Bullying and harassment can take place in any environment. This includes the workplace. While most work environments are positive and create productive working conditions, there are occasions when one or two employees become overly competitive or resentful of another. Bullying and harassment in the workplace are frowned up and can result in an employees’ termination if the behavior continues. So What is Bullying in the Workplace in Australia?
Definition of Bullying in the Workplace
What is bullying in the workplace? Basically it is any behavior towards another employee that is abusive and unwelcomed that occurs within the workplace or during work hours. Bullying can take many forms. Any type of abuse conduct or activity that is used to exert power over an individual or gain control of a situation can be identified as bullying behavior or harassment.
When members of management abuse their power it can result in injuries to employees, loss of morale and a toxic work environment. Bullying and harassment are wrong no matter who is perpetuating the behavior. In cases, where management is the problem, an employee’s only recourse may be to hire an attorney to protect their rights.
Bullying in the Workplace Examples
Bullying takes many forms and is sometimes very well disguised so that others don’t even know its happening unless the victim reports the issue. One of the most common forms of bullying is performed by supervisors or people who are in a position of authority. Threatening to have one fired or “written up” for a fictitious offense in order get another worker to perform a task is very common.
Verbal abuse and sabotaging another’s work are also common among co-workers. Companies that offer bonuses or pay increases to only a few people who continually produce above average numbers can have problems with this type of bullying as co-workers compete against one another. A new employee may also experience verbal abuse if a co-worker feels threatened that they may be replaced or phased out.
Humiliation and intimidation are also common forms of bullying that are often seen in the workplace. Threats of violence may be used to intimidate another co-worker as a way of showing power and control. Threats can be made in a variety of ways, but the most common is face to face confrontation. Most bullies avoid sending threats in emails or texts because it leaves behind a trail of evidence that can be used against them later.
What Can Be Done
Victims of bullying do have options if they choose to use them. Many are afraid to report instances of abuse for fear of losing their jobs. Others are afraid of violent retaliations by the bullies themselves. For those who choose to stand up for themselves, going to management may not be the best idea. If members of management are part of the problem, it may be easier to find a legal representative or talk to the owners of the company.
If the problem is with a supervisor and the company has an open door policy for resolving issues, going to management may be the best solution. When the problem has to do with bonuses that are based on competition and who achieves the highest goal, offering other options can help find a positive resolution.
Instead of offering a bonuses to a selected few who over achieve, offer the bonuses by department. This encourages a cohesive work environment and dissolves tension within certain departments. It boosts morale and encourages workers to become more productive, not just for themselves, but for others they work with.
Reporting Harassment in the Workplace
Most companies have protocols in place for reporting incidents of bullying and harassment. In instances where reporting within the company is not possible, a worker has other avenues of recourse. The Australian Human Rights Commission is just one government agency that deals with worker’s rights. When the bully is a member of upper level management, or even an owner of the company, the worker can report to the Human Rights Commission and have their voice be heard. Many people fear losing their jobs if they cause trouble or report a bully. The fact remains that if the bully isn’t stopped, the behavior will continue long after the original victim has left employment.
Companies who have put in effect a zero tolerance policy must stand behind the protocols involved. If not, it sends a message to the bully that no matter what the protocols are, they can get away with whatever type of behavior they choose to exhibit. From the highest levels of management to the newly hired employees, it is important for each and every person to be accountable for their actions.
The Anti-bullying Guide helps employees and employers define the actual nature of what bullying is. An employee who is being reprimanded for unacceptable behavior must be prepared to deal with the punishment meted out by management, as long as it is within the company’s disciplinary guidelines.
Dealing With Bullying and Harassment
Victims of bullies often feel as if they are struggling alone. They have nowhere to turn, and even if they did report the offensive behavior, nothing would be done to resolve the issue. In the workplace, a bully will often target more than one individual at a time. It is always important for the person to remember that they are not alone. Be observant. Find others who may be a target and offer support. Even if the individuals are not being attacked by the same person, they will know they are not the only ones who are being targeted.
One of the first steps a person needs to take when dealing with a bully is to remember who they are. Just because someone is harassing or bullying them, it doesn’t change who they are on a personal level. Remembering to acknowledge ones’ self is extremely important. It prevents them from losing their self esteem and succumbing to the power trip the bully is relying on to gain control.
A person must remember that whether the bullying takes place at work, school or in the home, they were not put here for anyone’s approval. They have the divine right to be exactly who they are. Depending on the aggressiveness of the bully, it can be difficult to maintain the level of self confidence needed to remain in control of the situation.
Employers also play a role in dealing with bullies who work in their facility. In order to maintain a productive workplace with a positive environment, they must constantly observe and evaluate the employees they have working for them. The
Australian Human Rights Commission has an Anti-bullying Guide for employers to use when dealing with harassment and violent bullying behaviors in the workplace.
By offering support groups and creating a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the enforcement of bullying protocols, the behavior can be controlled and each employee allowed to regain their self control. The key to controlling negative behavior in any workplace is positive reinforcement of good company policies. Fostering an open door policy that allows individuals to report problems without fear of retaliation is just one step that can be taken to help this type of situation.
The Australian government has created programs that will help both employer and employee move past this type of behavior and re-establish a positive work environment. With the proper tools and the right attitude, a company can deal with bullies effectively without disturbing the moral of the workforce. Once the situation has been rectified, every one can begin to work put the problem behind them.
Once a bully has been efficiently dealt with, the next step is rebuilding a positive relationship that thrives on cohesiveness and results in increased productivity. In Australia and other areas, bullying in the workplace is unacceptable. Moving forward after reports of bullying and harassment have been addressed can mean offering counseling or classes on how to maintain and improve self esteem.
Helping an employee build their self worth is extremely important, especially if a company expects them to be productive. The after effects of being traumatized and repeatedly harassed by a bully can be long lasting. Making it possible for an employee to realize their value can help them to overcome any lasting issues. The same Australian agencies that help companies effectively deal with the bullies, also offers resources to employers. These valuable resources enable members of management and Human Resources workers to focus on restoring balance and harmony in the workplace.