In schools, children are taught to "just say no" to bullies.
Walk away and ignore them because if a bully doesn't get attention,
This attitude sets a dangerous precedent for the workplace, where
the bullying may involve a power imbalance and ignoring it may only
make it seem acceptable, or allow it to escalate to the point where
stress leave on this ground is prevalent. It's alright to say
"sticks and stones", but when it's making your job harder, it's
just as okay to find a way to speak up.
Medium to large sized workplaces now have a bullying and
harassment policy, which is usually available in procedure manuals
or the workplace intranet. It will usually give a brief
definition of bullying and an outline of the internal complaint
process. It is a good first place to look for your options,
even if you end up deciding to go elsewhere. Some questions
you might ask yourself when looking at the policy are:
- Who will I be making my complaint to?
- What will happen once I've made my complaint?
- What can I do if I am not happy with the outcome?
A good policy will make these things clear. For example, a
good policy will have a designated complaints officer and have
clearly explained processes, including how to appeal an initial
decision. There may also be counselling services available,
or someone you can talk to without lodging a formal
If you choose to go through the complaints process and the
bullying doesn't stop, you might be able to lodge a complaint with
the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC). The EOC requires that
you be victimised, or treated differently, to be able to
complain. For example, you could be being excluded from social
activities, or be "sent to Coventry" (where people do not speak to
you or exclude you from general conversations) or being further
Another option is a General Protections claim with Fair Work
Australia. If you suffer in your job, for example, by being
excluded from training, or subjected to unjustified performance
management, you may be able to argue that your employer has taken
adverse action against you because you made a
complaint. This extra qualification may be a bit difficult to
show in some cases so it's important you seek suitable and
Alternately, if you feel the bullying is discriminatory,
such as being based on your race or gender, you can make a
complaint with the EOC or the Australian Human Rights
Commission. Which forum is right for you depends on your
situation as they differ slightly in their jurisdiction and
processes. Both will usually begin with a conciliation process in
an attempt to find a solution before referring your claim for a
hearing. You don't need to have already complained through
work (internal process) to lodge an external complaint on these
It is important to remember that you are not alone if you are
facing a bully at work. There are other people in your
situation, and there are people who can help you deal with
it. If you ask for help, or make a complaint, you've taken
the first step to reducing the bully's power over you.
It's not a crystal clear area of law. It can be confusing
and complex. But we urge you not to let bullying and harassment be
a part of your work environment for these reasons. If you need to
clarify where you might stand in relation to workplace bullying,
get in touch with today's blog writer, Senior Associate at Andersons
Solicitors, Sorna Nachiappan.
Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia.
It relates to South Australian State legislation and Australian