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How To Identify Workplace Bullying

How To Identify Workplace Bullying

It is important as a business owner to identify the signs of workplace bullying to ensure the wellbeing of your staff. Find out more here.

14th August 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Your workplace should be a safe place for all employees. Bullying can pervade any workplace and it is important to identify the signs, whether your business is virtual or in an office. Often it is assumed that people in power tend to bully or harass other staff members, however, co-workers are also able to incite these types of behaviour. Further, it is vital that there are procedures in place to help employees who are feeling unsafe. Read our guide below explaining the types of workplace bullying and the types of strategies you could implement into your business to deal with it. 

How to Identify Workplace Bullying

The first step in the process is to understand what workplace bullying is. The definition of workplace bullying under the Fair Work Act 2009, is:

  • An individual or a group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker or a group of workers of which the worker is a member; and
  • That behaviour creates a risk to health and safety

However, understanding the definition is only the first step in the process. It is important to be able to identify the behaviours which constitute workplace bullying and harassment. The types of bullying at work include:

  • Spreading rude and/or false rumours about someone
  • Insulting, yelling or swearing
  • Practical jokes or initiation
  • Exclusion from work-related events
  • Aggressive and intimidating conduct 
  • Physical violence
  • Blackmail

However, the list is not exhaustive, and there are many different forms of bullying that an employee can experience. 

Physical and Mental Effects

The issue with workplace bullying is the implications it will have on the physical and emotional wellbeing of your staff members. Hence, it is important to realise how it will affect your employees in the short term and long term. 

The main effects of bullying are:

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nausea
  • Musculoskeletal pain and muscle tension

However, it is crucial to keep in mind that each person will experience different reactions to workplace harassment. 

What is Not Considered Bullying

There are particular behaviour which do not constitute workplace bullying or harassment, even if it makes a worker feel upset.

Reasonable action management which is taken in a reasonable way is not considered workplace bullying. As a manager, the role involves monitoring the quality of work by staff members and providing them with feedback. However, these conversations must be supportive and focus on positives as well as negatives, without humiliating or demeaning the staff members. This is an important component of any business, as it allows for efficiency and constructive communication. 

Further, a difference in opinion and disagreements do not amount to bullying. However, if it does escalate or is not managed correctly, it can become bullying. 


Lastly, the final step of the process is to have a management plan in place to ensure that any instances of workplace bullying can be dealt with. However, before dealing with managing the bullying, it is crucial to have a prevention plan to stop the harassment before it even begins.

Steps that you can take to manage and prevent bullying include:

  • Creating procedures which allow staff members to report bullying 
  • Establishing a response procedure if bullying is reported
  • Setting standards for workplace behaviour, such as a code of conduct or harassment and bullying policy
  • Implementing regular check-ins with staff members to find out if any form of bullying is occurring
  • Speaking to health and safety professionals to identify factors which could lead or promote workplace bullying
  • Providing access to professional help and support to staff members who need mental health assistance 


Workplace bullying has serious mental and physical repercussions on employees. Hence, it is vital to have a prevention plan in place to stop any form of harassment in its tracks. However, it is also important to have a management plan in place if there are any instances of bullying in your business. 

Don’t know where to start? Contact a Lawpath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

Katarina Dapcevic

Katarina is a Lawpath intern, working as a part of the content team. She is currently in her third year of a Bachelor of Laws and Communications (Journalism) degree at the University of Technology Sydney. Her passions lie in affordable and accessible legal services, allowing everyone to have access to justice.