Bullying in the Workplace

I found this infographic from Safe Work on workplace bullying and thought it would be important to share. As you can see, the prevalence of workplace bullying is shocking. Over the past decade, serious workplace injuries related to bullying and harassment have nearly doubled in Australia. In the last 5 years alone, there has been a 75% increase in mental injury work cover claims. This trend is expected to continue, with an expected 9.5% increase in claims this financial year. Workplace bulling is not only hurting those who are affected, it is also costing Australian organisations between $6 billion and $36 billion a year through lost productivity, absenteeism, poor morale and time spent documenting and defending claims.

So what exactly is “workplace bullying”?

The most common definition of workplace bullying that I found is;

Repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety.”

But what this might look like for the target of bullying can vary greatly. You may have experienced one, or many of the following examples of workplace bullying, and some you may not have even realised were classed as bullying:

  • singling someone out and treating them differently from others
  • withholding information, supervision, consultation, training or resources deliberately to prevent someone doing their job
  • setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
  • spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
  • changing work arrangements, such as rosters and leave, to deliberately inconvenience someone
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or above someone’s skill level
  • refusing annual leave, sick leave, and especially compassionate leave without reasonable grounds
  • humiliating, shouting at or threatening someone
  • abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments (including belittling, demeaning or patronising someone, especially in front of others)

Being the target of this behaviour in the workplace can have significant impacts on your mental health and life, including;

  • depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep disturbance and/or feelings of distress
  • physical illness, such as muscular tension, headaches and digestive problems
  • reduced work performance
  • loss of self-esteem and feelings of isolation
  • deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family and friends

If you are being bullied in the workplace, there are some things you can do.

  • Keep a record of every instance of bullying. It can be really hard to recall memories and specifics of bullying, especially when it is happening often and is distressing. It’s really important to keep an accurate record of all evidence of bullying. Keeping a diary of incidents, printing out emails and keeping a copy of your organisation’s workplace bullying and harassment policies can help build a legal case against a workplace bully.

Make a note of:

  • the date and time
  • who is treating you badly
  • exactly what they’re doing or saying
  • where it happened
  • who else was there – it’s helpful if you have a co-worker who can back you up
  • how it made you feel

“Some of the things seem so small and insignificant that until you put them in a bigger picture, you feel like you’re being silly or oversensitive. It’s still bullying, just done in a very clever way.”

– Anonymous

It’s also important to report the bullying, if possible. It is much harder for an employer to deny any accounts of bullying if there is clear evidence that they were informed about it and failed to take action.

  • You may be eligible to make a claim for workers’ compensation with WorkCover (or a self-insurer). There are several ways you can do this:
    1. the fastest and easiest way is to complete and submit an online claim
    2. phone 1300 362 128 and talk to a member of the WorkCover team.
    3. complete a claim form (DOCX, 0.09 MB) and either upload using our online service, fax it to 1300 651 387 or post your completed form to GPO Box 2459, Brisbane Qld 4001.

If any of this seems overwhelming or confusing, feel free to ring the service to seek clarification or talk to someone about which option is best for your situation.

As a Queensland worker, if you feel you are experiencing any of the above or something else that is affecting your wellbeing, please call or email us at the Workers’ Psychological Support service on 1800 370 732, or info@wpss.org.au, or use our online referral form: Get in touch – Workers’ Psychological Support Service (wpss.org.au)

An experienced social worker will contact you to provide support and guidance and connect you in with appropriate services for your situation.

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