Published on Sep 30, 2019

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Bullying is often in the media, although it’s usually linked to the behaviour of school age children. But according to findings from a recent study by the University of South Australia (UniSA), Australia ranked sixth worst for workplace bullying when compared to 31 European countries.

Cultures that lead to bullying

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Michelle Tuckey, says the key to curbing workplace bullying lies in understanding that such behaviour can rarely be blamed on isolated individuals.

“Workplace bullying is often mistaken as a problem between staff members, an interpersonal problem, when evidence shows it’s really a reflection of how the organisation functions,” Assoc Prof Tuckey says.

“It’s a cultural issue, a systems issue – if you have a healthy culture and healthy systems, then you don’t get a lot of bullying.

“Bullying plays out during interactions between people, but it’s actually coming from the way work is designed and organised,” she says.

“So, it’s the way people and tasks are coordinated together that allows bullying to flourish or not.”

Factors that help bullying develop

Associate Professor Tuckey identified the factors for a bullying culture to develop.
These included:

  • working hours
  • how entitlements are coordinated
  • performance management
  • clear roles and allocated tasks
  • workloads
  • sufficient training
  • career opportunities
  • how performance is monitored and appraised
  • how the environment and relationships are developed in the office.

They also found that female workers experienced higher rates of bullying and for longer periods than men. This often includes more unwanted sexual advances, more humiliation and more unfair treatment due to their gender.

Men, on the other hand, reported higher rates of violence at work.


For more information on bullying and harassment go to the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Visit this ACC article on identifying workplace bullying behaviours and ideas for solutions for your workplace.