All employees have a legal right to a safe, healthy workplace – one that’s free from bullying and harassment. And as an employer, responsibility for employee safety sits with you. That means taking steps to manage any risks to employee wellbeing, including dealing with bullying behaviour quickly and effectively.

beyondblue research highlights a strong relationship between negative workplace culture and bullying. One of the best things you can do to stamp out bullying is to make respect a non-negotiable feature of your workplace.

Tips for preventing workplace bullying

  • Check out our seven steps to a zero-tolerance approach

Developing a policy that works for you

Being clear about what’s expected of everyone – and what unacceptable behaviour looks like – is a great first step. Make sure all employees get a say about what should go into your workplace’s code of conduct or anti-bullying policy, including how to deal with unacceptable behaviour.

Your policy should include:

  • how to report bullying
  • the process that you will follow to ensure transparency, confidentiality, available support and fairness
  • what will happen once the claim has been investigated. 

Check out Safe Work Australia's workplace bullying policy to give you some ideas, or use Comcare’s bullying policy checklist to help identify any areas for improvement to your current bullying policy.

Following up with training and information on the policy means everyone’s on the same page.

  • For more information read the Joyfoods case study on how training can help prevent workplace bullying.

Monitor and review

Make sure you review your policy regularly and get everyone involved in the process. This will help you refine your procedures and ensure they continue to meet your needs.

Find out more:

Responding to an accusation of bullying 

Acting promptly on issues when they're raised can stop the situation happening again and show employees that workplace bullying is treated seriously by the organisation.

Start with the following questions:

  • Is the behaviour bullying or not?
  • Do measures need to be taken to minimise the risk of ongoing harm?
  • Do I have a clear understanding of the issues?
  • Do I need additional information or assistance?
  • Can the matter be safely resolved between the parties at a team level?
  • Should the matter be formally investigated?

Tips for responding to workplace bullying

  • Ten tips to ensure fairness and transparency

What happens if the accusation is proven? 

If an allegation of workplace bullying is proven, you’ll need to take action in line with your agreed policies and procedures. What you do will depend on the severity of the situation and can be aimed at both an individual and organisational level. You might need to think about a combination of strategies to prevent bullying from happening again in the future. 

At an individual level:

  • Request an apology and a commitment that the behaviour will not be repeated, and monitor the situation over time.
  • Provide coaching or training e.g. communication skills, leadership, interpersonal skills, etc.
  • Offer counselling support.
  • Consider transferring an employee or employees to another work area.
  • Provide a verbal or written warning
  • Demotion, dismissal or other actions subject to workplace relations laws.

At an organisational level:

  • Address organisational issues that may have contributed to the behaviour.
  • Review your organisation's workplace bullying policy.
  • Provide information to employees to raise the awareness of workplace bullying.

What happens if the accusation is not proven?

If an investigation finds a report of bullying isn’t proven, you’ll still need to resolve the issue. There’s likely to be tension between the staff members involved, and emotions can be running high. You might need to think about mediation, counselling or changing work arrangements, or a combination of these approaches. If the report has been made maliciously, you may need to take further action.

Anything you do should be consistent with your policies on misconduct and disciplinary action.