Bullying is a serious issue in workplaces across Australia and a risk factor for anxiety, depression and suicide.

Workplace bullying doesn't just hurt those involved. The wider workplace also feels the effects through lost productivity, increased absenteeism, poor morale, and time spent documenting, pursuing or defending claims. It is estimated to cost Australian organisations between $6 billion and $36 billion a year.

 

And while we often think about bullying as an individual or interpersonal issue, beyondblue research (PDF) shows that broader environmental factors - such as poor organisational culture and a lack of leadership - are in fact the main drivers. 

The most effective way to stamp out bullying is to stop it before it starts. This means creating a strong, consistent approach to prevent inappropriate behaviour from escalating, and a positive, respectful work culture where bullying is not tolerated.

 

 


 

What is workplace bullying?

Let's get technical for a second and consider this definition: Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety.

The emphasis here is on 'repeated', meaning that a single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not considered bullying. It's still important to deal with what might look like one-off issues, however, as these have the potential to escalate. The 'risk to health and safety' is also important - in this context, we're taling about the effect bullying has on someone's mental health.

Bullying can happen in any type of workplace, and to people in any type of role - from front-line employees through to CEOs.

It can also take lots of different forms, from verbal or physical abuse through to online harassment. In some cases, workplace bullying extends beyond the working environment - for example, through emails or texts sent outside work hours.

 

Workplace bullying

  • Examples of bullying behaviour

  • What is not considered workplace bullying

  • Discrimination and sexual harassment

  • Risk factors

The impact of workplace bullying

Workplace bullying can affect people in a number of ways, including:

  • distress, anxiety, panic attacks or sleep disturbance
  • physical illness, such as muscular tension, headaches and digestive problems
  • reduced work performance
  • loss of self-esteem and feelings of isolation
  • deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family and friends
  • depression
  • increased risk of suicide

 


 

We've created practical guides for employers and managers to help you take action against bullying in your workplace.

 


 

Further reading and resources

Learn about your rights and how to make a complaint.

 

Talk to someone and get support

 

If workplace bullying involves violence, abuse or stalking, contact your local police station.