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How to identify indirect bullying in your workplace

Workplace bullying can come in all shapes and sizes, and frequently workers will claim bullying arising from repeated indirect behaviours, such as:

  • deliberately or maliciously overloading a person with work or not providing enough work;
  • unreasonably setting timelines that are difficult to achieve or constantly changing deadlines;
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level;
  • deliberately excluding, isolating or marginalising a person from normal work activities, e.g. excluding a worker from meetings or functions that everyone else attends;
  • withholding information that is vital for effective work performance;
  • deliberately denying access to information, consultation or resources;
  • deliberately changing work arrangements such as rosters and leave to inconvenience a particular worker or workers; and
  • unfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements, e.g. leave or training.

As well as creating a health and safety risk, these behaviours can result in costs to your business through:

  • increased absenteeism;
  • reduced productivity;
  • high staff turnover; and
  • legal ramifications.

Legal ramifications can include:

  • penalties for breaching health and safety legislation;
  • claims under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth);
  • prosecution under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) – in Victoria; and
  • claims for workers’ compensation or negligence.

A bullying situation may also breach other laws including anti-discrimination, anti-vilification and equal opportunity legislation.

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