Humiliation And Bullying – Good Policy And Procedures

Saved by Good Policy and Good Execution – Humiliation did not Constitute Bullying

Never underestimate the power of good organisational policies.

Sure they appear to be just a bit of paper lying around in a folder in the tea room or in a hidden in a file on the shared drive. BUT if they are also detailed, well written, read by staff and kept alive by management – they prove time and time again to not only guide employees & managers but to also provide sound support and evidence in cases of litigation.

Thanks to good HR Management and a sound, detailed policy an appeal against a recent Tribunal case has been upheld.

This court case gives all HR Practitioners the confidence to get the message out there – that although some degree of humiliation may be experienced by a worker as a consequence of a manager exercising their legitimate authority at work – this does not necessarily mean that the manager’s actions constitute bullying.


In November 2012, the AAT (Administrative Appeals Tribunal) found that when a manager formalised what had been originally a casual performance management process, the worker had felt humiliated and the manager’s actions had constituted bullying.

However on appeal to the Federal Court, Justice Robertson found that the Tribunal had not correctly applied an applicable OHS guide and according to the guide, the manager’s actions did not constitute bullying.

Fortunately, the OHS guide’s definition of bullying referred to ‘repeated, unreasonable behaviour’ and noted that a manager exercising their legitimate authority at work (including providing feedback with the intention of assisting improvement in work performance or behaviour and directing and monitoring work tasks and workflow) in a proper and reasonable way was not bullying.


The decision from this court case falls at a relevant time in our workplace/employee relations landscape with proposed changes to the Fair Work Act in regards to new ‘Anti-Bullying Measures’. To have a worker contact the Fair Work Commission to put in a bullying claim on the grounds of humiliation will impact on your time and increase frustration in having to address and comply with processes that could have been managed in house.

Check out the relevant court case for more details or contact Workplace Conflict Resolution for further information and relevant discussions including ‘Prevention of Bullying, Harassment and Unlawful Discrimination’ training and Executive Information Sessions on the Fair Work Act ‘Anti-Bullying Measures’ – what this will mean for your organisation.

Comcare v Martinez (No 2) [2013] FCA 439 (17 May 2013)


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About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.