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  • Writer's pictureCraig Sam

Being Bullied? What now?

What is bullying? We hear the word so often that it has become part of the lexicon and everyone from teachers to politicians are concerned with bullying and its effects.

In the Commonwealth, Workplace Bullying is defined as;

“repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. ‘Repeated behaviour’ refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can refer to a range of behaviours over time. ‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard for the circumstances, would see as victimising, humiliating, undermining or threatening.” [1]

Bullying is often used to describe behaviour a worker is not happy with, an emotional reaction to workplace stress or a reasonable management action, such as performance management. Before making a complaint, it is important to ascertain whether you are being bullied or your feelings are a reaction to a reasonable management action.

If you are being bullied you may experience feelings of helplessness, being overwhelmed, sadness or anger. All of these are normal.

If you are being bullied, you have a number of options. You can;

  • Do nothing

  • See a Doctor or Counsellor

  • Make a formal complaint your Manager or HR Manager; or

  • Make a formal complaint to an external party, such as FairWork.

If you decide to make a complaint, (or even if you don’t) you should do the following:

Take notes – time, date, place, who was there, what was said. This should be done as soon as practicable after the incident. If you have no capacity to take written notes, use the recording function on your phone and orally record what was said.

Then, speak to your Manager. Take notes again about who was there and what was said. You may consider taking a support person with you. Tell your Manager what has happened and that you will be making a formal written complaint. A formal, written complaint means it cannot be ignored.

If you complain do not be satisfied with comments such as “It’s your word against theirs.” Or “I need more than one complaint before I can do anything about this.” These type of responses are inappropriate. A complaint, whether formal or informal should be addressed and escalated if warranted.

If you are not comfortable with speaking to your Manager, or if the bully is your Manager, you should go to your Human Resources Manager. If your organisation has a Complaints Section, then you should go there.

A complaint may be resolved informally, however the more serious a complaint, the more important the escalation. Therefore  a complaint about serious bullying should always be investigated.

Your written complaint should contain the following:

When, where, time, date, who was there, what was done/said, how it made you feel and what outcome you would like.

Once the process has started, the person appointed to investigate your matter MUST be qualified to investigate the matter and most importantly, unbiased. You will be asked to recount your complaint and this should be orally recorded or put into a statement form. You will be asked if there were any witnesses. You should give the names of the witnesses – but do not talk to them about the matter. You want their evidence to be untainted and unbiased.

You have the right to have a Support Person with you. Your Support Person must not be involved in the investigation at all. If you elect to have a legal representative with you, they can only act in the capacity of Support Person, not as an advocate.

You will not be told in detail about the outcome of the investigation, however you should be told in general terms.


  1. Write things down.

  2. Complaints must be acted upon.

  3. It is not your fault.

Jo Kamira is the CoPrincipal of Capital Workplace Investigations

[1] Safework Australia Draft Code of Practice.

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