As many of you know here at the YWRC, we hear stories all the time about dodgy employers not offering contracts, or corporations using contract loopholes to get away with lesser conditions than workers are entitled to; but lately the issue that has become the most prevalent is workplace bullying.

Because it’s such a personal issue, and because it often leaves a person feeling stressed, depressed, and under-supported the usual course of action is to quit that job. More often than not this results in long term financial hardship, and loss of confidence in succeeding at a new job.

Most bullies have been bullying for a long time. – These bullies are most likely so effective in their bullying that they’re able to reduce a person to quitting their job before a complaint process is ever seen through.

On that note, an employer can’t start an investigation unless they have a good reason to do so, and if they have someone who’s willing to go on record as a complainant. Once they do, most companies know that they have a legal obligation to look into the issue, and sort it out as a matter of health and safety.

So we’ve prepared a few tips to successfully dealing with bullying within a workplace.

  1. Know the difference between a bully and someone who is having a bad day.
    Try not to jump to conclusions; communicate with the person and try get to the bottom of things yourself.
  2. Once you have identified bullying as an ongoing issue, talk to the bully about their behaviour.
    Some people don’t know how you’re feeling unless you tell them. You’ll also find that your employment agreement requires you to communicate with the bully in question yourself before taking any further steps.
  3. If you can’t solve the issue yourself, talk to someone else who can.
    This will usually be a manager, supervisor, business owner, or HR department. You can talk to them confidentially about your issues and what steps you have taken so far to resolve them. – They will also want to know a timeline of dates and events to assist in their investigation.
  4. Work with your supervisor to resolve the issue.
    This can be difficult when you’re feeling emotionally strained, but it’s really important to be honest, and open to solutions that may include still having to work with the bully in question, or including them in further discussion. It’s unrealistic to think that your boss will move the bully from your department just because you want them to.
  5. Be patient.
    Things like investigations of misconduct can take some time depending on who is involved and how easy they are to communicate with. Follow up regularly, but take it in your stride when things don’t move as quickly as you want them to.
  6. Stay away from the bully.
    Just keep right out of their way. Don’t talk to them unless you have to for work. Don’t talk about them, unless required for the investigation. Don’t antagonise the situation further, which can complicate the investigation process. 
  7. Official complaint to the Employment Relations Authority.
    You can only undertake a personal grievance (the name for an official complaint to the ERA) once you have completed all of the above steps AND your employer hasn’t taken appropriate steps to reduce harm caused by the bullying. If your boss is playing ball, and doing everything they can to help, your best bet is to stay in communication with them on the issue. Basically COMMUNICATION IS KEY.

Until you really need outside assistance, our main course of action is to help you in helping yourself.

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