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The following excerpt is from the ANMF’s Workplace Bullying Tutorial on the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) website.

Workplace bullying can occur in any workplace, in any location, to any person, at any time. It can impact on an individual’s physical and psychological health and also affect their ability to perform their job.

There is an abundance of evidence indicating that for many nurses and midwives their workplace can be both a violent and hostile environment. These environments can cause problems such as violence and aggression against nurses and midwives, which occur not only from patients and the wider community, but also from their colleagues.

Workplace bullying affects roughly 11% of all workers, which is quite a substantial amount. Studies have also found that bullying occurs more often in certain areas of work (such as community and social service areas of employment) than others (like finance and manufacturing).

In Britain, the British Medical Association found that one in seven National Health Service staff had reported being bullied by another staff member. It was also found that nurses, midwives and physicians who were younger and less experienced were more likely to experience bullying behaviours than others.

A relationship has been found to exist between workplace bullying and employees who work with clients and patients.

This means that nurses and midwives are at an increased risk of experiencing workplace bullying compared to other occupations. Therefore, we need to be able to identify any bullying behaviours and implement strategies to cease these behaviours.


‘Repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety’ (Safe Work Australia 2013).

By this definition, not all behaviours that make an individual feel upset at work are classed as workplace bullying. Behaviours are classified as workplace bullying only if they are repeated, unreasonable and create a risk to the health and safety of an individual or group of people.

There is no specific number of incidents required for the behaviour to be considered workplace bullying, however, there does need to be more than one occurrence.

The same specific behaviour also does not need to be repeated, there may be different behaviours occurring but it is still classified as workplace bullying.

Although a single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not considered to be workplace bullying, it can have the potential to escalate to workplace bullying and should not be ignored.

Bullying behaviours may often only occur in isolation and not as a repeated behaviour, which can then be interpreted as ‘office politics’ or ‘a clash in personalities’ rather than a legitimate claim of bullying.

Workplace bullying behaviours can also evolve over time. During the early stages they may be indirect and it might be hard to pinpoint the negative behaviours towards a specific individual. However, as time passes, the perpetrator may become more overtly aggressive. This can lead to the target becoming further isolated and humiliated.

The risk to the health and safety of an individual from workplace bullying includes risk to the psychological, psychosocial and physical health of an individual (Allan, Cowie and Smith 2009; Fair Work Commission 2015; Hutchinson et al. 2010; Safe Work Australia 2013).

Workplace cyber bullying is as prevalent as other forms of workplace bullying. This is due to the increasing use of social media and then its subsequent misuse.

The impact of online bullying can be made even more significant than general workplace bullying because of the potential large size of its audience and the anonymity in which comments can be made.

Ten percent of employees have found secret discussions about them by colleagues online and this same number of employees have found embarrassing pictures from work events (such as Christmas parties) on social media websites.


  • It has created a risk to an employee’s (or another individual’s) health and safety and the employer has failed to take all reasonable practicable steps to prevent and address it.
  • An employee has acted in a way that fails to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others at a workplace (Safe Work Australia 2013).

If a person is covered by workplace bullying laws then they are eligible to make a workplace bullying application.

The majority of practicing nurses and midwives will be covered by these laws.

30 minutes CPD

This article is an excerpt from the ANMF’s Workplace Bullying Tutorial on the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) website. The complete course is allocated two hours of CPD, the reading of this excerpt will give you 30 minutes of CPD towards ongoing registration requirements.

To access the complete tutorial go to the ANMF’s Continuing Professional Education website or follow this link

For further information, contact the education team at


Allan, H.T., Cowie, H. and Smith, P. 2009. Overseas nurses’ experiences of discrimination: A case of racist bullying. Journal of Nursing Management, 17(7):898-906. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2009.00983.x.
Fair Work Commission. 2015. Benchbook: Anti-bullying. Available at
Hutchinson, M. Vicker, M.H., Wilkes, L. and Jackson, D. 2010. A typology of bullying behaviours: The experiences of Australian nurses’. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 19(15-16):2319-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2009.03160.x.
Safe Work Australia. 2013. Dealing with workplace bullying: A worker’s guide. Available at