We might think workplace bullying has become less of an issue due to the Covid context. For instance, because of less workers on site, colleagues working apart… However, in the UK, a survey by Bupa shows that bullying has actually increased with rates almost doubling since 2019. So, it shows that we don’t need to be in the office to be bullied.
Unfortunately, bullying does not stop when we leave school. And, a lot of workplaces have bullies, more than what you may think. In fact, according to a national survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19% of adult employees said they had been personally bullied at work. And, another 19% said they had witnessed bullying of others in their workplace.
The construction industry is one of the most hazardous. But, safety and health concerns also include mental health issues. And, they are major issues in the industry. In this context, it is particularly important to be aware and mindful of how to deal with workplace bullying. There is no excuse for bullying, ever.
Workplace Bullying Creates A Risk To Health And Safety
So, what is bullying? According to SafeWork NSW, workplace bullying is any constant physical, verbal, social or psychological abuse by an employer, colleague or any other person or group of people at work.
In other words, bullying is a mistreatment that causes physical or emotional harm. And, it creates a risk to the health and safety of employees and the work environment. In addition, it can seriously harm worker mental health. In fact, it can lead to depression, psychological distress and emotional exhaustion like work related stress, anxiety, anxiety attacks. And, this can impact the workplace.
Some examples of bullying include (but not limited to):
– offensive language or comments
– unjustified criticism
– aggressive behaviour
– deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities
– withholding information that is needed for work
– humiliating / making vexatious allegations against a worker
– pressuring worker to do or behave inappropriately
– gossiping, spreading rumours about a worker (see our article: How to deal with gossiping)
– practical jokes or initiation
It is important to understand there is a difference between bullying and reasonable management action.
This is not bullying when an employer or manager:
– make decisions and actions about poor performance: the feedback should be constructive and supportive
– take legitimate disciplinary action in case of unreasonable behaviour
– direct and control the way work is carried out.
How To Prevent And Respond To Bullying
You and everyone else at work can help ensure that bullying is not tolerated and does not occur. Act as soon as you notice something because the longer bullying continues, the more complicated it becomes to address and the harder it is to repair working relationships.
What to do if you are being bullied in the workplace?
Check the policy and procedures
Check your workplace policy and with your employer/manager for a bullying policy and complaints procedures. Also, your contract of employment might have provisions about how to resolve workplace disputes.
Document everything that is happening including what you have done to try to stop it.
This will help if you decide to make a complaint. It is rare to have evidence of bullying at work, as it often happens when there are no witnesses, but the law recognises this and takes it into account. Document any acts of bullying you witness with the date, time, person, and facts.
Get support from someone you trust
And / Or contact support services. Find others who are just as fed up with the bad behaviors and are willing to confront and support.
Approach the person bullying you
If you feel safe and confident, and inform them their behaviour is unwanted and unacceptable. If you are unsure how to approach them, you can get advice from an appointed contact person, support service, or from your manager.
Speak to somebody at work
Remember, you are not alone. Consider speaking with your supervisor/manager, or a harassment or workplace health and safety officer. Don’t assume that management knows what’s happening. Tell them.
Consider getting outside information and advice
If the bullying continues or if there is nobody you can safely talk to at work. If you feel you get no support from your direct management, seek advice with, for example:
– Your industry union can give you advice on your options and rights;
– Your workplace health and safety authority can give you advice and report bullying incidents
Make a formal complaint
If you’ve expressed your concerns verbally but haven’t put anything in writing, or if your attempts to confront the bully and alert an authority figure do not result in positive change, write a grievance letter to your employer’s HR Department.
Describe the unfair treatment you’ve been subjected to and state how you are feeling, set out the history of the facts, the outcome you would like to see, and make sure your complaint is easy to read and includes the evidence you have. Keep a copy of it.
What to do if you witness bullying in the workplace?
Witnessing bullying in the workplace usually makes people feel uncomfortable, unhappy and stressed about the work culture. We can choose to ignore it, condone it, run away from it, or do something about it.
If you notice abuse, physical or verbal violence, humiliation in the workplace, don’t be a silent witness and simply thankful the bully’s focus is on somebody else. Be an Upstander: take action and speak up.
This is what you can do in the workplace to help prevent bullying:
Support your workmates
Remember, there is no ‘I’ in the team – working together makes work tasks that little bit easier. Ask your workmates if they are ok and offer encouragement. It’s good to know that there are workmates that care about you. So, any time you witness your coworkers being treated poorly, help them!
Show respect and courtesy
Make sure the way you treat people is appropriate and professional.
Speak up against bullying
Again, there is no excuse for bullying ever. Confront bad behaviour and demonstrate to your colleagues that you will not stand for bullying.
Understand what inappropriate workplace behaviour is
If you notice harassment, aggression and violence, or bullying targeting one person or a group, it’s time to step up!
Check your workplace’s policy
Ask your employer/manager and check the bullying policy and complaints procedures.
Record (write down) the behaviour (the bullying) you witnessed
This will help if you decide to speak with manager/supervisor and/or make a compliant.
Reach out to the person being bullied
Speak with your manager/supervisor
About concerns regarding bullying in the workplace.
Make a formal complaint
Write a grievance letter to your management to describe the unfair treatment the victim has been subjected to. The law takes into consideration that it could still cause injury to your feelings even if you’re not the direct victim.
What If I Am Being Accused Of Bullying?
It can be very upsetting discovering you are being accused of bullying your colleagues at work.
If you’re accused of bullying, it is important that you:
– Follow the company’s procedures and co-operate with any investigations
– Be open-minded and listen to the other person’s point of view
– Remain calm if somebody approaches you about your behaviour – getting angry or offensive can make the situation worse
– Speak to your manager/supervisor and/or HR if you think the accusation is false
– Be prepared to change your behaviour or the way you communicate.
Just remember, if you are acting inappropriately thinking ‘it’s only a joke’ or that other person should be able to ‘handle it’, the reality is you are bullying. You are causing distress and offence.
We All Have The Right To Work In A Bully-Free Workplace.
At Absolute Traffic Management, we condemn all sorts of bullying and encourage you to stand against such behaviour. Given we spend most of our days at work, having a safe and comfortable workplace is vital for employees and employers.
For more advice, read “Psychosocial health and safety and bullying in Australian workplaces (6th edition)“.
To sum up, bullying is not just an issue for management to deal with. In fact, it is up to all of us to take a stand against bullies and bullying in the workplace. So, don’t ignore problems in the hope they will go away. And, contact us! When you witness an act of bullying or are the victim of bullying, speak up!