Everyone should feel safe and supported in the workplace
We all have a decent understanding of what bullying is, but we have to be a bit more specific when it comes to bullying in the workplace. Bullying is a serious health and safety issue that employers must manage and prevent. To help protect you from this risk, let’s take a look at what workplace bullying is and what you can do if it’s happening to you.
What is workplace bullying?
The Fair Work Act defines bullying as repeated and unreasonable behaviour towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. The key words to remember are ‘repeated’ and ‘unreasonable’. A single incident may still be unacceptable, but it may not be considered bullying or harassment. The term ‘reasonable’ can differ from person to person and must be applied on an individual basis.
Although it may seem subjective, there are behaviours both inside and outside of working hours that are always considered bullying if they’re a repeated behaviour.
- Teasing, humiliation, belittlement, mocking or sarcasm
- Being singled out, ganged up on or excluded
- Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- Making unreasonable demands or setting someone up to fail
- Excessive surveillance or micromanagement
What isn’t workplace bullying?
Some disagreements can occur within the workplace without it being bullying. A difference of opinions can even be a healthy and productive way to solve complex problems. But when conflict becomes common or unfairly targets or victimises a person or a group of people, it quickly becomes bullying. Keep in mind that employers can still take reasonable management actions as long as it’s not designed to threaten, intimidate, or harass. Such as:
- Managing and reviewing your performance at work
- Offering constructive criticism on the work you do
- Issuing reasonable and lawful instructions about your work
- Investigating a disciplinary matter
So, what can you do if you’re being bullied?
Being bullied at work can make you less confident and less capable at your job. It can become a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. And it can eventually cause stress and impact your private life – making you anxious, irritable and reluctant to return to work. But there are steps you can take, with or without your union rep:
- Write it down. Keep a diary about what’s been happening. Take note of the date, location, any witnesses, what happened, what was said, how it impacted you and why you think it’s bullying.
- Tell someone. Speak to someone you trust at your work about what’s been happening. This can be a colleague, health and safety rep or your union delegate or organiser.
- Approach them. If you feel confident and safe, you can approach the bully and tell them their behaviour is unacceptable and unwanted. Your union rep can help you with a plan of approach if needed.
- Make an internal complaint. If you can’t approach the bully yourself, you should make a complaint to your manager. If that’s not possible, speak to your health and safety rep, union delegate or the Australian Unions Support Centre to help you work out the best person to make a complaint to.
- Make an external complaint. Your employer has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment that is free from bullying. If your manager does not act to stop the bullying, your union will help you work out what to do next. This is where that diary in step one will come in handy.
When you know your rights, we can stand up for them together.
Although there may seem to be many grey areas, bullying is never okay and shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
You spend so much of your time at work, and you deserve to feel safe, supported and secure. It’s not just your union wanting to keep you healthy and happy – the law clearly states it as well.