The Department of Parliamentary Services has a culture problem with increased bullying and harassment, and a schism between management and staff, according to the main public sector union.
The Community and Public Sector Union, in a submission to the Senate inquiry investigating the operation and management of the department, said a survey of employees revealed the problems.
The union advised the survey was completed by more than 50 department staff - all union members - a small sample size within a department of close to 1000 people.
The submission was also based on feedback from workplace union delegates that corroborated the survey results, the union said.
A department spokesperson said it was not appropriate to make any public comments while the inquiry was underway.
However, it did make its own submission that defended its workplace culture and set out initiatives it had implemented to foster a positive environment for staff.
According to the union, more than half (54 per cent) of the surveyed staff felt there had been an increase in bullying and inappropriate behaviour.
There had also been an increase in workloads due to budget cuts, according to 60 per cent of respondents, and 51 per cent said there was a lack of understanding and respect by management for employees' work.
"There are significant issues with many of the management and workplace relations practices of the [department]," CPSU deputy secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said.
"These are impacting negatively on staff morale and the effectiveness of the agency.
"This inquiry is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on those matters and establish a constructive way forward to address these issues."
The submission said staff were concerned about a lack of consultation which was emerging in decision-making by managers which had fostered an "us versus them attitude".
One respondent highlighted in the submission said the department needed a restructure to improve a workplace culture that was blighted by bullying and intimidation from management.
The union also raised allegations of nepotism and stagnant career progression, particularly in relation to the Parliamentary Security Service.
The department's submission noted changing workplace culture could be a lengthy process that does not always show immediate results. It highlighted multiple initiatives, including newly-designed training for managers and staff and the development of a "people plan", which were aimed at improving workplace culture.
The department has conducted its own annual staff surveys, although the results of the most recent two were not public. However, its submission showed the department had scored at or above the APS-wide level for staff engagement.
It said it would continue to seek to improve the workplace culture.