Unfortunately bullying and harassment is still common in the workplace. This could be because incidences often go unreported or are not resolved, as each person has a different perception of what ‘harassment’ and ‘bullying’ is.
What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.
Unreasonable behaviour is behaviour that a reasonable person would find offensive, humiliating, intimidating, victimising, degrading or threatening.
Repeated behaviour usually involves a series of diverse incidents.
Often bullying is not reported and those affected may resign.
A single incident is not generally considered bullying in the workplace, however if it fits any of the descriptions outlined in this article it is still important that it be dealt with to prevent it from escalating or being repeated.
Employer and employee responsibilities
Employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and of other people in the workplace whose health and safety may be affected by the work being undertaken. This includes risks arising from workplace bullying.
Employees must contribute to workplace health and safety by:
- not putting others at risk
- cooperating with any health and safety requirements of their employer
- informing the employer of any workplace hazards of which they are aware, including bullying
- complying with any bullying prevention procedures in the workplace.
Types of workplace bullying
Bullying behaviour can be obvious and aggressive, e.g.:
- behaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades
- loud verbal criticism
- encouragement to other employees to participate in bullying behaviour
- malicious rumours, gossip, or innuendo.
Workplace bullying can also be subtle, including:
- deliberate exclusion of a worker from normal workplace activities
- interference with personal property or work equipment
- intimidation by inappropriate personal comment, belittling opinions or unjustified criticism
- offensive jokes, whether by spoken word, email or social media.
Behaviour that treats some people less favorably, or is disempowering, is also bullying and includes:
- assigning meaningless tasks to a worker that are unrelated to their job
- setting tasks that are unreasonably above or below a worker’s ability
- deliberately changing work arrangements, such as rosters and leave, to inconvenience a particular worker/s
- setting timelines that are very difficult to achieve
- deliberately denying access to information, consultation or other resources
- unreasonably blocking promotion, training, development or other work opportunities
- excessive and unreasonable work scrutiny
- removing areas of responsibility without cause.
What can you do?
If you are experiencing workplace bullying here are some steps you can take.
- If you are able, tell the bully that you find their behaviour unreasonable
- If the behaviour doesn’t stop, check if your employer has a policy to prevent and deal with bullying and follow the procedures to report bullying
- Check if your workplace agreement has procedures for bullying or grievance handling
- Keep notes of incidents. If you are unsure what to write or what is important then record who, what, why, where, when and how. Write down times, dates, location, witnesses and exact words used. The more details, the better. Writing detailed notes on the day of the incident can end up being admissible in court if the situation escalated to that level
- Seek help and advice.
Where to go for help
If you believe that you have been bullied or harassed in your workplace notify your employer or contact the SDA for advice and assistance.
You can also contact your workplace’s:
- Occupational health and safety representatives
- Union Delegate
- Supervisor or manager
- Employee assistance program; or
- Safework NSW - phone 13 10 50.
If you are feeling bullied or harassed in your workplace, speak up. Doing nothing can invite the bully to continue the behavior. Bullying is never okay! Contact the SDA’s helpline on 1300 732 HELP (1300 732 4357).