Bullying and harassment

Why does bullying and harassment occur?


Underlying problems that may contribute to bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment may occur because of underlying problems in the workplace such as:

  • poor job design and work relationships
  • lack of accountability
  • the existence of a particular culture at work
  • an over-competitive environment
  • a climate of insecurity, for example, fear of redundancy
  • a rigid style of management
  • abuse of power
  • lack of procedure for resolving problems

If bullying and/or harassment is a problem in your workplace, try to find out why it's happening before taking action.

Challenge unacceptable behaviour

For example, if a number of employees have started to complain of being on the receiving end of sexist jokes, it may be that there is a culture of sexist banter in your workplace. If so, you could:

  • intervene and caution that such banter is inappropriate and will not be tolerated in the workplace (you could initially deal with this matter informally by indicating the potential for formal action)
  • take some form of disciplinary action against those telling the jokes, eg verbal or written warnings
  • remind all your staff about your bullying/harassment policy, eg that bullying and harassing colleagues is a serious disciplinary matter

See dealing with bullying and harassment claims.