Bullying is one of those things, you might not always be able to describe it, but you know it when you see it. It could be someone saying hurtful or insulting things about who you are, or discriminatory comments about your identity. It could be childish treatment like hiding things that you need to do your job properly, or deliberately excluding you.
If you experienced one of these behaviours by itself, it would probably feel pretty horrible, but you might be inclined to let it slide. However if they become a repeated and persistent pattern of behaviour, then they are considered workplace bullying and can pose a significant risk to the mental and physical health of those affected by bullying. The good news is that Victoria has a strong anti-bullying legal system, known as Brodie’s Law.
Under this law, serious workplace bullying is considered a form of stalking, and can be punished by up to 10 years in prison. If what you’re experiencing at work has started to affect your wellbeing, then there are a number of things you can do to both protect yourself and ensure that you’re building a strong legal case against bullying.
The first step in any workplace conflict is to remember that you always have a voice at work. Tell the ‘bully’ that their actions are making you feel uncomfortable, and that you would rather that everyone at work was treated with respect and dignity. In some cases, this could be enough to stop an isolated incident turning into an unsafe work environment.
Tell the boss – or anyone!
Make sure that you email your employer or supervisor with a brief description of what has happened, and ask them to explain the procedures for dealing with workplace bullying. Unless of course it’s your boss that is doing the bullying – then it’s time to find another trusted person, whether they’re inside or outside of your workplace, who can help. And remember - you cannot be sacked or punished for speaking up about bullying
Keep a diary
It might sound a bit weird, but jotting down some details like what happened, when it happened, and who was involved can be very helpful when it comes time to dealing with workplace bullying laws. If it’s a case of cyberbullying, take screenshots of the texts, Facebook messages or emails.
See a doctor or counsellor if your health is affected
If you’re starting to feel stressed out or depressed by things on the job, then make an appointment with your local doctor and ask for a referral for a mental health practitioner. Aside from the obvious benefits to your state of mind, documents like this are crucial when building a legal argument.
Don’t be a bully bystander
Just because bullying is happening to someone else doesn’t mean that it isn’t your problem. The best way to address bullying in the workplace is to do it together. Bullying occurs when people feel like they can isolate someone, but it’s very hard to bully a whole workforce.
Call the Young Workers Centre
The sooner you speak out about workplace bullying, the sooner you can put the wheels in motion to rectify the situation. Call the Young Workers Centre on 1800 714 754.