Bullying in the workplace – What is it?


Have you ever felt like you have been picked on by a colleague?

Perhaps you’ve been repeatedly criticised, isolated, overworked, teased or insulted by a fellow worker or manager?


Bullying at work occurs when:

a person or a group of people repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or a group of workers at work


the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Bullying does not include reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.

Unlike harassment, bullying is ongoing or repeated, not a single act.


Bullying behaviour may involve, for example, any of the following types of behaviour:

  • aggressive or intimidating conduct
  • belittling or humiliating comments
  • spreading malicious rumours
  • teasing, practical jokes or 'initiation ceremonies'
  • exclusion from work-related events
  • unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below or beyond a worker's skill level
  • displaying offensive material
  • pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner.


However, in order for it to be bullying the behaviour must be repeated and unreasonable and must create a risk to health and safety.

Reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner does not constitute bullying.


Reasonable management action may include:

  • performance management processes
  • disciplinary action for misconduct
  • informing a worker about unsatisfactory work performance or inappropriate work behaviour
  • asking a worker to perform reasonable duties in keeping with their job
  • maintaining reasonable workplace goals and standards.

However, these actions must be conducted in a reasonable manner. If they are not, they could still be bullying.


Workplace bullying can adversely impact a person’s health and well being. This behaviour is unacceptable and has no place in any work site.

If you, or another worker, are experiencing workplace bullying, you need to speak up. If you can, speak to the bully and tell them that you want the behaviour to stop.

If the behaviour doesn’t stop, or if you aren’t able to confront the bully, report it to your manager and notify your union Delegate or the Union office.

Your Union can support you and lodge an application with the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop bullying in the workplace if you are unable to resolve your dispute at work. If you are thinking about lodging an application, please speak to your Organiser or contact the union office for advice and to discuss representation.

Remember – as an SDA member, you are not alone. Speak to your store Delegate or contact the SDA on 1300 732 HELP (1300 732 4357) for confidential advice and assistance.

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