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Many things that happen at work are generally not considered to be bullying, although some experiences can be uncomfortable for those involved. Differences of opinion, performance management, conflicts and personality clashes can happen in any workplace, but usually they do not result in bullying.
A single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not bullying, although it may have the potential to escalate into bullying and therefore should not be ignored.
Reasonable management action, carried out in a fair way, is not bullying. Managers have a right to direct the way work is carried out and to monitor and give feedback on performance, but the way that this is done is a risk factor in determining the likelihood of bullying occurring.
Examples of reasonable management action include:
- Setting reasonable performance goals, standards and deadlines in consultation with workers and after considering their respective skills and experience
- Allocating work to a worker in a transparent way
- Fairly rostering and allocating working hours
- Transferring a worker for legitimate and explained operational reasons
- Deciding not to select a worker for promotion, following a fair and documented process
- Informing a worker about unsatisfactory work performance in a constructive way and in accordance with any workplace policies or agreements
- Informing a worker about inappropriate behaviour in an objective and confidential way
- Implementing organisational changes or restructuring, and
- Performance management processes.
Harassment and Discrimination
Harassment involves intimidating, offending or humiliating behaviour directed toward a person on the basis of a particular personal characteristic such as race, age or gender.
Discrimination involves the unfair treatment of a person based on a personal characteristic, for example not hiring or promoting a woman to a position because she may become pregnant or has children.
Unlike bullying, harassment and discrimination do not have to be repeated and have to be based on some characteristic of the target.
Discrimination and harassment are dealt with separately under anti-discrimination, industrial and human rights laws. The WHS Act includes specific protections against discriminatory conduct for persons raising health and safety concerns or performing legitimate safety-related functions.
A worker can be bullied, harassed and discriminated against at the same time.
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