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Workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is the term now used by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) to describe behaviours which were previously defined as workplace harassment.

Workplace bullying can be defined as repeated behaviour by a person(s) at the workplace that the worker considers unwelcome and unsolicited and that others would also find to be:

  • offensive
  • intimidating
  • humiliating, or
  • threatening (other than sexual harassment)

Workforce bullying does not include:

  • single incidents of workplace bullying type behaviour
  • management action undertaken in a reasonable manner
  • acts of unlawful discrimination, vilification or sexual harassment.

Examples of bullying in contact centres

Workplace bullying covers a wide range of behaviours ranging from subtle intimidation to aggressive tactics, including:

  • abuse a person loudly, usually when others are present
  • repeated threats of dismissal or other severe punishment for no reason
  • constant ridicule and being put down
  • leave offensive messages on email or the telephone
  • sabotage a person's work (e.g deliberately withholding or supplying incorrect information, hiding documents or equipment, not passing on messages and getting a person into trouble in other ways)
  • maliciously excluding and isolating a person from workplace activities
  • persistent and unjustified criticisms, often about petty, irrelevant or insignificant matters
  • humiliating a person through gestures, sarcasm, criticism and insults, often in front of customers, management or other workers
  • spread gossip or false, malicious rumours about a person with an intent to cause the person harm.

Reducing your risk

Ways for employers to minimise risks of workplace bullying include:

  • develop and communicate a workplace bullying prevention policy
  • implement a system to manage informal and formal complaints
  • review the effectiveness of human resource systems
  • provide training and education on appropriate workplace behaviour to all workers
  • ensure senior management model appropriate behaviours
  • intervene early in workplace conflict to avoid the conflict escalating
  • promote open communication channels at the workplace to increase the informal resolution of conflict.

Psychosocial factors that may increase your risk of workplace bullying include:

  • high work demands
  • low levels of control
  • low levels of support
  • poorly defined work roles
  • unmanaged workplace conflict
  • poorly managed organisational change
  • low levels of organisational justice
  • low levels of recognition and reward.