• Workplace bullying is an insidious form of harassment which can be verbal, psychological, social or physical and which often involves an abuse of power

• Workplace bullying can be highly traumatic for the individual victim, but also has a massive impact on workplace productivity and success

• EAP (Employee Assistance) Counselling can offer assistance to the victim as well as the bully, thereby promoting a healthier workplace for all

Workplace Bullying

There is a lot of information in the media about school-yard bullies and the impact of bullying on our kids and their emotional well-being. But workplace bullying is just as prevalent and just as significant. Indeed, a recent report prepared by Workcover NSW for the NSW Department of Premier & Cabinet suggests that approximately 40% of employees have experienced bullying behaviour or harassment in the workplace (“Independent Enquiry into Workplace Bullying & Harassment” Feb 2011). And the impact of workplace bullying includes emotional duress for the victim, low morale for the staff, and reduced productivity for the entire organisation.

So if you or one of your employees is experiencing bullying behaviour at work, you need to act now.

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What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace Bullying is most often a subtle form of harassment – it is insidious, undermining and unrelenting. Workplace bullying can include the following conduct:

– antagonistic or intimidating remarks or glances,
– the making of belittling comments in front of other staff,
– spreading gossip,
– failing to include you on an important email or meeting,
– failing to give accurate or important information to enable you to do your job properly,
– asking you to do useless jobs that aren’t part of your job description
– being excluded from social events at work,
– being treated with disrespect or rudeness,
– being otherwise side-lined,
– being yelled at or spoken to aggressively,
– ignoring your contributions
– physical aggression or physical threats

Workplace bullying can involve bullying behaviour which is verbal in nature, or it can be psychological, social or physical. Generally it is consistent and repeated, and involves an abuse of power.

How does workplace bullying affect the victim?

Being the victim of workplace bullying can have a traumatising effect. It can lead to all sorts of emotional repercussions such as high stress, depression and anxiety. It undoubtedly affects a person’s self-confidence and enjoyment of their work. It can also display in the form of physical symptoms such as headaches or insomnia.

All of these outcomes affects a person’s capacity to do their job, which in turns aids the bully in their task.

Often, workplace bullying causes a person to quit their job, but the repercussions don’t always end there. Severe workplace bullying is a traumatic experience that can leave a person feeling insecure, anxious, depressed and fearful of future jobs or working conditions. If you or someone you know has been the victim of workplace bullying, and they don’t seem to be coping in their work or personal lives, they may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Bullying is bad for business

Unsurprisingly, the negative effects of workplace bullying extend beyond the individual victim. In fact, it is well documented that workplace bullying is bad for business. In particular, workplace bullying can lead to:

1. loads of sick days (absenteeism)
2. reduced productivity (not just for the victim, but for surrounding staff members)
3. high staff turn-over
4. low staff morale
5. legal costs (e.g. for stress claims)

Indeed, the Australian Human Rights Commission suggests on their website that workplace bullying costs Australian employers between $6 – $36 billion dollars every year.

Where to get help?

If you or someone you know is the victim of workplace bullying, there are a number of steps you can take to get help.

1.    Make enquiries about your workplace’s policy and bullying and acquaint yourself with your organisation’s complaints policy.
2.     Keep a diary so you have a legal record of what is happening. If you take any action to stop the bullying behaviour, make sure you make a note of that as well.
3.    Lodge a formal complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Commonwealth FairWork Ombudsman.

EAP (Employee Assistance Counselling) for bullying in the workplace

If you are aware of workplace bullying occurring in your workplace, you can take action now to rescue your employees and your organisation from the negative impacts associated with workplace bullying. Working with a qualified psychologist or counsellor can help the victim, the bully and your entire workplace.

Associated Counsellors and Psychologists Sydney offers a professional EAP service which can provide your employees with:

–    access to emotional support in the face of workplace bullying
–    trauma counselling for bullying in the workplace
–    therapy for anxiety and stress
–    training to identify bullying behaviour in the workplace
–    anger management or anti-bullying counselling for the perpetrator

For more information about workplace bullying, you can visit the Workcover Authority of NSW website.

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