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Angry glares can constitute bullying: FWC

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HC Online | 15 Jul 2016, 09:30 AM Agree 0
The Fair Work Commission has ruled that a Melbourne principal bullied one of her senior teachers through “repeated unreasonable behaviour”
  • Bernie Althofer | 18 Jul 2016, 12:54 PM Agree 0
    One of the difficulties that face targets who believe they have been subjected to bullying behaviours is getting others to believe them, particularly when there is a lack of witnesses, a lack of documentation, or when a decision maker (either internally or externally) does not see the behaviour as other than an isolated incident, or simply a person being 'upset'.

    Many people in workplaces would like to believe that they can do to work, be treated with respect and dignity and that if a problem were to occur, they would be able to resolve the matter through communication. However, as the past couple of years have seen, this is not always possible.

    Whilst organisations do have policies and procedures designed to assist those involved in a workplace bullying incidents, sometimes the lack of supporting documentation makes it more difficult to resolve. Some people do not like giving or receiving feedback about performance, about how they react in workplace or how they treat other people.

    How then does an individual seek to resolve a situation when some might say a single incident is not bullying, and others might not see several isolated incidents as being connected, and hence an independent umpire may make a decision that does not fit in with the target's belief?

    By the time there is a realisation that some incidents are actually connected, a period of time may have lasped since the first incident to the most recent. Compounding the issue is that because the target did not raise concerns when the first incident was identified, there may a somewhat dismissive approach e.g. 'it couldn't have been too serious if you didn't report it'. An isolated incident may appear as just that, but when a series of seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected behaviours are connected, a pattern emerges. Targets may be critised for not reporting an incident when it occurs. However, for some despite seeing or hearing what has been directed towards them, there may be a tendency to 'look in disbelief', until the second, third or more incidents occur.

    Every incident needs to be judged on its merits. However, documenting what has happened, when it happened, who was involved and perhaps even action taken might help to identify patterns of behaviours. Targets may be themselves to further abuses for not reporting the matter when they first experience and even keeping a record that shows a lack of action for not reporting may add to this abuse. However, if a pattern of behaviour is identified, and it is shown that the target did not repeat even repeated incidents (even seemingly unrelated), it might be that the work environment or culture is such that reporting will only bring more threats, intimidation or harassment.

    There seems to be a continual discussion about bullying and how it is continuing to be part of some organisations. As more and more decisions are made through Courts, Commissions and Tribunals, it is increasing important to encourage and support those experience bullying so the practice can be eliminated.
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