What is Bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined by the Fair Work Act as ‘repeated and unreasonable behaviour or an individual or group of individuals towards a worker or groups of workers at work which creates a risk to health and safety.’

Some examples of bullying include:

  • Yelling, screaming or abusive or offensive language/comments
  • Aggressive and intimidating behaviour
  • Practical jokes or initiation
  • Unjustified criticism or complaints
  • Exclusion or isolation from others
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Intimidation
  • Harassment
  • Innuendo
  • Discrimination
  • Victimisation
  • Singling out
  • Threats
  • Unreasonable work expectations
  • Assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job

Bullying can happen face-to-face or through use of social media, email, or texting.

There is no specific or minimum number of incidents required for behaviour to be ‘repeated’ – just more than once. Under anti-bullying laws, you only need to demonstrate a risk to your health and safety due to bullying. You do not need physical proof of actual harm to your health and safety. If you feel unsafe then the behaviour needs to stop.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that could be expected to make you offended, humiliated, or intimidated, such as:

  • making sexually explicit comments, including about a person’s appearance;
  • displaying or circulating sexually explicit material, including via email, text, or posters;
  • staring or leering in a sexual manner or unwelcome whistling;
  • sexual or physical contact such as slapping, kissing, hugging and massaging;
  • comments or intrusive questions about a person’s sexual activity;
  • unwanted sexual advances and requests for sexual favours;
  • sexual assault (also a crime under the Crimes Act).

Your gender, or the gender of the person harassing you, does not invalidate sexual harassment. Men can be sexually harassed, and women can commit sexual harassment. Do not let others minimise your experience by saying it’s “not that bad” or “it could be worse.” Comments, looks, or questions that are unwanted and make you uncomfortable are not acceptable and need to stop. If the bullying or harassment you’re experiencing is violent, or may be a crime, contact the police immediately on 000

Bullying vs. Constructive Criticism and discipline

Bullying often comes from senior staff, managers, or owners – people in a position of power, sometimes tasked with educating or training you.

Bullying is NOT:

  • Making a decision on poor performance
  • Taking disciplinary action
  • Directing and controlling the way work is carried out

Some behaviours which are actually constructive criticism of your work might appear to be bullying, and vice versa. Here are some examples from our members and ambassadors:

In training:

“Stop combing from the top down, it matts up the hair – start from the bottom up to decrease matting.”

“What are you doing? Don’t you listen, you start from the bottom up you idiot!”

Cleaning the salon:

“While you’re sterilizing the benches & chairs, make sure you get all of the hair out of the cracks too. I see you have missed some. A tint brush can help you get the remainder out.”

“How could you miss all that hair in the cracks? You’re useless! Get a tint brush in-between the cracks and do it properly!”

Uniforms within the salon:

“I suggest that you have a look at some polyester clothing to help prevent bleaching on your uniform, it looks a little unprofessional to wear to work now.”

“What are you wearing? You look like no one owns you, go back home and change your clothes. Get polyester it prevents bleaching and we wouldn’t have this problem.”

While the intention is similar, the second examples can be seen as humiliating, intimidating or belittling to the person on the receiving end. This sort of talk is not OK and you have the right to make it stop.

Effects of Bullying Bullying can have significant consequences for your health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Nausea
  • Musculoskeletal complains and muscle tension

If bullying continues, what may feel like minor symptoms can grow and compound overtime and become extremely difficult to overcome. That is why it’s so important to take action as soon as you feel you are able to.

What do I do if I’m being bullied?

It takes a lot of courage to tackle bullying in the workplace, especially in an industry with so much fear an exploitation. Many people who do stand up for themselves are punished for it, pushed out or stopped from talking to their co-workers.

That is why at HSA, we are passionate about ending toxic workplace culture and liberating the industry. If you are being bullied, you don’t have to ‘shut up and take it’. You have the right to feel happy, healthy, and safe at work. And the chances are, if you’re experiencing bullying at your salon, you aren’t the only one.

There are a number of steps you can take:

  • Document every incident, including the date/time, location, what happened, and who was involved.
  • Ask the other person to stop, ONLY if you feel safe and comfortable to do so. We understand you may not feel safe to approach them directly, especially if the person bullying you is your manager or employer. If you’re not ready to speak to them about it, that’s completely OK.
  • Contact HSA. We will liaise with your employer on your behalf, and can help you lodge an application for an order to stop bullying with the Fair Work Commission if needed.