Bullying at work can take different forms. Learn what the law says is bullying at work, and what is not.
On this page:
The definition of workplace bullying
Bullying at work occurs when:
- a person or a group of people behaves unreasonably towards a worker or a group of workers at work AND
- this happens more than once AND
- this creates a risk to health and safety.
It includes behaviours such as:
- being aggressive or intimidating
- using abusive or offensive language
- mocking or humiliating someone
- holding ‘initiation ceremonies’.
Depending on the situation, bullying can also include behaviour and actions such as:
- teasing or playing jokes
- leaving some workers out of work-related events
- giving someone too much or too little work
- giving someone work above or below their skill level
- not giving someone information that they need to do their job.
Bullying at work can have a serious impact on a person’s health and affect their ability to do their job. It can also have a bad impact on a workplace. Bullying can contribute to low morale and reduced productivity.
What isn’t bullying at work
Not all behaviour that makes you upset or anxious at work is bullying. For example, if someone makes a comment but they only do it once and do not repeat it, this is not bullying.
Reasonable management action
Managers need to be able to give feedback. It is not bullying if:
- the management action is reasonable AND
- the way the manager takes action is reasonable.
‘Reasonable’ may include putting a worker on a performance improvement plan.
Learn more about reasonable management action and performance management.