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Bullied at work? Here's how you know

Many of us have been a victim of at least one ‘bullying’ incident during our working life. Some of us may be aware of the act being workplace bullying and some of us may not. I hope to shed some light with this article so there is greater clarity for organisations and individuals on what types of behaviours can be classified as workplace bullying.

While working both in Singapore and Australia I found that certain behaviours at work would be considered bullying and raised as an issue in Australia but less so in Singapore. One time, a very talented client shared with me how her boss would always set deadlines that were obviously not achievable and expected her to stay at work past midnight almost every day. Given her talent, and the option of speaking up about it, or leaving the job and finding another role, she chose to accept this as a ‘normal’ part of most jobs and stayed on. I then realised that she did not know she was being bullied.

Does the acceptance of bullying vary with cultures?

A study in 2011 (Power, et al.) looked at workers across 6 continents and the acceptability of workplace bullying among these cultures. What they found was that cultures which were ‘Confucian Asia’ (i.e. Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong) were much more accepting of work-related bullying and physical intimidation at work as opposed to ‘Anglo ‘ countries (i.e. England, United States and Australia).

In Singapore the laws protecting workers from workplace bullying are not as ‘developed’ as countries like Australia. In Singapore the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 came about to place greater emphasis on the unacceptance of workplace bullying and it was only on 23rd December 2015 that a Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment” had been issued. It is never too late and is definitely a huge step that Singapore is taking to address workplace bullying. However, there is still a lack of clarity around workplace bullying.

What is workplace bullying?

As defined by Fair Work Australia, a worker is bullied at work if:

  • A person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers

  • The behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Workplace bullying can take place by one person or many people at work; it can be directed by someone who is of the same level as you, higher than you or by a group of people who hold different ranks within an organisation. (Below are a list of actions, which provide clarity as to what is, and isn’t workplace bullying.)

Regardless of the culture we are in, the consequences of workplace bullying are quite catastrophic for both organisations and the victims. It is vital that organisations however big or small have proper policies and procedures surrounding this to protect both themselves and their employees. In my next post I will talk more about the organisational impact and psychological impact of workplace bullying.

The author, Bhali Gill is an organisational psychologist, executive coach, trainer and writer at Corporate Wellbeing. If you would like to contact her about the post or for any enquires please drop her an email

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