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What is Bullying?

As the season is settling in and stress levels may be increasing, the team honeymoon period maybe coming to an end. Before this happens, we wanted to address the hot topic of bullying and share a fictional story showcasing how easily it can happen on-farm.

Reading "An Accidental Bully", may leave you with some questions, so here are some defintions and vocabulary to add to your team toolbox.

What Is Bullying?

By definition, bullying is:

"repeated negative/unreasonable/inappropriate behaviour towards another person"

Types of behaviour that may be adopted by bullies include:

  • verbal abuse, ridicule, sarcasm

  • removing a worker’s responsibilities and replacing them with minor tasks

  • intimidation, shouting or throwing objects

  • taking credit for work completed by the victim

  • criticising or denigrating workers in front of other workers

  • inducing exhaustion by overwork

  • excessive use of administrative protocols, e.g. refusing leave applications without good reason

  • blocking a person’s promotion prospects

  • stalking

  • setting out to make competent people appear incompetent

  • displaying offensive pictures or caricatures

  • initiating offensive or degrading rumours

  • repeated emails, letters or face-to-face confrontations, and

  • making unreasonable demands.


Trauma is defined as:

“a deeply distressing experience”

Whether the cause is physical or psychological, the impact on workers who suffer trauma can be a significant occupational health and safety issue for a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU). Some of the specific causes include:

  • physical assault

  • a death resulting from a workplace accident

  • witnessing an accident or observing severe injuries

  • psychological abuse, including verbal abuse and bullying, and

  • the abrupt introduction of changes through restructuring and downsizing.

What is not workplace bullying?

The following behaviours are not considered to be harassment or bullying:

  • friendly banter, light-hearted exchanges, mutually acceptable jokes and compliments;

  • friendships and relationships where both people consent to the relationship;

  • issuing reasonable instructions and expecting them to be carried out;

  • warning or disciplining someone in line with organisation policy and procedures;

  • insisting on high standards of performance in terms of quality, safety and team cooperation;

  • legitimate criticisms about work performance (not expressed in a hostile, harassing manner);

  • giving critical feedback, including in a performance appraisal, and requiring justified performance improvement;

  • assertively expressing opinions that are different from others;

  • free and frank discussion about issues or concerns in the workplace, without personal insults

We hope these resources have got you off to the right start. Let us know if you have any questions!

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