Workplace Bullying and Harassment

What Is Workplace Bullying?

 Workplace bullying is when a colleague, group of colleagues, manager or an employer repeatedly and intentionally says or does things to another person or group to cause them distress.

Bullying is a hue problem in workplaces – nearly ¾ of workers will be bullied or harassed at some point int heir lives, and it’s one of the main reasons why people chose to switch their jobs.

Bullying can be for many reasons, but is often done by people who have more influence or power over you, or who want to make you feel less powerful, or even helpless.

Bullying and harassment can cause workplace stress and affect your mental and physical health, which means you have rights under WHS legislation if you are being bullied.

Your employer has a duty of care to ensure you have a safe work environment, and the AWU believes it is never acceptable, under any circumstance or for any reason, to bully or harass someone at work.

If you or a workmate is being bullied, don’t stand for it. Talk to your AWU delegate or HSR, contact your AWU branch, or join the union!

Am I being bullied?

If you are being picked on at work – someone is saying or doing things to ridicule, humiliate, intimidate or degrade you – then that sounds like bullying or harassment.

You could be being bullied face-to-face, through physical actions such as pushing, punching or kicking, or verbal actions such as name-calling and insults.

Covert bullying is less direct, but just as painful. This is bullying which isn’t easily seen by others and is done out of sight, such as going behind your back, excluding you from groups, or spreading lies or rumours about you.

You can also be bullied or harassed digitally, through text messages, email and social media.

Bullying is not the same as a conflict between people (like having a fight or disagreement, or simply disliking someone), but people might bully each other because of these reasons.

And bullying doesn’t include when your boss takes reasonable steps to manage your work performance.

But singling out a worker, and unfairly targeting them during performance management processes, may be considered bullying.

Other things that could constitute bullying and harassment include:

  • Unfair behaviour, where other workers are given preferential treatment;
  • Unwelcome sexual advances, including lewd and suggestive comments and jokes, and sharing of explicit images;
  • Rumours and verbal insults, such as name calling;
  • Making unfounded threats about your job security;
  • An overbearing supervisor or workmate, or one who is misusing his or her power;
  • Discriminating against you because you are in a union or take part in union activities;
  • Discriminating against you because of your race, sex, sexual preference, age, disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origins;
  • Systematically targeting you at work;
  • Setting unreasonable workloads and deadlines;
  • Pushing and other forms of inappropriate contact, or even violence;
  • Discrediting your workplace skills or professional abilities;
  • Being assigned meaningless tasks that have nothing to do with your job.

Are any of these happening to you? If they are, talk your AWU delegate or Health and Safety Rep, contact your AWU branch, or join the union!

What can I do?

If you are being bullied or harassed at work, you can take some actions:

  • Collect evidence. Keep a work diary or log and write down any instances of bullying, whether verbal or written. This could be in a notebook or notepad, or even on your phone. Make sure to include details, such as when it happened, what was said – in speech marks if you can – as well as you can remember, and list any witnesses who may have heard or seen what happened.
  • Approach the person who is bullying you, if you feel confident and safe enough to do so. Sometimes just telling someone they are acting like a bully can lead them to think again and stop their actions.
  • If you do approach someone you feel is bullying you, make sure there are witnesses who can hear about what is troubling you and, again, make thorough notes in your diary.
  • Most companies won’t stand for workplace bullying. So, if it continues, ask your AWU delegate or organiser for advice. If you decide to attend a formal meeting, take a support person (a workmate or your AWU delegate) with you.

If you feel you are getting nowhere, there are legal steps you can take, such as pursuing the matter through the Fair Work Commission or your workplace’s health and safety jurisdiction.

But above all: if you feel that a colleague, group of colleagues, manager or employer is targeting you, there are rights and protections you are entitled to, and the AWU can help.

So talk to your AWU delegate or Health and Safety Rep, contact your AWU branch, or join the union!

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