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What Is the Difference Between a Manager (Doing Their Job) And a Bully?

Published July 25, 2016 (last updated on February 28, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Everyone has the right to go to work and not experience bullying or harassment. Workplace bullying is a very serious issue, with the amount of claims increasing every year. Bullying is currently estimated to cost Australian businesses between $17 billion and $36 billion each year, with the average cost for a single claim falling between $17,000 and $24,000.

Many bullying claims come from employees against their managers or employers. This emphasises the difficulty in differentiating between bullying and reasonable management action – some employees can claim they feel bullied when being performance managed or having disciplinary action taken against them. Yet, management action taken against an employee is not bullying if it is carried out in a reasonable manner.

The Fair Work Act protects employers from a bullying claim if they are carrying out management action in a reasonable manner. It is important to understand what is considered bullying and what is reasonable management action. The following are examples of both.

What is workplace bullying?

Bullying includes:
• being aggressive, intimidating or humiliating
• using bad language or rudeness
• teasing, playing practical jokes or spreading rumours
• exclusion from team activities
• unreasonable work expectations, whether it be too much, too little or withholding information needed to do the job

What is reasonable management action?

Reasonable management action includes:
• 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 should have the correct systems in place, including policies and procedures to address any employee issues. This will ensure that in the event of a claim, the employer can establish that they took reasonable management action to defend any accusation of bullying.

If you have any questions relating to bullying or reasonable management actions, contact us today on 1300 651 415. Our specialist team can answer any questions you may have.

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