Bullying is a serious issue in workplaces across Australia and a risk factor for anxiety, depression and suicide.
Bullying isn't just an issue for managers to deal with behind closed doors. Everyone in the workplace has a role to play when it comes to spotting and calling out inappropriate behaviour.
We all have the right to work in a safe, bully-free workplace, but on the flipside is our responsibility to ensure our workmates enjoy that same rights.
Support your workmates
It feels good to have people care about you, right?! Check in with your workmates and let them know you're there to help.
Show respect and courtesy
Things would be pretty boring if we were all the same. It goes without saying, but being respectful of others (and getting the same back in return) helps make any workplace a more positive place.
Speak up against bullying, if you feel comfortable
Pull up anyone being disrespectful in the workplace. Be a leader and give your workmates the confidence to speak up too.
What to do if you are being bullied
Many people who are bullied think that as long as they avoid the person who is bullying them, or if they just don't respond to the bullying, it might go away. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.
If you're unable to resolve a bullying situation internally, a number of organisations can help
- Fair Work Commission - if the issue has not been resolved in the workplace, or if it is continuing, you can apply for an order to stop the bullying.
- Reach Out - information on workplace bullying for young workers
Taking care of your health and wellbeing
If you have been a target of workplace bullying and you feel that your health and wellbeing is being affected, make an appointment to talk to your doctor or counsellor, or contact the Beyond Blue Support Service.
If you have been assaulted or fear for your physical safety, you may want to consider contacting the police.
When we see a workmate being mistreated, we'd all like to think that we'd step in and tell the person to stop. However, it's not always that simple. You might not feel comfortable intervening if the person behaving badly is in a senior position, for example - you may feel powerless or worry about how it might affect you. But even if you don't say anything directly or immediately, you shouldn't remain a silent witness.
Here's what you can do to help:
- Start by writing down the details of what you witnessed so you remember exactly what happened.
- Reach out to the person being bullied to tell them you're there if they need support or want a witness statement from you about what happened.
- Seek advice from a manager, HR officer, health and safety representative or union representative about what you've witnessed and what you can do about it.
- Check whether your workplace has a bullying policy and reporting procedure. The policy should outline how the organisation will prevent and respond to workplace bullying.
Unfortunately, many people will encounter bullying at work. It's up to everyone in the workplace to take a stand, to prevent it happening again or to somebody else.
Accused of bullying?
Being accused of bullying can be upsetting and comes as a shock for some people. It's important to be open to feedback from others, and to be prepared to change your behaviour.
If someone approaches you about your behaviour, try to remain calm. Listen carefully and ask questions if you're unclear about anything that has caused offence or you think there's been a misunderstanding.
Apologise and - here's the most important bit - stop the behaviour that's causing the issue. You might think it's 'only a joke' or that the other person should be able to 'handle it', but the reality is that you're causing offence and distress.
If you believe you're being unfairly accused, you should discuss this with your manager or HR officer. In many cases, an informal discussion between you, the person making the allegation and a third party will resolve the issue.
Being accused of bullying can be stressful and may affect your health and wellbeing. Talking to someone confidentially can help. Employee Assistance Programs (if your workplace has one) are a good place to start, or check in with a counsellor or your GP.
Chapter 2 of Safe Work Australia's Dealing with workplace bullying - a worker's guide has more information on what to do if you're accused of workplace bullying.