensive acts
  • Pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner.
What is not considered to be workplace bullying?


It is reasonable for managers and supervisors to allocate work and to give fair and reasonable feedback on a worker’s performance. These actions are not considered to be workplace bullying if they are carried out lawfully and in a reasonable manner, taking the particular circumstances into account.

Examples of reasonable management action can include but are not limited to:

  • setting reasonable performance goals, standards and deadlines;
  • rostering and allocating working hours where the requirements are reasonable;
  • transferring a worker for operational reasons;
  • declining a workers’ request for promotion where a reasonable process is followed; 
  • informing a worker of their unsatisfactory work performance;
  • informing a worker of their unreasonable or inappropriate behaviour in an objective and confidential way;
  • implementing organisational change or restructure;
  • taking appropriate disciplinary action including suspension or termination of employment.
How is bullying different to discrimination?

Under federal and state legislation, unlawful discrimination occurs when someone, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, gender, pregnancy or marital status; age; disability; religion; sexual preference; trade union activity; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation.

Workplace discrimination can occur in:

  • recruiting and selecting staff;
  • terms, conditions and benefits offered as part of employment;
  • who receives training and what sort of training is offered;
  • who is considered and selected for transfer, promotion, retrenchment or dismissal.
Discrimination or Sexual Harassment

Discrimination and sexual harassment in employment is unlawful under anti-discrimination, equal employment opportunity, workplace relations and human rights laws.

  • Discrimination generally occurs when someone is treated less favourably than others because they have a particular characteristic or belong to a particular group of people. Sexual harassment is associated with unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.
  • It is possible for a person to be bullied, sexually harassed and discriminated against at the same time.
Workplace Conflict
  • Differences of opinion and disagreements are generally not considered to be workplace bullying.
  • People can have differences and disagreements in the workplace without engaging in repeated, unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety. However, in some cases, conflict that is not managed may escalate to the point where it meets the definition of workplace bullying.
  • If workplace conflict is affecting you, you should raise your concerns with your manager, supervisor, human resources officer or grievance officer.


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