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How To Cope With Bullying At Work

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: July 09, 2015

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By Jack Phillips

You may have spent some years out of the school playground but that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed freedom from bullies.

Unfortunately bullying in the workplace can happen even at the highest level of business and it's important to take action if you feel like you are a victim of mental or psychological abuse.

You may feel uncomfortable or unsure of the steps you should take and feel like your job position may be threatened if you do, but you should know that your health and happiness trumps even your deepest anxieties. Nobody should suffer in silence. These are the things you need to know.

What constitutes as bullying

Bullying in the workplace is any verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by your employer, manager or colleagues. It can happen anywhere at anytime and in any working environment. You may be working in a coffee shop, on a trading floor or in a customer call centre and you can be at any stage in your professional career. It also doesn’t matter how old you are and it’s down to you to seek help to ensure a happier working life for you and the people around you.

What bullying isn't

It may seem like you are getting a tough deal at work sometimes but a manager can make decisions about poor performance, take disciplinary action, and direct control the way work is carried out. If they are carried out in a reasonable way it is not classed as bullying.

What does bullying look like in the workplace

Bullying constitutes a whole manner of things and makes working life at best unpleasant and at worst unbearable. It’s important to identify what bullying looks like so you know if it’s happening to you. Common forms of bullying include:

Hurtful remarks, which may include verbal attacks aimed at your family, sexuality, gender identity, race or culture, education or economic background

  • Sexual harassment, including unwanted touching and sexually explicit comments
  • Intimidation whether mental or physical
  • Pointless task setting that has nothing to do with your job that aims to undermine your character
  • Giving you impossible jobs that are knowingly unachievable
  • Deliberate changes in shift hours or days worked without warning or discussion
  • Information being deliberately held back
  • Threatening actions
  • Hazing: Being made to do inappropriate things in order to be accepted as part of the team.

What to do if you are being bullied

Are you being subjected to any of these forms of bullying? If so, it’s important to take action for the sake of your own health. If you are finding it hard to work, concentrate in the office, have trouble sleeping or feel a sense of dread when you head off to work in the morning, these are tell tale signs that you may be being bullied. You need to know that your employer has a legal responsibility under Occupational Health and Safety and anti-discrimination law to provide a safe workplace and that they have a duty of care for your health and wellbeing whilst at work.

If you have identified that you are being bullied, these are the steps you need to take.

  • Write down the times and places of the incidents. It may help to keep a diary should you wish to make a formal complaint later.
  • Get help and advice from someone you trust. Never suffer alone. You could speak to a friendly colleague or a support officer from the human resources department.
  • If you feel safe and confident approach the bully and ask them to stop doing whatever it is that is making you feel uncomfortable. If you do not feel confident doing so, speak to a line manager or support manager.
  • If you wish to make a formal complaint you should find out the necessary procedure for doing so. Ensure you have your diary handy to provide details and specifics, as many companies will require these details in order to take the matter to a higher level.

If the bullying is serious you can contact outside sources for help and information. These sources include:

  • The Australian Human Rights Commission to get advice and make a complaint about discrimination, harassment and bullying covered by law.
  • The union representing your industry that can talk you through your options and rights.
  • Lawstuff for legal information (Especially for young people).

The most important step you need to take if you think you are dealing with bullying in the workplace is action. Nobody deserves to be unhappy and feel threatened at work and it’s your right to feel safe, secure and happy.



Yvette has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.

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