Bullying prevention

Introduction

Some information on this web page is sourced from the WorkSafe Publication 'Preventing and addressing bullying at work' - Edition 2 - February 2009.

The University is committed to providing and maintaining a healthy and safe environment for all its employees and students. Bullying and violence is totally unacceptable at the University, and all students, staff members and other members of the University are expected to treat each other with respect.

Preventing Bullying and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)

The University has a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of staff members.

Staff members have a duty to take care of their own health and safety and the health and safety of others. Staff members also have a duty to co-operate with action the University takes to comply with OHS laws.

Risk, Health and Safety has developed Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Control for the Prevention of Workplace Bullying guidelines (docx, 70kb) to assist staff members, managers or supervisors in identifying signs of or potential causes for bullying behaviour.

For further information on using these guidelines please contact Manager, Risk, Health and Safety.

Definitions

Bullying is defined by WorkSafe Victoria as 'repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards and employee of a group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety'.

There are various types of behaviours that may be considered bullying. Please refer to case studies (pdf, 25kb) for examples.

Direct bullying

Examples of direct bullying can include:

  • Verbal abuse, which may include shouting or throwing things
  • Humiliation of another person through sarcasm, criticism, insults or belittling remarks
  • Spreading rumours or innuendo about someone, and
  • Interfering with another person's work space, materials and equipment - apart from that which is necessary for the ongoing work of the business unit.

Indirect bullying

Examples of indirect bullying can include:

  • Excluding or isolating a person - this may include not notifying the staff member/student of meetings, opportunities, ignoring staff at meetings, deliberately omitting or not acknowledging staff member's/student's ideas, contributions or opinions
  • Inappropriate or unreasonable blocking of promotion, training, development or other work opportunities
  • Unreasonable, persistent criticism which is not part of a managing performance process, including nit-picking and fault-finding without justification
  • Assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job or area of study/research; and
  • Giving unreasonable or unachievable tasks, assignments or timelines.

Other forms of bullying

Bullying behaviour can also occur via email, text message, instant messaging and cyber-bullying.

Single incidents

Bullying, as defined by WorkSafe Victoria involves repeated behaviours. A single incident may not constitute bullying by definition but can still create a risk to the health and safety of staff members. The University is required to provide a safe working environment therefore single incidents of unreasonable behaviour will not be condoned or tolerated.

Workplace violence

Workplace violence, as defined by WorkSafe Victoria, is any incident where an employee is physically attacked or threatened in the workplace.

Examples of violence can include:

  • Striking, scratching, biting, spitting or any other type of direct physical contact
  • Attacking with any type of weapon
  • Pushing, shoving, tripping or grabbing
  • Any form of indecent physical contact
  • Sexual assault and rape
  • Stalking
  • Intimidation, including blocking a person's exit or unexplained rages directed at a person, and
  • Threats of the above.

How can bullying occur?

Bullying can be directed in a range of ways - from supervisors/managers to employees (or lecturers to students), between employees (or students), or from employees to supervisors/managers (or student to lecturer).

Bullying can be directed at a single person or a group of people. It can also be carried out by a single person or by a group of people.

What isn't bullying?

A supervisor/manager has a right to make reasonable management decisions or take reasonable actions in managing their staff.

As long as discussions are accurate, constructive and courteous, and consider, as so far as possible, the health and safety of the staff member, then these actions are not considered to be bullying.

Examples of reasonable actions may include:

  • Instructions, discussions, directions or actions
  • Setting of performance goals, standards and deadlines, and the subsequent performance management process
  • Allocation of work
  • Informing a staff member about unsatisfactory work performance or inappropriate behaviour
  • Implementing organisational change
  • Constructive feedback, and
  • Discussions regarding allegations of misconduct or serious misconduct

Similarly, differences of opinion, disagreements and working relationship issues are part of working life and generally do not constitute bullying.

Training

The University provides training for all staff members on identifying and eliminating bullying from the workplace.

All new and existing staff members will be given the option to undertake e-learning awareness training or participate in face-to-face awareness sessions.

To enrol in the e-learning awareness training or to register to participate in a facilitator-led workshop, please contact Kelley Jones via prevent.bullying@federation.edu.au

If you believe you may have been bullied

  • Keep a diary on incidents of alleged bullying - record incidents in as much detail as possible.
    Remember, bullying behaviours must be repetitive in nature. By keeping diary notes a pattern of behaviour may be established.
  • Make notes of the date and time and content of the incident, if there were any witnesses, etc.
  • Avoid being alone with the bully if possible.
  • Seek advice or support from:
    • Manager/supervisor
    • Head of School or Section (where appropriate)
    • Director, Human Resources
    • University's Grievance Officer; or
    • University's Employee Assistance Program.
  • Read the Bullying Prevention and Management Policy and Procedure
  • Keep copies of any relevant written forms of communication received (eg. letters, memos, emails and faxes).

What should I do if I have been a victim of violence or have been threatened with violence or witnessed violence the workplace?

Report what happened immediately to your manager/supervisor and make sure an incident report is filed with Risk, Health and Safety.

If your manager/supervisor is not available then seek assistance from either a first aid officer or health and safety representative.

If you have sustained an injury as a result of the incident, see a doctor and, if necessary report the incident to police.

Employees should also report any threats to their manager/supervisor and complete a Hazard/Near-Miss Report (pdf, 27kb).

Bullying Prevention and Management Policy and Procedure

The University has a clear policy and procedure for the handling of any complaints of bullying and violence.

Useful links