What can I do if I am accused of workplace bullying or harassment?

Last updated
12 April 2022

Being accused of bullying behaviour can be upsetting and may come as a shock but it is important to be open to feedback from others, and if necessary, be prepared to change your behaviour. The Parliamentary Workplace Support Service (PWSS) can offer specific and tailored support and advice on the management of workplace grievances and complaints mechanisms, including if a complaint is made about you.

You can access additional support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or other support mechanisms.

Give the complaint serious consideration

If someone approaches you about your behaviour try to remain calm and avoid aggravating what is likely to be an already difficult situation.

Listen carefully to the particular concerns expressed. Discuss how you might work together more effectively.

The other person is more likely to share their views with you if you choose a neutral space and ask open questions without attempting to justify your behaviour. Even so, the other person may not be comfortable speaking to you. It may be appropriate to suggest that they, or both of you, invite a support person or observer.

Seek an objective opinion about the behaviour

If you do not understand the complaint or would like a second opinion about your behaviour, discuss the matter with someone you trust. An EAP counsellor may be able to assist you to:

  • understand the issues
  • develop a strategy to address the matter with your colleague and supervisor
  • manage your responses to the allegations.

The PWSS, your supervisor or the Health and Safety Representative for your workgroup may be able to assist you to explore the options available to you. Any discussion should be careful and strictly confidential. It is important not to unintentionally escalate the situation by discussing the issue openly.

If you believe the complaint is malicious, or you can demonstrate that you are being unjustly accused, you should discuss this with your supervisor or the PWSS. It may be that an informal discussion between you, the person making the allegation and a third party will solve the problem.

Adjust unreasonable behaviour

If you have been made aware that your behaviour is considered unreasonable, stop or modify the behaviour and review what you are doing.

If, after careful consideration, you believe that your behaviour is reasonable, you should discuss this with your employing parliamentarian, supervisor or the PWSS. Even in those circumstances, it may be possible to modify future behaviour to minimise the risk that others might find it unreasonable.

If you are found to have continued to bully someone after their objection to your bullying behaviour was made known to you, your persistence, or the fact that you have not modified your behaviour, is likely to be taken into account in disciplinary or other proceedings.