How to Identify and Prevent Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying in the Workplace

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

Research published in 2014 revealed that among 31 European countries, Australia ranked as sixth highest for workplace bullying. Data from the Australian Work Barometer (AWB) on 2009-2011 about Psychosocial safety climate and working conditions in Australia edited by Professor Maureen Dollard and Tessa Bailey shows that in 5,919 workers 7% of them reported being bullied within the last six months. In the AWB sample of 4,526 workers, 3% had reported managers, supervisors or co-workers had physically assaulted or threatened them at work.


It was also concluded that women workers reported a higher rate of bullying and harassment for longer periods compared to men. These include sexual abuse, humiliation and unfair treatment to gender. While men reported higher rates of workplace violence [1]


In 2017 a survey carried out by Statista.com in Australia on harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace shows that 56% of workers in an non-inclusive team had witnessed harassment.


There are laws and safety bodies in Australia that assist with discrimination, harassment and bullying in workplaces. We have listed below ways to identify discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace. Also, how it affects individuals' psychological and physical health and how we can prevent these from happening in the workplace, building a positive workplace culture.

What is unlawful Discrimination?

Discrimination happens when a person or a group of people, are being treated less favorably than another person or group of people because of their distinctive characteristic or background such as:

  • Age

  • Race (including colour, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status)

  • pregnancy or marital status and breastfeeding

  • disability

  • religion

  • gender identity, sexual orientation, and intersex status.

What is Harassment?

  • Treating a person less favourably can lead to harassment. Harassment includes behaviour such as:

  • saying insulting jokes about a particular racial group.

  • sending explicit or sexually provocative emails or text messages

  • displaying of racially offensive or pornographic photos, posters or screen savers

  • telling disrespectful comments or insult a person’s disability, or

  • asking intrusive questions about others personal life, including his or their sex life. [2]

What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined by the Fair Work Amendment Act of 2013 as repeated unreasonable behaviour by an individual towards a worker which creates a risk to health and safety.


Bullying behaviour may range from an obvious verbal or physical assault to understated psychological abuse. It can include physical or verbal abuse such as:

  • yelling, screaming or saying offensive words.

  • excluding or isolating employees.

  • psychological harassment.

  • intimidation.

  • excluding someone from work-related events.

  • assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job.

  • excluding someone from work-related events. [3]

How does Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying affect the Psychological and Physical Health of Worker?

Workplace discrimination, harassment, bullying has a negative effect to the psychological and physical health of a worker. These are considered as a psychological hazard that it is likely to harm others and can create a psychological risk to the person who is exposed to it and to the business as it may cause to:

  • Decrease in productivity.

  • Loose of self-esteem.

  • Poor relationship.

  • Depression and anxiety.

  • feel like you can’t trust your employer or the people who you work with.

  • have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches, sleep problems.

  • Increase in turnover.

  • Increase in absenteeism or workers compensation claims.

  • Can affect organisations reputation and morale.

  • Lead to legal actions that may cost business. [4]

These hazards and risks can damage the culture inside the workplace. To deal with these we need to be proactive to minimise, or better, avoid this to happen for us to create a positive environment in our workplaces.


Ways to Prevent Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying in the Workplace

  • Setting values and standards

A workplace may set and carry out clear standards of values or behaviour through policies and guidelines that outline the appropriate behaviour and what action to take to deal with inappropriate behaviour regarding their work and in the workplace.


To make the policy clear and effective it should be easily accessible and applied consistently. Make sure that you communicate it to your team, with contextual examples. Promote the policies through notice boards and/or team meetings to discuss them.


A workplace culture that promotes good communication and respectful behaviour will reduce their exposure to risks of psychosocial hazards, reducing unwanted behaviour through culture.

  • Implement reporting and response procedures

Any form of discrimination, harassment and bullying shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s important to encourage your team to report any incidents as soon as possible. Ensuring the lines of communication and reporting are clearly understood by all team members can encourage them to speak up.

Ensuring your team members that all reporting events are taken seriously with the utmost confidence will build confidence and trust.

It’s vital to make sure that you are dealing with it objectively, fairly, and transparently.

  • Provide training and information

In preventing and managing workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying, providing early interventions are essential. Raising awareness during induction, training and meetings. Training for workers can be done in many ways such as podcasts, online courses or face to face which can cover the safety duties and responsibilities, measures and awareness. While for people who are carrying out the training should cover conflict management and effective communication. It is essential for achieving the best results during training that it is make contextual to the nature of your workplace.


There are several ways to provide information to your workers, such as talking to them directly, sending out newsletters, information sheets, and displaying posters or announcements. Comprehensive information can give a clear understanding. Making time for your team to reach out and ask questions is also best practice. [5]


As leaders we need to be a great model, by leading by example, demonstrating the behaviours you expect from your team. When building a safe and healthy culture, consider how you are proactively working towards zero tolerance of any kind of workplace harassment and violence.


If you would like to know more about how to make a positive impact within your business or find out how we can help you to improve your team’s mental wellbeing, that’s tailor-made to your team and progress you can test and measure, contact us today on 1300 114 818 for a private and confidential conversation or email us at info@proactiveaction.co.

We look forward to talking to you soon.

Don’t forget to follow us on our social media pages. 

It was also concluded that women workers reported a higher rate of bullying and harassment for longer periods compared to men. These include sexual abuse, humiliation and unfair treatment to gender. While men reported higher rates of workplace violence [1]


In 2017 a survey carried out by Statista.com in Australia on harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace shows that 56% of workers in an non-inclusive team had witnessed harassment.


There are laws and safety bodies in Australia that assist with discrimination, harassment and bullying in workplaces. We have listed below ways to identify discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace. Also, how it affects individuals' psychological and physical health and how we can prevent these from happening in the workplace, building a positive workplace culture.

What is unlawful Discrimination?

Discrimination happens when a person or a group of people, are being treated less favorably than another person or group of people because of their distinctive characteristic or background such as:

  • Age

  • Race (including colour, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status)

  • pregnancy or marital status and breastfeeding

  • disability

  • religion

  • gender identity, sexual orientation, and intersex status.

What is Harassment?

  • Treating a person less favourably can lead to harassment. Harassment includes behaviour such as:

  • saying insulting jokes about a particular racial group.

  • sending explicit or sexually provocative emails or text messages

  • displaying of racially offensive or pornographic photos, posters or screen savers

  • telling disrespectful comments or insult a person’s disability, or

  • asking intrusive questions about others personal life, including his or their sex life. [2]

What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined by the Fair Work Amendment Act of 2013 as repeated unreasonable behaviour by an individual towards a worker which creates a risk to health and safety.


Bullying behaviour may range from an obvious verbal or physical assault to understated psychological abuse. It can include physical or verbal abuse such as:

  • yelling, screaming or saying offensive words.

  • excluding or isolating employees.

  • psychological harassment.

  • intimidation.

  • excluding someone from work-related events.

  • assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job.

  • excluding someone from work-related events. [3]

How does Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying affect the Psychological and Physical Health of Worker?

Workplace discrimination, harassment, bullying has a negative effect to the psychological and physical health of a worker. These are considered as a psychological hazard that it is likely to harm others and can create a psychological risk to the person who is exposed to it and to the business as it may cause to:

  • Decrease in productivity.

  • Loose of self-esteem.

  • Poor relationship.

  • Depression and anxiety.

  • feel like you can’t trust your employer or the people who you work with.

  • have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches, sleep problems.

  • Increase in turnover.

  • Increase in absenteeism or workers compensation claims.

  • Can affect organisations reputation and morale.

  • Lead to legal actions that may cost business. [4]

These hazards and risks can damage the culture inside the workplace. To deal with these we need to be proactive to minimise, or better, avoid this to happen for us to create a positive environment in our workplaces.


Ways to Prevent Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying in the Workplace

  • Setting values and standards

A workplace may set and carry out clear standards of values or behaviour through policies and guidelines that outline the appropriate behaviour and what action to take to deal with inappropriate behaviour regarding their work and in the workplace.


To make the policy clear and effective it should be easily accessible and applied consistently. Make sure that you communicate it to your team, with contextual examples. Promote the policies through notice boards and/or team meetings to discuss them.


A workplace culture that promotes good communication and respectful behaviour will reduce their exposure to risks of psychosocial hazards, reducing unwanted behaviour through culture.

  • Implement reporting and response procedures

Any form of discrimination, harassment and bullying shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s important to encourage your team to report any incidents as soon as possible. Ensuring the lines of communication and reporting are clearly understood by all team members can encourage them to speak up.

Ensuring your team members that all reporting events are taken seriously with the utmost confidence will build confidence and trust.

It’s vital to make sure that you are dealing with it objectively, fairly, and transparently.

  • Provide training and information

In preventing and managing workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying, providing early interventions are essential. Raising awareness during induction, training and meetings. Training for workers can be done in many ways such as podcasts, online courses or face to face which can cover the safety duties and responsibilities, measures and awareness. While for people who are carrying out the training should cover conflict management and effective communication. It is essential for achieving the best results during training that it is make contextual to the nature of your workplace.


There are several ways to provide information to your workers, such as talking to them directly, sending out newsletters, information sheets, and displaying posters or announcements. Comprehensive information can give a clear understanding. Making time for your team to reach out and ask questions is also best practice. [5]


As leaders we need to be a great model, by leading by example, demonstrating the behaviours you expect from your team. When building a safe and healthy culture, consider how you are proactively working towards zero tolerance of any kind of workplace harassment and violence.


If you would like to know more about how to make a positive impact within your business or find out how we can help you to improve your team’s mental wellbeing, that’s tailor-made to your team and progress you can test and measure, contact us today on 1300 114 818 for a private and confidential conversation or email us at info@proactiveaction.co.

We look forward to talking to you soon.

Don’t forget to follow us on our social media pages. 


Sources:


  1. https://www.ohsrep.org.au/bullying_-_how_much_of_a_problem_is_it

  2. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/employers/workplace-discrimination-harassment-and-bullying

  3. https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employment-conditions/bullying-sexual-harassment-and-discrimination-at-work/bullying-in-the-workplace

  4. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/guide-preventing-responding-workplace-bullying.pdf

  5. https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/preventing-workplace-bullying

Recent Posts

See All