It’s reasonable expectation, and a fundamental right that your workplace is a safe place, free of bullying and harassment. In fact, it’s your employers responsibility and duty of care to make sure this is the case.
Sadly, we all know that not all workplaces are as safe as they should be and bullying is an all too common reality. The best way to protect yourself is to know what your rights are and to be clear about what bullying is. Then, you’ll be better equipped to deal with it if it happens to you.
Workplace bullying – emotional, verbal, physical abuse by anyone in the workplace
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, workplace bullying can happen in all work places, regardless of who you work for, or what position you’re in. They include the following acts as bullying:
- Making fun of your work
- Making fun of who you are (including your family, gender, sexual orientation, culture, education level, economic background)
- Sexual Harassment (uninvited touching, explicit innuendos)
- Being ganged up on
- Being excluded from tasks
- Being given tasks that have nothing to do with your job title
- Impossible workloads expected to be completed within an unrealistic timeframe
- Inadequate resources to complete your work
- Intimidation, hurtful remarks or personal attacks
- Tasks that are either below or well beyond skill level
- Deliberately keeping information from you
- Making your work schedule deliberately difficult
- Deliberately changing work hours and shifts to make it more inconvenient to work
- Spreading lies or rumours about you
- Pushing, shoving, tripping or being grabbed
- Going through an initiation where there is an expectation to complete humiliating things so to be part of the team
- Being physically attacked with any object that can cause harm
- Being physically threatened
Bullying can cause anxiety and depression
Most of us spend more time at work than we do with our own families. As such, it’s all the more distressing having to go somewhere where you’re constantly being bullied. It is no surprise that it’s classified as a workplace hazard. According to Safework NSW it can cause:
- Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem personally and professionally
- Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness
- Less productivity
- Affect relationships outside work
- Loss of sleep
- Frequent headaches and backaches
- Mistrustful of people at work
- Constantly on ‘alert’, looking out in fear wondering what’s going to happen next
- Not wanting to go to work
- Shame and guilt that it’s happening to you
- Feeling isolated and alone
- Confused and unable to think clearly
What isn’t bullying?
According to the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman, employers or managers can:
- judge your work performance
- instruct you on how they want tasks completed
- take disciplinary actions
- manage in reasonable ways
Recording everything that happens to you is evidence that can be used in a complaint
If you’ve gone through this check list and believe that you are being bullied, here are some things Australian Human Rights Commission suggest you do:
- Speak to someone you trust about what’s going on. Sharing it lessens the burden.
- Record each and every incident with times and dates of when it happens. Include what you’ve said and how you’ve responded to them.
- Read your workplaces policies and procedures manual to see how they handle bullying.
- Follow their procedures in making a complaint. This may result in an employer or manager speaking to them, or mediation, or the bully being mandated to attend counselling.
- Get professional help from a counsellor for you to learn new skills or to have someone objective to talk to about the situation.
- If your part of a union, phone them to speak about your situation.
In the meantime here’s 5 ways to deal with it
- Deal with it as soon as you can. Don’t let it go for day or weeks on end.
- If you can, keep calm and don’t react to provocation.
- Challenge the bullys behaviour by telling them what they’re doing or saying is not acceptable. (Speaking with a counsellor can help you come up with ways to confront your unique situation.) Their reaction will help you decide whether to make a complaint or not.
- Stick to written communication as much as possible. Any requests, or particular instructions they have in regards to the completion of tasks, ask for to be sent in an email. You can say that you want to make sure you want to do everything correctly, wanting clarification so you don’t make mistakes. This will give you written proof about what’s going on.
- Self-care and stress relief is important, make sure you plan it into your day.
If that doesn’t work…..
If after going through this process, and the bullying continues, phone The Australian Human Rights Commission on 1300 656 419. They have a complaint service that investigates bullying. They will advise you on the best course of action.
Call the police if you’re being threatened
If your safety is being threatened, call 000 for police assistance.