Same question, two similar groups, extreme results.

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The Question

“What does workplace bullying look like to you?”

I asked this question via two online forums. The first of which was a more formal platform, with a large but select audience, where primarily, I know most of the individuals personally.

Given the various ways that workplace bullying can show up, I assumed that many people would have a thought or two to share, irrespective of their personal experience or involvement with this topic.

How many responses do you think I received? Not one.

I knew this to be a topic people feel strongly about, so I tried a different platform. This time a more informal one where I knew none of the audience personally.

Whilst I wouldn’t say this question ‘broke the internet’, what I would say was that responses were flooding it, not just directly on the platform, but also from people choosing to message me privately.

My expectations were of literal responses – verbs such as “yelling”, “excluding”, belittling” etc. However I received numerous personal, detailed and emotional stories.

Responses
Here are just some of the responses I received to the question “What does workplace bullying look like to you?” Withholding feedback, sexual harassment, withholding support, undermining, false accusations, physical and verbal abuse, manipulation, gossiping, body language, (eye rolling, facial expressions), passive aggression, voice tone, gas lighting, shouting, taunting, intimidation, direct threats, indirect threats and exclusion.

Many individual responses contained a cocktail of these poisons. Such is the case in my own unfortunate experience with workplace bullying.

After Effectsone-against-all
Some of these brave individuals then went on to tell me how it has affected them: anxiety, stress, depression, constant fear of authority, insomnia, extreme weight-gain, extreme weight-loss, low confidence, job resignations and panic attacks.

Corporate Cost of Bullying
Workplace bullying loses Australian businesses up to $36bn per year.

In addition is the lost productivity, increased absenteeism, poor morale, low engagement, high staff attrition and excessive time taken to manage, investigate and report on these matters. On average, claimants miss 8 weeks of work whilst dealing with and working through bullying issues.

Since 2002, workplace bullying reports have increased 65%, as have the rates of adult anxiety, depression and suicide related to bullying.

Bullying Must Stop
I am a huge advocate of the phrase “silence is enabling”. It just takes one person to make a stand. We have to start somewhere.

Let’s make a conscious decision to put ourselves first when it comes to bullying behaviour. Above the big-bad-boss and above the job. Let’s try and do something, if we can’t solve everything.

Who’s with me?

What Can We Do?
Here are 4 tips to start the process of being Bold when it comes to workplace bullying:

1. Call out the behaviour the very first time you experience it.
Yes, I know. This can be difficult and there might be a lot at stake. But you are worth it. If it’s an eye-roll, a snide comment or something subtle (which is where it usually begins), name the behaviour in a curious but confident way. Here is some dialogue to try (face-to-face, not over email):

“I noticed when I left early yesterday you didn’t seem impressed. I just wanted to talk that through with you please”


“In our meeting just now/yesterday/last week, it seemed as though you were disappointed with my comment in relation to xyz …do I have that right?


Your decision to act early has the possibility to send a subtle message of “don’t mess with me, I’m onto you”… and it may never eventuate into anything further.

2. Record the behaviour
Keep a diary of dates, times, places, witnesses and any other relevant details

3. Tell someone
If you don’t feel brave enough to speak directly to the bully or HR, tell a trusted colleague. A problem shared is a problem halved. Telling someone is better than telling no one. Don’t allow the silence to win.

4. Seek professional advice
You are not alone.
There is professional assistance available through your company Human Resources department or external agencies such as employment lawyers, Safe Work Australia, Lifeline and various other organisations which exist to help.

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