Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace: How to Fight Back.

Many people who experience workplace harassment and bullying have no idea of their legal rights and the steps they can take to make it end. This guide will help employees and employers recognise bullying in the workplace and put an end to this unwelcome harassing conduct.
man being bullied at work

Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Queensland

Bullying and harassment are widespread in Queensland workplaces and can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression. This behaviour is inappropriate and intends to cause a deliberate work injury to another person. Bullying frequently leads to physical, emotional, and psychological damage, resulting in stress-induced illnesses like depression and anxiety. In a work environment that includes harassment and bullying, employees may feel unsafe, consequently decreasing their productivity and morale.

This undesirable workplace behaviour is no joke and should be taken very seriously by all Queensland employers. Your boss is legally obligated to provide a safe and healthy work environment. When your employer’s negligence physically or psychologically harms you, you could make a workers’ compensation claim through Queensland WorkCover.

Many people who experience workplace harassment and bullying have no idea of their legal rights and the steps they can take to make it stop. This guide will help employees and employers recognise bullying in the workplace and put an end to this unwelcome, harassing conduct.

If you believe undesirable work behaviours have harmed you, call for immediate legal support – 1800 700 125. It’s free to know your legal rights.

What Is Workplace Bullying & Harassment?

Bullying in the workplace is a kind of harassment that occurs when one or more people abuse another person or people repeatedly to the point that it negatively affects their health.

Work-related bullying is often difficult to identify and even more challenging to prove. It frequently involves a person in a position of power who is abusing that power and intimidating, harassing, or excluding others in the work environment. This unreasonable behaviour may include verbal abuse, humiliation, intimidation, social isolation, and psychological abuse.

The main feature of bullying at work is a power indifference between the bully and the victim(s). This lousy conduct can take many forms, including verbal aggression, social exclusion, and other bullying behaviours, that make someone feel intimidated or vulnerable at work.

Workplace bullying is not limited to any profession or industry but occurs in all Queensland organisations. It is prevalent where there are unclear lines of authority, such as with temporary workers or contractors; those who work remotely (telecommuting) or part-time; those on probationary status; those who report to someone outside their department; those who work closely with contractors; people who are new to the organisation; and people who are perceived as a threat by their colleagues.

Bullying and Harassment Can Take Many Forms

There are many forms of bullying, including:

  • Direct threats and intimidation
  • Verbal abuse (insults, offensive language)
  • Social exclusion (blocking access to information or resources)
  • Excessive work pressure or unrealistic deadlines without reasonable notice
  • Isolating a colleague from other workers or customer’s
  • constant ridicule, insults, or derogatory comments about your work or yourself
  • maliciously withholding information vital to completing your task
  • Mistreatment based on gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression constitutes harassment.
  • forcing someone to perform embarrassing or improper acts to be accepted as a team member.
  • physical violence or using equipment, knives, clubs, or any other object that someone can transform into a weapon.

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How Prevalent Is Bullying in the Workplace in Australia?

It appears that no job in Australia is safe from the prevalence of bullying in the workplace. It’s evident that workplace bullying harms the victims, but the Productivity Commission also reports that it costs the Australian economy $6 billion to $36 billion annually.

Australia has the sixth-highest prevalence of work-related bullying among 34 European nations, according to the Australian Workplace Barometer (AWB). SWA reports that there has been a 40% increase in the prevalence of bullying behaviour in the workplace throughout the country.

Bullying can also happen when there’s a lack of leadership in an organisation. When managers don’t step in to stop this behaviour, it sends a message that this conduct is acceptable and often worsens over time.

Considering that workplace bullying affects victims more negatively than sexual harassment does, it’s evident that businesses in Australia have some work to do in this area.

What are the Causes of Workplace Harassment and Bullying?

Workplace bullies often have a pattern of harassment behaviour that makes them more likely to target less powerful employees. The causes of workplace bullying can vary, but they include the following:

A culture in which bullying is accepted

Some workplaces have cultures where employees must compete; one person’s success means another’s failure. It might also be an environment where staff must be harsh or aggressive by behaving in ways they wouldn’t normally do outside of work hours.

A lack of leadership

If there aren’t enough leaders in your organisation willing to tackle the issue head-on, it could lead to more bullying behaviours developing over time.

Anxiety

Some bullies have low self-esteem and are looking for attention, so they may try to make you feel small and insignificant.

Disagreement or competition

People with different opinions or who work in the same field may disagree with each other. If disagreements become personal or intense, they can lead to bullying.

Frustration

You might have had a bad day at work or faced difficulty, causing you to vent your frustrations to others around you.

Lack of assertiveness skills

Some people aren’t sure how to deal with conflict resolution and may resort to bullying as a way of dealing with their problems instead of taking another more appropriate course of action, such as speaking with someone about what’s bothering them or changing their behaviour so that it doesn’t affect anyone around them negatively (and vice versa).

Personal issues

Issues such as illness, marital problems, or financial problems can also play a role in workplace bullying because they affect how people interact with others at work and how they treat each other emotionally and physically, which can result in aggressive behaviour toward others who seem weaker than the bully.

Ignorance of their harm to others

Bullies may not know their behaviour is harmful or injures someone else. They may also be unaware of how their actions influence others.

Unaware of how their actions influence others

Some bullies are self-centred and believe they are better than others, so they don’t care about how they impact others.

Ignoring others’ feelings or well-being

Some people find it hard to show they care about other people or that they have any empathy for them at all. They might refuse to listen if someone else has a problem and go on doing what they want, no matter the consequences. This conduct is challenging for those being ignored, who often feel hurt and upset by the person ignoring them.

Cultural differences

People from various cultures often have very different ideas about acceptable behaviour in the workplace and may not understand how their actions affect others around them.

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How to Recognise Workplace Bullying

Bullying in the workplace is a serious and growing problem that can take many forms, both offline and online.

Examples of bullying behaviour include:

1. Verbal abuse

Verbal abuse includes name-calling, insulting, yelling at, or criticising someone in front of others or behind their back, and making fun of someone’s body or appearance. Verbal abuse often comes from managers who feel threatened by employees’ ideas or initiatives that may affect their position of power within a company.

2. Intimidation

Intimidation includes threatening an employee with physical violence or harm if they don’t do what you want. This bad behaviour can be especially damaging if it repeatedly happens because it erodes trust between you and your co-workers and makes it more difficult for you to work together as a team when facing challenges at work.

3. Workplace sabotage

Making mistakes on purpose so that someone else gets blamed for them is an example of workplace sabotage, which can also include intentionally stealing clients away from other people’s projects or sabotaging equipment so that it doesn’t function properly anymore (and therefore causes problems for other people).

4. Physical abuse

Any physical contact that makes an employee feel threatened or uncomfortable is physical abuse. For example, pushing someone or making them feel unsafe by blocking their way out of an office is considered physical abuse.

5. Social exclusion

Social exclusion happens when an employee is left out of team meetings or other activities. They may also be ignored or purposefully excluded from communications about co-workers’ achievements or events around the office.

6. Harassment based on personal characteristics

Harassment includes making fun of an employee’s race or religion; for example — anything that targets someone based on something they cannot change about themselves should be considered harassment.

7. Cyberbullying

Much has been written about cyberbullying in educational settings, but did you realise it can also occur on the job? Electronic bullying might involve using social media sites. As the Internet has become so pervasive, cyberbullying has become a severe problem.

8. Sexual harassment

Lewd comments, sexual offers, or improper touching fall under “sexual harassment,” which describes unwanted sexual approaches or behaviour. The victim of sexual harassment may experience feelings of shame and inferiority.

How Does Workplace Bullying & Harassment Affect People?

The effects of workplace bullying can be devastating and long-term for employees and the companies that employ them. They can include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • alcohol or substance abuse
  • weight gain or loss
  • physical illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma
  • lower productivity and higher staff turnover
  • increased stress levels and sick days
  • panic attacks
  • poor customer service
  • poor morale
  • poor physical health, such as headaches, backaches, stomach problems, and high blood pressure
  • expensive lawsuits or workers’ comp claims
  • threat to the company’s image in the market

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How to Deal with Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is a severe issue, significantly impacting your health, productivity, and ability to succeed at work.

If you are a target of bullying, you may feel helpless, powerless, and alone. While it’s tempting to think you can ignore the bully or hope it’ll go away, this isn’t a good strategy for dealing with this work-related bullying. Instead, you need to know how to deal with work bullies in a way that protects your career and helps you regain control of the situation.

Top Tips for Dealing with Bullies at Work

If you are being bullied at work, here are some tips for managing this behaviour.

1. Don’t get defensive

If you are bullied at work, don’t get defensive. Instead of arguing with the aggressor, keep your cool and understand why they behave this way. Remember that bullies thrive on power and control over others, so they will only enjoy it more by getting upset or angry at them.

2. Be aware of your Queensland workplace rights

If your organisation has a work behaviour policy, it should address bullying. Learn everything you can about the situation, from the procedures for reporting superiors to the everyday actions of those in charge.

3. Remember that you are not alone.

Bullying is more common than you may realise. Most people who experience this terrible behaviour find it difficult to discuss it with their co-workers or managers because they feel embarrassed and ashamed. Many people also fear retaliation if they report being bullied or don’t want to risk losing their jobs by making waves at work. That makes it easy for bullies to continue unchecked — but it doesn’t have to be that way!

4. Plan for how to deal with the bully

If you know you’re being bullied, make sure you have a plan before confronting your boss or co-worker. Ensure that someone else is present when engaging them; it’s never safe to be alone with someone who has been bullying you. Also, remember that it’s only sometimes valuable to confront your boss directly if they’re the one doing the bullying; sometimes it’s better to go through another person within the company or even outside help, such as a personal injury lawyer or union representative.

5. Document your bullying experience

Keep notes on any bullying incidents initiated by another colleague or boss. Write down what happened and when it happened so that you have proof later in your workers’ compensation claim if needed.

6. Tell someone about it; don’t keep it a secret

If your company has a human resources department, tell them about the behaviour that makes you uncomfortable at work. If there isn’t one, talk to someone higher than your manager who can help you deal with the situation (such as an executive director).

Get Expert Legal Advice for Workplace Bullying and Harassment

No one needs to suffer in silence. If you are a victim of bullying, the first thing you should do is get help. You could contact the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Australian Human Rights Commission to begin the process of getting legal help. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, the national workplace relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission (FWC), hears and decides applications to prohibit workplace bullying.

Our personal injury lawyers understand your employer’s obligations and responsibilities under the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

If work bullies have physically or psychologically injured you, first seek approval for stress leave. Then contact our skilled worker’s compensation lawyers for expert legal advice. With Splatt Lawyers, knowing your legal rights and eligibility to seek personal injury compensation is free, and all our valued clients can access 100% no win, no fee funding. You will have access to effective legal representation and pay nothing until we win your case and nothing if you lose. Call Now – 1800 700 125.

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