GREAT HEALTH: Bullying In The Workplace - Great Health Guide
GREAT HEALTH: Bullying In The Workplace

GREAT HEALTH: Bullying In The Workplace

‘Bullying In The Workplace’ by Melanie Eager published in Great Health Guide (Jan 2016). Bullying is such a common workplace occurrence and can include victimising, humiliation and intimidation. Ultimately bullying becomes detrimental to both employees & companies. Find out if you’re a victim of bullying & take the steps needed to break out of this situation.
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GREAT HEALTH: Bullying In The Workplace

written by Melanie Eager

Bullying is such a common workplace occurrence that when I discuss this issue with my friends, I find that a high percentage of them have personally encountered it. A 2013 Safe Work Australia report found that bullying rates in Australian workplaces are quite a lot higher than international rates. Exact figures are hard to gauge as there is significant under-reporting of the problem because employees feel either that nothing is done to improve the situation or that it gets worse. However it is estimated that at least 1 in 3 employees have experienced some form of bullying in the workplace. 

What is bullying?

According to Fairwork Australia, a worker is being bullied if:

‘A person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers AND the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety (including health of the employer)’.

Workplace bullying can have a huge effect on the psychological and physical wellbeing of a person. It can cause stress which can lead to health issues such as digestive and blood pressure problems as well as insomnia. This in turn will potentially lead to an increase in sick leave. Eventually a person’s wellbeing can be so badly affected that it leads to anxiety and depression. A 2013 Safe Work Australia report found that depression cost Australian employers about $8bn a year because of absence due to sickness or attending work while sick, of which $693m was due to job strain and bullying. The report also showed that workers who had mild symptoms of depression took twice as many sick days as those that showed no symptoms. 

Bullying becomes detrimental to both employees who will eventually leave and companies that in turn gain a poor reputation as a place to work. This leads to high staff turnover and low team morale.

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So what can you do if you’re being bullied?

Here are my top ten steps:

1. Check if your workplace has a bullying policy

Contact human resources (HR) for a policy. Read this and see what the next steps would be regarding bullying. 

2. Find someone at work that you can confide in

You might be surprised how many other colleagues have similar problems with bullying. Remember though, that the human resources policy will represent the company and that your complaints do not have to be kept confidential.

3. Confront the bully

If you feel confident, approach the person who is bullying you and ask for an informal meeting to discuss what is happening. Do this as soon as possible. Be open to feedback. The person may not be aware of their behaviour and it may be cross-communication which is easily resolved.

4. Formally report the matter

If you have approached the bully and nothing has changed, consider reporting to a manager, union member or through an official work channel.

5. Be armed with knowledge

Make sure you know the bullying rules and legislation. You will need this if you are going to go any further with this matter.

6. Report the matter externally

If you have no response from senior management that often occurs, it is time to seek help from a governing body such as Fairwork Australia.

7. Document everything in a journal

It is not unusual to block past negative events from your memory. It is important to keep a note of everything that has happened. Print out all e-mails and correspondence. Make notes after telephone calls or meetings. You will need this later for HR or Fairwork Australia.

8. Seek outside assistance from a doctor or counsellor

It is often helpful to speak to someone that is completely independent from you and the situation so that they are able to give a completely different perspective on things and guide you through the process step by step.

9. Be kind to yourself

This situation is not about you or the work that you are doing. It is often much more complicated and often relates to the controlling behaviour and personal problems of the bully. Take time to reflect on the positive steps that you are taking, both in and out of the workplace.

10. Take extra time to nourish your body and mind

During this period, you will be going through extensive stress which can have a knock-on effect on everything else. Ensure that you are still eating healthily, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and socialising. Maintain normality outside of work.

Although there have been inquiries and committees set up to look at workplace bullying, Australia still has a long way to go. Dr Carlo Caponecchia of the University of NSW has written extensively about workplace bullying. He says ‘people don’t report bullying for fear of a negative impact on their career.’ 

Help is sometimes very hard to find. Injured Workers Support Network (IWSN) was established in 2011 and may be able to assist you. Its’ prime purpose is to assist injured workers in meeting the adjustment needs, psychological issues and re-employment challenges during their injury or illness. Information and advice can be obtained from this website.

Author of this article:
Melanie Eager is a nutritionist and wellness coach with a passion for helping you live life to your full potential. Melanie has two science degrees from the University of London. Now based in Australia and with nearly 20 years working in a corporate science environment, Melanie is well placed to guide you through the maze of health and wellness choices so that you too can be Eager for Life. For more information contact Melanie through her website.

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