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Bullying vs reasonable management action

Bullying & HarassmentApril 20, 2016

Bullying vs reasonable management action (Last Updated On: April 20, 2016)

Workplace bullying is a pressing issue in Australian workplaces, with it estimated to cost businesses between $17 billion and $36 billion each year, and the average cost for a single claim falling between $17,000 and $24,000.

Considering this, as an employer, it is important to understand what is considered bullying and what is deemed as reasonable management action.

Understanding bullying

An employee is bullied at work if an individual, or group of individuals, repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker and that behaviour creates a risk to the worker’s health and safety. Examples of bullying may include, but not limited to:

  • aggressive or intimidating conduct
  • belittling or humiliating comments
  • the spreading of malicious rumours
  • teasing, practical jokes or initiation ceremonies
  • exclusion from work related actives
  • unreasonable work expectations (including too little or too much work, or work above or below a worker’s skill set)
  • pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner

Understanding reasonable management action

Bullying does not include reasonable management action taken against an employee. It is reasonable for managers and supervisors to allocate work and to give fair feedback on an employee’s performance. These actions cannot be considered workplace bulling if they are carried out in a reasonable manner and take into account specific circumstances.

Reasonable management actions include:

  • setting reasonable performance goals, standards and deadlines
  • rostering and allocating working hours
  • transferring a worker for operational reasons
  • deciding not to select a worker for promotion where a reasonable process has been followed
  • informing a worker of their unsatisfactory work performance
  • informing a worker of their unreasonable or inappropriate behaviour in an objective and confidential way
  • implementing organisational change or restructuring
  • taking disciplinary action including suspension or termination of employment

Employers need to ensure when taking management action against an employee, they do so in a way that cannot be deemed as bullying. This includes:

  • providing clear instructions, information and training to all employees
  • ensuring employees are aware of and understand the business’ performance and disciplinary policies and procedures
  • any management action taken is justified and the process is fair and consistent
  • documenting all performance and disciplinary matters

Employsure can assist you in minimising the risks of workplace bullying by advising on effective ways to manage behaviour and performance.  If you have any questions relating to bullying, reasonable management actions, or need help with differentiating between the two, contact us today on 1300 651 415. Our specialist team can answer any questions you may have.

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