Harassment and Discrimination

By: Drake WellbeingHub


Work harassment and discrimination was one of the top presenting issues for Drake WorkWise clients in 2019.

Bullying and harassment is a psychological hazard that can cause injury to employees. At an organisational level, these behaviours can result in absence from work, increased turnover and reduced productivity.


Understanding Harassment

Under anti-discrimination law, it is unlawful to treat a person less favourably on the basis of particular protected attributes such as a person’s gender, sexual orientation, race, disability or age. Unlawful actions can include harassing or bullying a person.

Harassment is often based on an individual's view of what is acceptable and what is not. Harassment may include:

  • Threatening words or phrases
  • Physical intimidation
  • Telling insulting jokes 
  • Inappropriate sexual advances
  • Demeaning behaviour based on that person’s gender or sexual orientation
  • Sending or sharing inappropriate messages and material

Workplace bullying is repeated unreasonable behaviour that specifically targets a person or a group of people and over time creates a risk to health and safety. Unreasonable behaviour includes abusing, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

Some workplace practices may not seem fair, or make employees feel upset, however reasonable management action is not bullying.  Your employer may direct the way work is carried out, provide constructive feedback or take reasonable disciplinary actions.


What can managers do to support their team?

Show commitment. Preventing bullying and harassment should be treated as seriously as physical hazards.

Engage stakeholders. Consider engaging employees, HR or an external consultant for advice and feedback on managing psychological safety.

Treat all complaints seriously. It’s important not to let the behaviours escalate.

Consider the impact on the individuals. Ask impacted employee(s) what support they need. Be aware that they may be suffering a psychological injury which may result in behaviour that appears irrational. They may display poor memory and concentration. Follow up with them regularly and be flexible in your approach.


What if I have experienced harassment?

Keep a record. Stick to the facts of what happened (when, where, who etc..) and the specific behaviours that are occurring.

Check your workplace policy. This will provide a guide on what process to follow. If your workplace doesn’t have a policy, speak to your manager or HR.

Speak with the person involved. If you can, let the person know that their comments and behaviours are inappropriate. Sometimes this is all that they need to stop.

Find a confidant. Speak with a trusted friend or doctor. Bullying and harassing behaviours can lead to impaired physical and emotional health, speaking with someone can help.


What if I have been accused of harassment?

Take the complaint seriously. 

Consider your actions from the other persons perspective. Ask a colleague for some honest feedback. Speak with your EAP for confidential and objective advice.


Seek assistance. 

Speak with your manager or HR for assistance in addressing the issue. Remember to look after your own health and wellbeing as this can be a stressful situation.


Speak with the person involved. 

Let them know you are sorry and take responsibility for your actions.


Consider conflict coaching. 

Training might assist with skills in addressing conflict more constructively.


Need Support?

Contact us to speak to one of our experienced clinicians
AU 1300 135 600 NZ 0800 452 521 [email protected]

Please note, if you feel your safety or another's safety is at serious risk, please always remember to call 000 in Australia and 111 in New Zealand, for emergency assistance.

Stay informed on all things wellbeing in the workplace and help your organisation thrive!

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