Workplace bullying

By on January 31, 2017

This information  is to assist operators and workers to understand their duties and responsibilities in relation to workplace bullying and should be read in conjunction with http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/safety-and-prevention/health-and-safety-topics/workplace-bullying.

An extract from the NSW’s “Resources Regulator – Bullying in the workplace” (21.12.16) is given below.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Repeated behaviour relates to the persistent nature of  the behaviour and involves a range of behaviours over time. Unreasonable behaviour is behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.1

Bully-Free-Zone---web

Examples of behaviour, whether intentional or unintentional, that may be considered to be workplace bullying if they are repeated, unreasonable and create a risk to health and safety include but are not limited to:

  • offensive language or comments
  • practical jokes at someone’s expense, name calling and taunts
  • unjustified criticism or complaints
  • deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities
  • withholding information needed for work.

A single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not considered to be workplace bullying, however it may have the potential to escalate and shouldn’t be ignored.

The behaviour must also create a risk to health and safety. This can sometimes involve:

  • dangerous acts which could harm someone
  • causing a person to suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, fear or nausea.

If  workplace  bullying behaviour involves violence, such  as physical assault or the threat of physical assault, it should be reported to the police.

How workplace bullying happens

Workplace bullying can be carried out in a variety of ways including through email, text messaging, internet chat rooms or other social media channels. In some cases workplace bullying can occur outside normal working hours.

Workplace bullying can be directed at a single worker or group of workers and be carried out by one or more workers. It can also be directed at or perpetrated by contractors and members of the public.

What is not considered workplace bullying?

Reasonable management actions

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 may include but are not limited to:

  • changes to rosters for operational reasons
  • performance management
  • modifying a worker’s duties including transferring or re-deploying the worker
  • refusing a worker permission to return to work due to a medical condition.

Workplace conflict

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, if conflict is not managed it may escalate to the point where it meets the definition of workplace bullying.

Not being friends, not sharing the same interests, differences of opinion and disagreements are generally not considered to be workplace bullying.

Prevention and management of bullying in the workplace

Workplace bullying is best dealt with by taking steps to prevent it from occurring and responding quickly if it does occur.

Operators should:

  • implement a comprehensive workplace bullying policy
  • implement clear bullying reporting frameworks and processes
  • provide comprehensive training to staff about the mine’s bullying policy
  • provide comprehensive training to staff about building a respectful workplace
  • implement early intervention strategies
  • undertake independent and impartial investigations into complaints
  • inform complainants about the outcome of investigations
  • offer an employee assistance program (EAP)
  • ensure performance management processes are clearly documented.

The actions to manage workplace bullying may vary depending on the situation, the number of parties involved and the size and structure of the mining or petroleum operation.

1 Safe Work Australia, Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying (2013), 2.

Further information

See relevant guidance material and information, including:

Note that the above is for information purposes  only and should  be  read  in  conjunction with  http://www.worksafe. vic.gov.au/forms-and-publications/forms-and-publications/preventing-and-responding-to-bullying-at-work.

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