Is bullying in the workplace on the increase?

On Saturday, Tom Lynch, secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union advised that 21% of employees reported experiencing bullying in the workplace in the last 12 months. He also stated that “Heads of agency need to show leadership to address these high levels of bullying.”


Maybe the incidence of bullying hasn’t increased. Maybe it’s just being called out more often. Maybe employees are more inclined to make an accusation of bullying when they are being disciplined or reprimanded for poor performance.


What is bullying anyway? Is it bullying when you continually apply pressure to an employee to perform to a high standard? Is it bullying when you ask an employee to fix their mistake, work some extra hours to meet a customer deadline, or when you impose a higher standard on a higher paid employee.


Here’s a useful definition from


“Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.”


Back to Tom Lynch and his bullied employees. Who is bullying them? Wouldn’t the employees doing the bullying also be members of the CPSU? I suspect Tom is like most of us – the bullying is always done by someone else, it’s always someone else’s fault, and it is always up to someone else to fix it.


It seems that all of our educational programs in schools and workplaces haven’t been able to prevent the dramatic increase in the incidence of bullying. Everyone thinks the programs are aimed at someone else.


What would happen if we taught resilience and how to deal with bullying instead? Here’s an of an effective strategy for students to deal with bullying:




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