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Workplace Bullying in the Construction Industry

03rd November 2020

MATES in Construction recently commissioned a review in correspondence with Central Queensland University looking into Workplace Bullying in the Construction Industry. More specifically, the report looks into the impacts that workplace bullying has on physical and mental health and the interventions that can be made as acts of prevention and resolution.

Central Queensland University together with MATES in construction devised a proposal that outlined two key activities, to conduct a review on the individual and organizational impacts of workplace bullying and the interventions that can be made in relevance of this. The objective of this review and research is to build on previous research to ultimately inform, educate and address Workplace bullying in order to reduce and minimize its impacts as a psychological hazard that is a risk to health and safety, as a positive influence for change.

To firstly define ‘Workplace Bullying’, according to the Fair Work Act Section 789FD, the report concludes the definition as ‘when an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or group of workers at work AND that behavior creates a risk to health and safety’.

The Fair Work Commission stated that some of the elements which constitute workplace bullying the form of repeated unreasonable behavior were: shouting, threats, sarcasm, intimidation, harassment, singling-out, disrespect, mocking, discrimination, victim-blaming, pranks, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, ganging-up, isolation, conspiracy to harm, terrorizing and unreasonable work expectations.

The review is a combination of over 40 peer-reviewed studies of the impacts and interventions of workplace bullying, along with a number of different methods of research, such as conducting questionnaires of individuals within construction and mining industry. 

The results of the review were as follows –

Impacts of Workplace Bullying in the Construction Industry:

  • Workplace Bullying has a direct, serious impact on employees and employers, including physical and emotion mental health concerns, lower productivity and in turn an impaired reputation of business
  • Economically, the cost of workplace bullying is estimated to be between a staggering $17 billion and $36 billion to businesses per year
  • Individual impacts included symptoms of anxiety and depression, sleep difficulties, psychological distress poorer job satisfaction, poorer physical and mental quality of life and higher risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts
  • Other individual impacts included less workplace friendships, lower motivation, higher rates of absence, defensive silence and lowered perceived importance of ethical issues

Interventions of Workplace Bullying in the Construction Industry:

Approaches for the prevention and regulation of Workplace Bullying are categorized typically in 3 different grades; primary, secondary and tertiary.

  • Primary interventions are to prevent workplace bullying before it might even take place, by putting an end to certain behaviors that could develop and result in workplace bullying early on and introducing resources that increases resistance to bullying. For example, providing organizations with training on bullying, identifying and focusing vulnerable risk groups and the potential causes of bullying
  • Secondary interventions aim to decrease and overcome workplace bullying once it has occurred, detecting it as soon as possible to cut it short by slowing progress, recognizing and readjusting the behaviors of the bullying and preventing reoccurrence and to make sure the victim of the bullying is sufficiently supported
  • Tertiary interventions come into play during the aftermath of bullying by minimizing the lasting effects after the bullying has taken place. Managing the health problems and psychological effects in improving quality of life and life-expectancy with extensive support and knowledge


In some cases, it was reported that 56% of participants had or were experiencing workplace bullying, which is an unnerving statistic given the devastating impacts these occurrences can behold. This highlights the importance of interventions and raising awareness of how to prevent workplace bullying and likewise how to recognize and act accordingly once workplace bullying has occurred. An increased awareness of workplace bullying will only have a positive impact on all levels, not only for the well-being of the individual, but for the wellbeing of the business as a whole.

Written by Sophie Cunningham; 3rd November 2020