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Work Place Bullying

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse (any negative behaviour by a person or group of people at work).Workplace bullying can happen in all types of workplaces throughout Australia. Only in the last few years has workplace bullying and the consequences of such actions really come to light and finally get the attention it deserves from safety councils around the country.This type of behaviour can happen in any type of workplace including offices to shops, cafes and restaurants, community centres, building sites, farms or government organisations.

This type of illegal behaviour can be directed to anyone at any level throughout businesses. It can happen to CEO's, managers, supervisors, volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices/trainees, casual and permanent employees.There are types of workplace bullying that are criminal offences. This includes violence, assault and stalking. These offences can and should be reported directly to the police.

What does bullying in the workplace look like?

Bullying in the workplace can easily be overlooked or misunderstood. Bullying can take many forms. A good point to remember is it's not just about the intent behind the bullying behaviour but that also of the person receiving the treatment that distinguishes what bullying is. There are many examples of bullies not being aware of the damage they are causing by what they are saying or doing to others. Some forms that bullying can take include:
  • Repeated hurtful remarks or attacks including making fun of a person's work or the person. This can include their family, sexuality, race, culture, education or economic background
  • sexual harassment including unwanted physical contact, sexually explicit comments and unwanted sexual requests
  • Excluding or stopping a person from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to their work
  • playing mind games, ganging up, or other types of psychological harassment
  • intimidation (making the person feel less important and undervalued)
  • giving the person pointless tasks that have nothing to do with their job
  • giving the person impossible jobs that can't be done in the given time or with the resources provided
  • deliberately changing working hours or schedule to make it difficult for the person
  • deliberately holding back information needed for getting your work done effectively
  • pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing the person in the workplace
  • attacking or threatening with equipment, knives, guns, clubs or any other type of object that can be turned into a weapon
  • Initiation or hazing - where the person made to do humiliating or inappropriate things in order to be accepted as part of the team.

So what isn't workplace bullying?

Some workplace practices are not bullying. These practices can sometimes be confused with workplace bullying and cause anxiety and discomfort if the person believes they are being mistreated when they are not. Some examples include:
  • Employers transferring, demoting, conducting performance reviews, disciplining, counselling, retrenching or dismissing staff (as long as they are acting reasonably).

How to identify when an apprentice or trainee is being bullied at work

If you think an apprentice or trainee is being bullied at work you may notice:
  • They are less active or under performing in their studies
  • They are less confident in their work
  • They feel scared, stressed, anxious or depressed due to work
  • Troubles may start outside of work e.g. with study or relationships
  • They want to stay away from work
  • They feel like they can't trust their employer or the people who they work with
  • They lack confidence and happiness about themselves and their work
  • They have physical signs of stress including headaches, backaches, sleep problems

What apprentices and trainees need to know if they are being bullied

When someone is being bullied it's important for them to know there are things they can do and people who can help. Everyone has the right to be in a safe workplace free from violence, harassment, bullying and any negative behaviour. If anyone suspects that someone is being bullied; action must be taken to investigate the situation and put an end to the bullying if it is present. If staff turn a blind eye, it can be seen that they are also participating in the bullying at hand.

(Some information used from


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