In our last blog post, we discussed bullying and the manager’s responsibility of ensuring that bullying is eliminated from the workplace. Here are a few more ideas surrounding this topic. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us

Bullying in the workplace is not appropriate. Managers are responsible for their team and it's an important management skill.

“As soon as you think you may be a victim of bully tactics, seek help. Acting promptly can help to circum-vent more serious situations such as a disciplinary or incompetence claim made against you. The longer you leave it to act, the harder the situation will be to resolve. There is a wealth of support for victims of bullying – you don’t have to suffer alone.”

Elizabeth Holmes, Handbook for Newly Qualified Teachers, The Stationery Office, London, 1999, p. 104.

NOTE: You can adapt the anti-bullying guidelines in this topic to deal with other forms of workplace harassment.

There is no place for bullying in your workplace – and you can be legally liable if it occurs.To prevent bullying from taking subtle or overt forms, you need to consider whether it exists and to assess the risks of its occurring. Then you can adopt appropriate policies to deal with it. So the following advice is provided…

1. Know what workplace bullying entails.

Bullying has been defined as:

Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimid-ating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions which make the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated, or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress. (US Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union)

Or as:

Aggressive behaviour arising from the deliberate intent to cause physical or psychological distress to others. (Peter Randall)

2. Be aware of the implications of bullying in your organisation.

It is possible that an employee could be subject to bullying without others being aware of the problem. Because an employee tolerates this type of behaviour does not mean that it is acceptable, that it is not workplace bullying, or that the employer is not vicariously liable. Its presence can undermine workplace performance, crush the employee victim – and could lead to costly legal implications if not dealt with by the organisation. To prevent bullying from happening, it is first useful to know whether it already exists in your workplace and to determine if your workplace is one that actually fosters it.

3. Determine if bullying behaviours exist in your workplace.

Using surveys, brainstorming, focus groups, check lists, and discussions, consult with key workplace groups to identify evidence of risk behaviours present in your organisation:

Physical: pushing, shoving, assaults, threats, offensive gestures, pinching, patting, touching, damaging or tampering with another’s property or equipment…

Verbal: insults and name-calling, swearing, shouting, slandering, rumour-mongering, ridiculing, non-ending criticism and trivial fault-finding, ridiculing in front of others, constant put-downs, offensive jokes, wolf whistling, public reprimands, cutting comments about lifestyles or appearance…

Nonverbal: singling out for no reason, suggestive looks or jeers, meaningless tasks, tasks beyond one’s skills, overwork, unnecessary pressure, offensive material in workplace, impossible deadlines, denial of reasonable requests, mimicking, constant overrulings, unwelcome practical jokes…

4. Identify any negative human resource management trends.

Through consultation again, explore the following signals that may indicate a workplace environment ripe for bullying behaviour:

Personal disability: withdrawal, depression, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, high stress, panic attacks, aggressiveness, increased absenteeism and sick leave, irritability, tiredness, migraines, suicide…

Workplace indicators: increase in such areas as absenteeism and sick leave requests, staff turnover, accidents and first-aid treatments, recruitment costs, informal complaints, industrial disputes, workers compensation stress claims, counselling demands, mediation, and actions in relation to discrimination and harassment; reduced efficiency, productivity and profitability; poor morale, and erosion of staff commitment and loyalty…

Cultural indicators: an authoritarian management style, negative culture with little employee support, no clear codes of conduct, little staff participation or consultation, lack of training, no respect for others or their views, excessive demands on staff and workloads, no grievance procedures in place, difficult or aggressive clients, a very competitive commercial environment, the continual threat of organisational change…

5. Consider your findings.

Having gathered this wealth of data, you are now better placed to assess the likelihood of bullying occurring in your workplace, how well your organisation can handle incidents of bullying, even the costs incurred if bullying is not addressed. In this regard, consider:

  • What is the probability of bullying occurring in your workplace?
  • What are the organisational factors that might give rise to bullying?
  • What financial and legal costs could result from bullying in your organisation – in terms of lost working time through illness and absence, staff turnover, reduced efficiency and productivity, high recruitment and retraining costs, potential legal costs and penalties?
  • Just how effective are your current procedures to prevent and to address complaints relating to workplace bullying?
  • How aware is management that a lack of effective policies and procedures could be seen as negligent in court?
  • Do your current control measures such as a code of conduct, anti-bullying policy, and complaints procedures need to be modified? Do new controls need to be devised and implemented?

6. Document your assessment, decisions, and reasons.

If you have taken all reasonable measures through consultation to identify inappropriate behaviour and related risks, you will have taken the first step in eliminating the legal, moral, and financial consequences of bullying in your workplace. Record the results of this process for follow-up action and possible legal protection.

7. Derive and implement strategies for dealing with the issue.

You are now better placed to understand the problem of bullying in your workplace. The next step will be to develop an anti-bullying policy and effective control measures…


Management is all about leading your team well. Ensure their is no bullying within your organisation.

As a supervisor or manager, it is really important to be aware of what’s going on within your organisation. If bullying is occurring, it is vital that you address it immediately. Handling conflict and other situations such as bullying are essential management skills. They take discernment and care. 

If you’re interested in developing your management skills and formalising your experience with an accredited qualification, check out Global Training Institute’s online qualifications including the Certificate IV in Frontline Management, the Diploma of Management and the Advanced Diploma of Management. We also offer short courses to help sharpen specific soft skills. These include Supervising OthersLeadership and InfluenceConflict Resolution and more. For more information about these things, please contact us