Examples of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can be directed at a staff member, manager, supervisor or colleague and may be direct or indirect.  Direct bullying behaviour is behaviour that is capable of causing a person to feel humiliated, offended, intimidated, threatened, undermined or ostracised.

A broad range of repeated behaviours may constitute direct bullying, including, but not limited to:

  • displaying offensive material;
  • physical or verbal abuse towards a person or group of persons;
  • yelling, screaming or offensive language;
  • teasing or regularly making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes;
  • spreading rumours or innuendo about someone;
  • inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle or family;
  • excluding or isolating a staff member;
  • intimidation;
  • interfering with a person’s personal property or work equipment;
  • unjustified criticism or complaints.

Indirect bullying is behaviour, if taken in isolation, would not necessarily cause concern but when considered in the context of a broader pattern of behaviour, could amount to bullying. Examples are:

  • Setting timelines that are difficult to achieve or constantly changing deadlines;
  • Setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond the person’s skill level;
  • Withholding information that is vital for effective work performance;
  • Deliberately denying access to information, consultation or resources.

What is not considered bullying in the workplace?

‘Reasonable management action’, carried out in a ‘reasonable manner’, is not bullying. Managers and supervisors have rights and obligations to take appropriate management action and make appropriate management decisions. In this regard, it is important to distinguish between your manager or supervisor exercising their legitimate authority at work, in a proper and reasonable way, and instances of bullying.

Management action is reasonable if undertaken, in line with the University’s policies and processes. Feedback provided appropriately with the intention of helping to improve work performance, behaviour, or directing and monitoring workflow, does not constitute bullying.

Below are some common examples of ‘reasonable management action’ and other acceptable workplace interactions, which do not constitute workplace bullying:

  • allocation of appropriate work to a staff member by their manager/supervisor, in line with their position description and work unit requirements;
  • negotiation of a staff member’s performance goals, standards and deadlines by their supervisor;
  • reasonable comment, advice, administrative action or discussions with a staff member regarding their unsatisfactory work performance and/or inappropriate behaviour;
  • on-going meetings to address under-performance;
  • allocation of work hours and rosters to meet work unit needs;
  • implementation of organisational change or restructuring;
  • modification of a staff member’s duties including transfers and redeployment;
  • Investigation of alleged misconduct;
  • Counselling or disciplining a staff member for misconduct/serious misconduct;
  • Refusing a staff member permission to return to work due to a medical condition;
  • Differences of opinion between colleagues or a staff member and their supervisor;
  • A direction to carry out reasonable duties and instructions;
  • A direction to comply with University rules, policies and processes.

Staff members should not raise claims of bullying:

  • Where the claim has no reasonable cause i.e. without there being any real reason, basis or purpose;
  • When it is obviously untenable and manifestly groundless or lacking in substance (which may also include evidence of a complainant’s dishonesty or unfair dealing);
  • To harass, annoy or embarrass the other party;
  • When there is a vested interest or another purpose in raising the claim, other than the settlement of the issues raised in the matter, such as, an expectation of a financial gain or compensation from the University.