Workplace Bullying is something that each of us may have experienced at some point of time in our industry. It makes you feel incompetent, it's depressing and you feel worthless. No one should ever make you feel negative, especially at your work! Workplace Bullying is a serious risk to the emotional wellbeing and health of educators and it needs to be prevented and dealt with if it does occur. It's unfortunate but it still exists in early childhood settings!
What is Work Place Bullying?
Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a co-worker. It can be carried out in a variety of ways including through verbal or physical abuse, emails, sms, internet chat rooms and social media. Workplace bullying includes:
- behaving aggressively
- teasing, making fun of your work or you as a person (including your family, culture, background) etc.
- unreasonable work demands
- being put down openly and in front of others
- excluding you or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to your work
- playing mind games, ganging up on you, or other types of psychological harassment
- intimidation (making you feel less important and undervalued)
- giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job
- giving you impossible jobs that can't be done in the given time or with the resources provided
- deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to make it difficult for you
- deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly
- pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the workplace
What You Can Do If You Are Being Bullied At Work
- Make sure you're informed. Your center should have a bullying policy and complaints procedure. The policy should outline how the service will prevent and respond to workplace bullying.
- Keep a diary. Documenting everything that happens, including what you've done to try stopping it. This can help if you make a complaint.
- Get information and advice. If the bullying is serious, if the situation has not changed after complaining to your director or management, or if there is not anyone you can safely talk to at work you can get outside information and advice.
Approach The Bully
If you feel safe and confident, you can approach the person who is bullying you and tell them that their behaviour is unwanted and not acceptable. They may not realise the effect their behaviour is having on you and your feedback may give them an opportunity to change their behaviour.
If you want to deal with the situation personally:
- do it as soon as possible
- raise your concerns casually in a non-confrontational manner
- don’t engage in retaliatory behaviour
- focus on the unwanted behaviour and how it makes you feel rather than the person
- being open to feedback
Workplace bullying should always be reported. If you believe you are experiencing or witnessing workplace bullying, you should report it as early as possible. Your employer cannot address the problem if they do not know about it.
You can make a workplace bullying report verbally or in writing, including by:
- informing your director, assistant director or room leader
- informing management
- using other established reporting procedures
If your director is the person whose behaviour is concerning you, consider reporting their behaviour through other channels, for example through to management.
If the workplace bullying behaviour has not stopped, you may be able to make a complaint to an external body such as the Fair Work Commission.
How Your Service Should Help
If you inform your service that you are experiencing workplace bullying, or someone has made a report against you, your workplace should:
- respond to the bullying report quickly and reasonably in accordance with the policies and procedures at your service
- treat all reports seriously
- inform you of the process of how the matter will be dealt with and estimated timeframes
- keep you informed of progress and explain reasons for delays
- advise you of the name and details of a contact person
- maintain confidentiality
- allow all parties to explain their version of events
- remain neutral and impartial towards everyone involved
- advise you of support options available to you, such as counselling
- allow you to have a support person present at interviews and meetings, for example a friend
- keep records, for example of the bullying report, conversations, meetings and interviews
- attempt to resolve the matter, and
- communicate to you the outcome of actions taken and the reasons for decisions made and any right of review if the parties are not satisfied with the outcome.
If the matter is resolved, your service should follow-up with you at a later date to check on your health and safety and review whether the actions taken have been effective. Your workplace may also provide you with ongoing support or advise you of external support services, such as an employee assistance program.
If your workplace decides that a report should be investigated further, it should inform you of the further investigation process. The investigator should be a suitably skilled, neutral person from within the workplace or an external investigator.
What To Do If You Are Accused Of Workplace Bullying
Being accused of bullying behaviour can be upsetting and come as a shock but it is important to be open to feedback from others, and if necessary, be prepared to change your behaviour. Keep the following points in mind:
- Give the complaint serious consideration
- If someone approaches you about your behaviour, try to remain calm and avoid aggravating what is likely to be an already difficult situation.
- Listen carefully to the particular concerns expressed. Discuss how you might work together more effectively.
- The other person is more likely to share their views with you if you choose a neutral space and ask open questions without attempting to justify your behaviour. Even so, the other person may not be comfortable speaking to you.
Seek an Objective Opinion About The Behaviour
If you do not understand the complaint or would like a second opinion about your behaviour, discuss the matter with someone you trust. This might be your manager, or a counsellor engaged through your organisation's employee assistance program. Any discussion should be strictly confidential. It is important not to unintentionally escalate the situation by discussing the issue openly.
If you believe you are being unjustly accused, or the complaint is malicious, you should discuss this with your director or management. It may be that an informal discussion between you, the person making the allegation and a third party will solve the problem.
Adjust Unresonable Behaviour
If you have been made aware that your behaviour is considered unreasonable, stop or modify the behaviour and review what you are doing.
If, after careful consideration, you believe that your behaviour is reasonable management action, you should discuss this with your supervisor, manager, or a human resources officer. Even in those circumstances, it may be possible to modify future management action to minimise the risk that others might find it unreasonable.
If you are found to have continued to bully someone after their objection to your bullying behaviour was made known to you, your persistence, or the fact that you have not modified your behaviour, is likely to be taken into account in disciplinary or other proceedings.
Where To Go For Help?
If you have not being able to resolve the bullying within your serive, there are a number of agencies and organisations that may be able to offer further advice and assistance. You can contact your Work Health and Safety Regulators In your state/territoty.
You can also contact Fair Work Comission for an order to stop the workplace bullying,they will assist you to identify if you are eligible to apply for an order.
The Fair Work Commission’s anti-bullying jurisdiction is limited to preventing the worker from being bullied at work. The Fair Work Commission cannot issue fines or penalties and cannot award financial compensation. The focus is on resolving the matter and enabling normal working relationships to resume.
The Fair Work Commission will make an order if satisfied the worker has been bullied at work by an individual or a group of individuals and there is a risk the worker will continue to be bullied at work. The Fair Work Commission will take into account:
- internal procedures available to resolve grievances and disputes at the workers’ workplace
- final or interim outcomes arising from an investigation carried out by the worker’s employer or other body, and
- any other matters the Fair Work Commission considers relevant.
Orders could be based on behaviour such as threats made outside the workplace, if those threats result in the worker being bullied at work, for example threats made by email or telephone.
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
It's so important to remember that we work in an industry where we need to work together in a team to provide high quality care and learning to children. All educators come from different cultures, different values and different upbringings and at times we may get too comfortable in our surroundings and become insensitive to those around us. What may be friendly banter to you could really be affecting a co-worker. Please take into consideration the educators around you and be aware of your body language, the tone you use, the words you use because you could end up being the bully!
- Dealing With Workplace Bullying – Safe Work Australia (2016)
- Workplace bullying: Violence, Harassment and Bullying Fact Sheet – Australian Human Right Commission (2011)
- Workplace Bullying – Reach out