Bullying at work is often worse than the playground
If we look under the rug of workplaces, we might see a mountain of things swept underneath, one of which might be a crumpled list of offending employees.
No, not for stealing the office stationery, but far something far more severe and far less dealt with.
Workplace bullying is a new crime that rarely sees justice. Few workplaces care about it. You couldn’t cut through the apathy with a saw.
In Victoria the punishment for this crime has now been legislated as part of the new Victorian Crimes Act that will see bullies face a 10-year long jail term if convicted. Unfortunately it was the suicide of bully victim Brodie Panlock that got the ball rolling.
Author of “Bullying in the Workplace: An Occupational Hazard” and a bully victim herself, Sheila Freeman hopes Brodie’s Law goes Australia wide.
She says “Amazingly the victim has more to lose by reporting it. Fear of losing their job, their career if things get out, and the bully always seems to convince their managers they are blame-free or the victim was ‘too sensitive’.”
Imagine this scenario at your workplace – you have a nice enough job, an office even, a photo of your family on your desk. But your manager decides to stop giving you work, even snidely criticising you in front of others. You brush it aside, thinking you are overreacting. But it continues.
Or, you might be busy tapping on your computer and your manager starts intimidating you with orders. The tone is unmistakably rude. And it is frequent.
Or, you might even like your bright yellow jumper but your peers keeps laughing at you about it. This happens everyday.
Or worse you could be defending a fellow worker who is being bullied and cops a serve of bully yourself. You even get fired for it.
Such is the case of Flight Centre. So vehement is the lawyer, Josh Bornstein of Maurice Blackburn in defending the victim that he says this, “Our client blew the whistle on extreme bullying at Flight Centre and as a result, was victimised, demoted and ultimately lost his career with the company. It is wrong.
“Flight Centre has won awards for being an excellent employer, yet it has tried to sweep this under the rug and then turning on those who try to expose it. This case underlines the need for National Workplace Bullying laws.
“The form that bullying takes is only limited by the human imagination. Bullying is toxic to health and career. It comes at a huge economic and social cost. It needs to end.”
The hypocrisy of it all is that bully cases are usually big corporates with the usual “model employer” banner on their website. Clearly, there is so much you can hide not just under the rug but in office archives and the labyrinth of hierarchies.
Statements like ‘’ the company takes bullying allegations seriously” and “an investigation is underway” are just the usual PR smokescreen you will hear.
The reality is investigations don’t “end” which reflects an organisation’s reluctance to admit to guilt for fear of a bad rep. Seriously, a bad rep will come when the problem is ignored instead. Workplace bullying isn’t just about typical schoolyard I-pull-you-hair-and-steal-your-lunch behaviours. Above all, bullying is about power.
No, bullying doesn’t even have to be physical or tangible. It is usually psychological warfare which includes degradation, emotional blackmailing, constant criticism, neurotic hot-and-cold attitudes and the more obvious aggressive and abrasive body language.
So where to now? The case for a national anti bullying legislation is currently being considered, and the following points ought to looked at:
- One, that workplaces get training. How can you stop bullying when you don’t know what it is?
- Secondly, there should be a severe enough punishment for bullies otherwise it’s just so easy to use that rug again.
- And thirdly, there should be reasonable protections for victims so they do come forward and get help. Obviously, the case for vexatious claims is also valid here.
But that is “staying hopeful”, Freeman says. Such perfection may not exist. And until national rules appear, remember, a poor work environment is going to cost you more in productivity than the two cents you are trying to save from education and management.
So have a look under the rug, do a spring clean and the right thing. Stop bullying.
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