'My boss bullied me relentlessly. One day, he ordered me to put on his boots.'

As a junior lawyer, Stefanie had always been passionate about her career; she was dedicated, hardworking, and eager to learn. However, she was met with relentless bullying and harassment across multiple workplaces. 

One particularly demeaning incident still haunts her: "I was asked by a law firm partner to go to go to the hardware store and buy a pair of gumboots for him, so he could go to a client's farm. I knew that wasn’t part of my job description, but I did it anyway," Stefanie says. 

"Then he asked me to put the boots on his feet, saying he had a sore back. There were two other men in the office at the time. I bent over, put the boots on him, and then he asked me to take them off. Everyone could tell from my expression that I wasn't happy, but I did it because I was eager to please."

Things gradually became much worse, and Stefanie's confidence was shattered by constant criticism and hostility. 

"A colleague threw a file in my direction, narrowly missing my head. Another colleague read a letter I drafted and wrote 'WTF' at the bottom, saying, 'This is so shit.' As a junior lawyer, that doesn't do much for your confidence," Stefanie says.

She received multiple passive aggressive emails, was constantly yelled at, and called derogatory names.

"When I reported another junior lawyer having panic attacks daily in the bathroom because of another colleague's behaviour, it was shrugged off because it wasn't seen as a problem. I then worked at a firm where a partner had a sign as they entered their office that said, 'No whingeing about the long hours; we can replace you in a heartbeat.' The bullying got so bad that I stopped someone from self-harming because they were being treated so badly."


Watch: The other signs of workplace bullying beyond its definition. Story continues after video.

Video via ReachOut Australia.

The constant stress and emotional strain took a heavy toll on Stefanie's mental health, leading to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Determined to shed light on workplace bullying, she decided to share her experience publicly. In a LinkedIn post in July 2023, she detailed her experiences. The post went viral, amassing nearly 1.3 million views and prompting over 2,500 direct messages from people worldwide sharing similar stories. Mark Buttigieg, the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Work Health and Safety Industrial Relations and Multiculturalism discussed it in state Parliament.

"Workplace bullying is like death by a thousand cuts," Stefanie says. "It's not just the major incidents that cause harm, but the accumulation of these small, insidious actions that can really wear you down over time. The constant stress and anxiety can take a significant toll on your mental and physical health."


Sadly, Stefanie's story is not unique. 

For two gruelling years, Emma* was berated, threatened and bullied by her boss. The toll on her body and mental well-being became unbearable, ultimately leading her to leave her job.

But, six months after securing a new position, Emma found herself unable to escape the haunting memories of her former boss. Despite finding solace in her new role, she could not understand why she still fixated on her past tormentor. Seeking help from a psychologist, Emma was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a direct consequence of enduring her boss’s reign of terror and the toxic work environment for such an extended period. 

In April 2024, Stefanie launched a campaign called Bona Fide Workplaces. The campaign aims to make workplaces safer through mandatory education on workplace harassment in educational institutions and workplaces, better resourcing for regulatory authorities, clearer pathways for prosecutions, and penalties against those who fail to report bullying.

The Quicky speaks to an industrial relations expert on what we can all do to bring an end to workplace bullying. Story continues after podcast.

The campaign's plan includes:

  • Phase 1: Gather as many signatures and stories as possible on the Bona Fide Workplaces website.
  • Phase 2: Present the signatures and stories to politicians in Australia.
  • Phase 3: Implement legislation against workplace bullying and harassment across Australia, starting with the UK and the US.

Stefanie has been told by politicians that, without evidence demonstrating that workplace bullying and harassment affect more than just a minority, legislative changes cannot be pursued. However, it's widely acknowledged that these issues occur daily, both subtly and overtly, yet few dare to address the elephant in the room.


In Parliament House, politicians, chiefs of staff, and others could be fined up to $3 million or jailed for up to 15 years if they don't report a worker's complaint of sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, or bullying. Stefanie asks, "Why not extend it to every workplace?"

According to Stefanie, the current strategies used to address workplace bullying and harassment are riddled with problems. 

"They fail to address the root causes of workplace bullying and harassment. Until we tackle the root causes, we cannot fix the problem. It's like attempting to tackle lung cancer without trying to reduce smoking among members of the community. Addressing the root causes of workplace bullying and harassment should be a high priority."

"I'm determined to ensure that no one else has to endure what I went through. Hitting rock bottom was devastating, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. We must fight to create workplaces where respect and safety are the norm, not the exception."

Visit to share your story, sign the petition, and become part of a movement dedicated to making our workplaces safe and respectful for everyone. You can find Stefanie here and here on Instagram. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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