Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying - Managerial Policy

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Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying - Managerial Policy


Approval authority
Vice-Chancellor and President
Responsible officer
Vice-Chancellor and President
Designated officer
Director, Human Resources
First approved
5 June 2014
Last amended
31 January 2017
Effective start date
25 June 2014
Review date
25 June 2019
Related documents
Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment - Governing Policy
Enterprise Risk Management and Resilience - Governing Policy
Health, Safety and Wellbeing - Governing Policy
Responding to Workplace Bullying - Procedures
Staff Code of Conduct - Governing Policy
Staff Discrimination and Harassment Complaint - Procedures
Student Conduct - Governing Policy
Student General Misconduct - Procedures
Student Grievance Resolution - Governing Policy
Student Grievance Resolution - Procedures
Student Review and Appeals - Procedures
Related legislation / standards
Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld)
Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (Qld)
Fair Work Act 2009 (Cwlth)
USC Student Charter

1. Purpose of policy

The University of the Sunshine Coast has a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that staff, students and visitors are not subjected to behaviours or practices that may constitute workplace bullying.

2. Policy scope and application

This policy applies to all University staff, officers, students and visitors.

3. Definitions

Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to these procedures and are critical to its effectiveness:

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Repeated behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.

Unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

Detailed below are examples of behaviours, whether intentional or unintentional, that may be regarded as workplace bullying if they are repeated, unreasonable and create a risk to health and safety. This is not an exhaustive list – however, it does outline some of the more common types of behaviours. Examples include:

  • Abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments
  • Unjustified criticism or complaints
  • Deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities
  • Withholding information that is vital for effective work performance
  • Setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
  • Setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
  • Denying access to information, supervision, consultation or resources to the detriment of a worker
  • Spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
  • Changing work arrangements to deliberately inconvenience a particular worker or workers.

Workplace bullying is not a simple abuse of power from supervisors to subordinate employees: for example, staff or students can bully their supervisors, and bullying can occur between members of an ostensibly equal group. Workplace bullying can be carried out in a variety of ways including through email and text messaging or social media channels.

Reasonable management action means management action taken to direct and control the way work is carried out. It is expected that staff will at times have to discuss inadequacies of performance with other staff, and may have to instruct them in more effective ways of performing their duties. These acts do not constitute workplace bullying. Similarly, providing guidance, conducting performance counselling, commencing unsatisfactory performance procedures or misconduct procedures does not in itself constitute workplace bullying. It is appropriate and expected that both managers and supervisors will offer constructive and legitimate advice and comment as part of their role in a way that does not demean or humiliate. Examples of reasonable management actions include:

  • Setting reasonable performance goals, standards and deadlines
  • Rostering and allocating working hours where the requirements are reasonable
  • Implementing organisation change or restructuring
  • Deciding not to select a staff member for promotion or appointment where a reasonable process is followed
  • Taking disciplinary action, including suspension or terminating employment.

Victimisation means treating someone unfairly because they have made, or intend to make, a workplace bullying complaint. This also includes those who have supported another person in making a complaint. Victimisation of any person involved in a complaint is unacceptable and may constitute an infringement of the Code of Conduct.

Workplace conflict means perceived or real differences of opinion and disagreements. Workplace conflict is not generally considered to be workplace bullying as people can have differences and disagreements in the workplace without engaging in repeated, unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety.

Discrimination means to treat an individual less favourably because of an attribute or to impose unreasonable terms or conditions for which individuals with a particular attribute are unable to comply.

Sexual harassment means any unsolicited, unwelcome and unreciprocated behaviour act or conduct of a sexual nature that embarrasses, humiliates or offends other persons.

It is possible for a person to be bullied, sexually harassed and discriminated against at the same time.

4. Policy Statement

4.1 Principles

The University is committed to fostering the right of individuals to be free from workplace bullying while engaged in activities undertaken as part of their study, employment, or other forms of association with the University of the Sunshine Coast.

All members of the University community are to be treated with courtesy and respect in accordance with the Staff Code of Conduct – Governing Policy and the Student Conduct – Governing Policy. Workplace bullying will not be tolerated under any circumstances and the University will take all reasonable steps to eliminate workplace bullying of or by staff, students, visitors and other members of the University community.

The University will use educative approaches for the prevention of workplace bullying, ensuring staff and students know their rights and responsibilities, and to encourage the reporting of behaviour that breaches this policy.

Should a complaint of alleged workplace bullying arise, the University will take timely and appropriate action through the following procedures:

  • In the case of a student making an allegation, the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy and Procedures.
  • In the case of staff members or University visitors making an allegation, the Responding to Workplace Bullying - Procedures.

If workplace bullying behaviour involves violence, for example physical assault or the threat of physical assault, it should be reported to the police.

5. Authorities/Responsibilities

The following authorities are delegated under this policy:

Activity University Officer
Ensuring the maintenance of a work and study environment which is free from workplace bullying. All staff, students and visitors
Ensuring that, when an allegation of workplace bullying is brought to their attention, that appropriate action to remedy the situation is expeditiously taken. Managers and supervisors
Monitoring and reporting regularly to the Vice-Chancellor and President on the operation of this policy. Director, Human Resources


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