Public Service - Insults from Manager - Workplace Bullying

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24 April 2014
I need help because what is happening to me is a slight on myself as a good employee and the insults are affecting my outgoing behaviour in dealing with members of the public. I am on the front service counter at a government office and I am being instructed by my manager to "just do the job" and "move the public along quicker". Now that is fair comment but I feel that I still need to be myself and be polite to the customers and treat the older people with a bit of dignity and patience.
In doing this, the workplace bullying and insults have flowed fast and furious. "Move it or else" "You can be replaced with a computer" "Is there something mentally wrong with you" It just goes on and on and is affecting my personality and I am going to lose my hard earned level with the public service if this continues. What do I do? Not only on a legal aspect, but also on a personal aspect. Thanks for any help or comments you can offer

John R

Well-Known Member
14 April 2014
Hi kramer,
The Australian Public Service Commission's (APSC) Respect Summary Guide sets out the role of each public servant and government department/agency should take to mitigate/manage harassment and bullying. Your government department/agency may have additional materials and legal resources in relation to harassment and bullying.
The Australian Public Service (APS) Induction Module on harassment and bullying also sets out what is harassment and what is not harassment (I assume that you may have previously completed this module). You should consider reviewing this module before taking any action.
In addition, and I can't vouch for its quality, but the APS Bullying website contains a number of links and stories from APS employees and their experience with harassment and bullying in the public service. Hope this helps.


The Fair Work Commission can assist with the resolution of workplace issues and disputes. Their jurisdiction has extended to instances of bullying as of January 1, 2014. Assuming you are a Cth Public Servant, this authority would apply.

The Fair Work Commission can make orders to stop bullying. You will be eligible to apply for such an order if (amongst other things),
  • you are still working at the place of employment where the bullying occurred
  • you are experiencing repeated bullying behaviour
  • the bullying is likely to continue.

The Fair Work Commission website states:

"Bullying at work occurs when:
  • a person or a group of people repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or a group of workers at work; AND
  • the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.
Bullying does not include reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.

Bullying behaviour may involve, for example, any of the following types of behaviour:

  • aggressive or intimidating conduct
  • belittling or humiliating comments
  • spreading malicious rumours
  • teasing, practical jokes or 'initiation ceremonies'
  • exclusion from work-related events
  • unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below or beyond a worker's skill level...
Reasonable management action (that is not bullying) may include:
  • performance management processes
  • disciplinary action for misconduct
  • informing a worker about unsatisfactory work performance or inappropriate work behaviour
  • asking a worker to perform reasonable duties in keeping with their job
  • maintaining reasonable workplace goals and standards.
However, these actions must be conducted in a reasonable manner. If they are not, they could still be bullying."