What is bullying?

Bullying is the deliberate, repeated and hurtful mistreatment of one person (the target) by a perpetrator (the bully) whose destructive actions are fueled by the bully’s need to control the target.

When you’re the target…

  • Stop listening to the bully. Ignore verbal assaults and focus on your positive skills and attributes.
  • Confront your fears. What are the self-doubts and “buttons” which are pushed by the bully’s behaviour? What do you tell yourself which gives power to the bully? What alternative positive, self-talk can you use to defuse the bully’s power?
  • Assert your rights. You have a right to respect and to be spoken to in a civil and appropriate manner, regardless of who you are and what your position in the organisation is. Tell the bully this and insist on your rights. Walk away if your rights are ignored.
  • Document the bully’s behaviour. When the bully uses his or her manipulative pressure tactics, document specifically what he or she says and does in clear, factual, non-emotive language. Note the date, time and names of anyone else present.
  • Learn about bullying behaviour. Knowledge is power. If you can learn more about what motivates bullies and what maintains their behaviour, you increase your options for response.
  • Use your friends, colleagues and family to give you support. Don’t just complain to these people, rather use them as sounding boards and get them to give you ideas. Brainstorm your options and build your confidence.
  • Take advantage of any avenues available to you within your organisation. Contact the Human Resources department and get advice on your rights. Most organisations have “Contact Officers” and “Grievance Officers”. These people are trained to support and advise you. Find out who you can speak with about the problem, rather than just let it go on.
  • Take advantage of resources available outside your organisation. If you’re a union member, contact your union. You’ve paid for their support and advice, so make use of it. Check to see if your organisation has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). This gives you free, confidential and private counselling, which you can use to determine your options and build up your personal resources.
  • Use the “Bullybusters” resources http://www.bullybusters.org.
  • Build your personal resilience with good stress management. Learn to calm yourself down and keep any negative self-talk under control.
  • Does your organisation have a grievance policy? Who’s the most appropriate person to approach regarding policy breaches? If you’re uncomfortable about approaching this person, consider who else you could speak with.
  • Challenge the culture of hostility which is being allowed to continue. Speak to colleagues and raise the issue at staff meetings. Write memos and put your concerns in writing to OH&S representatives.

When you’re a target’s colleague, friend or family member…

  • Listen to the person experiencing difficulties. Sometimes people just need someone to be a good “sounding board”. Often a good listener is more help than someone who just tells them what they should do.
  • Give support. Support can be practical assistance, or it may mean being prepared to give the person being bullied your time, even when you are busy yourself.
  • Be an encourager. People often have an idea about what they need to do, but fear taking action. Moral support is important.
  • Brainstorm alternatives. Bullying can lower a person’s self-esteem and block a person’s ability to think clearly. The decision about what to do about the problem lies with the person being bullied. However, options, suggestions and ideas can always be included in a problem-solving session, which helps to motivate some action.

When you’re asked to take a helping role (HR, manager or EAP)…

  • Don’t blame the victim. Listen to their concerns and respond appropriately. It’s part of your `duty of care’ to be involved.
  • Respond with compassion and empathy.
  • Be an advocate and assist the person.
  • Challenge the culture. Some people believe bullying and harassment of others is OK because they have always done it, or they have a position which gives them power. It may be your duty to point out the law and legislation that pertains to workplace bullying.