Bullying is not something that’s confined to the school yard – it happens in the workplace too and it takes many forms.
According to Worksafe Victoria, workplace bullying involves ‘persistent and repeated negative behaviour directed at an employee that creates a risk to health and safety.’
Workplace bullying can extend to:
- Unjustified criticism or complaints
- Purposely excluding someone from workplace activities
- Withholding important information needed for effective work performance
- Setting tasks that are beyond reasonably expected skill level
- Unreasonably denying access to resources
- Changing work arrangements (like rosters) to deliberately inconvenience particular individuals or groups.
Single incidents containing the above are not considered workplace bullying, but can have the potential to escalate if left unchecked.
In a previous blog about conflict resolution, we explored the inevitable conflicts that can occur between staff in a workplace environment. As part of this, we looked at three strategies for managing conflict – many of which stem from simple misunderstandings.
Just like conflict resolution, managing workplace bullying is a process. While we need to understand what workplace bullying is, it’s equally important to understand what it is not. For example, Worksafe lists a number of occurrences that do not qualify as bullying, such as:
- Being allocated reasonable levels of work in line with others in the work area
- Changing your roster in a reasonable way, even if you don’t like it
- Asking you for a medical certificate when you are off work sick
- Giving you critical feedback about your work (in a private and in a respectful manner)
- Joking, laughing and telling stories between colleagues when it is not directed at anyone else and does not contain offensive content
- Being asked by a work colleague on a date as long as they respect your wishes if you decline
What To Do If You Think You’re Being Bullied At Work?
The Worksafe website offers a helpful step-by-step process for people who feel that they may be experiencing workplace bullying. This includes everything from ‘talking to somebody you trust’ and ‘informing HR,’ to ‘contacting Worksafe and obtaining legal representation.’
Whether you’re working right now or considering a career change, understanding the basics about bullying is essential. Knowing the difference between reasonable and unreasonable behaviour will help you stay out of trouble, have better interactions with your team as well as correctly identify if you yourself are being subjected to workplace bullying.