Workplace bullying can negatively affect the physical and mental environments of workers. Spend some time reading this short article pertaining to a recent trend that has been emerging in workplaces: workplace bullying. Here you can gain insight into the definitions and occurrences of workplace bullying, as well as how to prevent it from occurring.
Bullying and harassment at work ruins lives and destroys workplaces. It’s up to you and your employer to put a stop to it.
Workplace bullying was previously referred to as workplace harassment in Queensland. In 2014, Queensland adopted national guidance, definitions and terminology for workplace bullying.
According to the Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullyingworkplace bullying is when someone repeatedly does or says something to you that:
According to the Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying, it is not workplace bullying when someone does or says something to you:
You can be bullied by:
Behaviours that may be a part of workplace bullying include where someone regularly:
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual attention. You can be sexually harassed by anyone. Sexual harassment does not have to be repeated or ongoing to be against the law.
According to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (PDF) sexual harassment is any:
According to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland you can be discriminated against across a number of matters including but not limited to:
Find out more about discrimination and your rights.
Signs that your co-workers might be feeling bullied include:
If your co-worker is showing signs of being bullied:
The Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying provides guidance on steps workplaces should take to manage the risk of workplace bullying. These may also help prevent other types of inappropriate behaviours (e.g. sexual harassment and discrimination) at work.
Workplaces must consult with workers about workplace health and safety risks, including workplace bullying. Consultation involves sharing information, allowing workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views, and taking these views into account when deciding on health and safety matters.
You should talk to your manager or human resources area if these practices are not in place in your workplace.
Sometimes bullying can be a criminal offence. If you have experienced violence, assault, or stalking you should report abuse directly to police.
If the behaviour you experience is not violence, assault or stalking, you can:
If you believe you are being bullied, you can ask the person to stop and let them know that what they are doing is unreasonable. This lets the person know that their behaviour is not OK and gives them a chance to change.
If you are thinking of talking to the person you should:
You can get support from a nominated contact officer, a manager, supervisor or the employee assistance service in your workplace. You can also get professional support from Lifeline or Beyondblue.
You can report the incidents informally or formally in most workplaces.
If you believe someone has bullied you, before reporting it you should:
If you need help with any of the above, see your workplace bullying prevention policy, it should tell you who in your workplace you can talk to. If it does not, talk to the person responsible for human resources or industrial relations.
Be aware that if you make a false or misleading complaint about someone’s behaviour (that is harmful or trivial) there may be serious consequences for you. Your workplace bullying prevention policy or code of conduct should outline the possible consequences for false claims.
The aim of an informal complaint response is to resolve the issue in the workplace with as little conflict or distress as possible for everyone involved.
The benefits of resolving workplace bullying informally are:
If you choose to resolve your complaint informally within your workplace, see your workplace bullying prevention policy, it should tell you who in your workplace you should make your complaint to. If it does not, talk to the person responsible for human resources or industrial relations.
Mediation is where a trained, professional third party works with you and the person who your complaint is about, as a middle person, to resolve the situation. Mediation is a process that your workplace may use early in the conflict. This process can prevent the problem from becoming much worse. There are some instances where mediation is not appropriate (e.g. where the nature of the conflict is destructive or violent, or where the parties cannot equally participate in the process).
If responding to the behaviours informally is unsuccessful and you continue to be harassed or concerned, you can request that your complaint be responded to formally. If both options are unsuccessful, you may consider making your complaint to an external agency.
If you choose to resolve your complaint formally within your workplace, your complaint will go through a complaint handling system (as long as your workplace has one). The person responsible for human resources or industrial relations in your workplace should be able to tell you about your workplace’s complaint handling system.
Your workplace’s complaints handling system should include:
The complaints handling system should also be based on the principles of natural justice (e.g. the person who is being accused of harassment should be treated as innocent until it is proved otherwise).
Generally, once you have formally reported the harassment, your workplace will:
If the formal approach is not an option, as your workplace does not have a complaints handling system, and you continue to be harassed or concerned, you should make an informal complaint. If both options are unsuccessful, consider making your complaint to an external agency.
Most external agencies will not accept a bullying complaint unless you have tried to resolve it in your workplace first (through either an informal or formal process).
If you believe you have been harassed and your workplace’s processes haven’t been helpful, you can make your complaint to, or ask advice from, one the following agencies.
Trade Unions provide advice to members. If you are a member of a union, contact your union directly or the Australian Council of Trade Unions for advice.
The Department of Education and Training respond to apprentice and trainee complaints about:
Contact Training Services at the Department of Education, Training and Employment to make your complaint.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is the national workplace relations tribunal that aims to resolve a range of collective and individual workplace disputes through conciliation, mediation and in some cases arbitration.
From 1 January 2014, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has jurisdiction to hear complaints from workers covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) who allege they are victims of workplace bullying.
The Fair Work Commission has the power to make an order to stop bullying. The Commission can only make an order if there is a risk that the worker will continue to be bullied at work by the particular individual or group of individuals. The Commission does not have the power to award compensation.
Contact Fair Work Commission for advice.
The Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal accepts and conciliates complaints about discrimination and sexual harassment.
Make your complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland. If they cannot help you resolve it, you can then make your complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.
You do not need to try to resolve your complaint in your workplace before approaching the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission.
Contact the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland to make your complaint.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has jurisdiction to hear and make decisions about workplace issues concerning public sector and local government employees. If you work for the government, you may be able to lodge a notification of industrial dispute about the workplace harassment.
Contact the Queensland Industrial Relations commission for more information.
The Queensland Working Womens Service provides a free and confidential telephone service for women about work related issues. They can provide you with information about workplace harassment and advise you about what you should do. The service does not take complaints.
Contact the Queensland Working Womens Service for advice (non-Queensland Government link).
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland can investigate complaints that are:
You will need to contact the Workplace Health and Safety Infoline on1300 369 915 for an information package, which will provide you with details on how to write and send in your complaint.
If your complaint falls outside the scope of the other agencies, or you cannot work out where you should be making your complaint, you can contact It’s OK to complain. It’s OK to complain can give you information about where you should be making your complaint.