I recently delivered some training on workplace bullying, harassment and mental health. It is a sad fact that, while organisations big and small proudly claim that it is not tolerated, bullying is alive and well in all walks and stages of life.
It got me thinking about times I have been the unfortunate recipient of bullying and harassment. I suppose lots of people have and everyone reacts differently. As someone who is not fond of confrontation, I may be what is called a prime target, a victim. I’ve been told I should be stronger, stand up for myself, and don’t let them do that … Ah yes of course … it must be my fault …
At high school I guess I didn’t fit the mould and my extra curvaceousness was not seen as cute and cuddly but as a deterrent and definitely not something anyone wanted to be associated with. The rule of thumb then was to toughen up, stand up to them, ignore them and definitely don’t get any adults involved – after all “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
Yes, well there is pain beyond the physical.
One of my first jobs was working with young people with intellectual disabilities. It was interesting, rewarding and I was so happy to be a part of something so worthwhile. My boss made me sit on his lap every so often … apparently here my curves were okay. So what to do? Say something to him? What? Report him? To who?
I left. At the time I felt I had no other choice … at the time I didn’t …
Lately there has been a lot in the media around workplace bullying and harassment. It is clear that there is a demand for something to be done and many organisations are working on improving their workplace culture, but I feel there is still a long way to go.
You can still hear the ‘toughen up’ camp:
“People shouldn’t be so sensitive!”
“You can’t say anything anymore!”
“Aww, it was just a bit of fun …”
“It’s all part of the initiation, part of the job …”
There is still a school of thought that it is up to the ‘victim’ to deal with it, but while some responsibility lies there, does it all rest there?
We have a tendency to rely upon people to protect themselves … don’t walk in the dark, lock up your house, stranger danger, don’t trust anyone, passwords, drive with your doors locked, wear the right clothes, say the right things, conform to the norm … but what is the role of others?
Organisations are working on policies and procedures which are integral in helping to reduce the risks associated with bullying and harassment, but that alone will not build a safe and healthy culture.
It is up to all of us to get involved in order to reduce the risks, lessen the occurrence and minimise the impact.
It is up to all of us to speak up about acts of bullying and harassment.
It is up to all of us to support our workmates and look after ourselves.
It is up to all of us to remember that bullying and harassment is never okay.
For help and advice:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14, www.lifeline.org.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, www.beyondblue.org.au
- Safe Work Australia – www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
Contact us at http://mentalstrides.com.au or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about our mental health workshop on harassment and bullying in the workplace. This half-day workshop provides participants with the skills and knowledge to recognise workplace bullying and take action to address it.
About the Author
Engel Prendergast is a Mental Health Consultant, working with organisations and groups to build a culture that supports good mental health.
Engel is an accredited Mental Health First Aid and safeTALK Instructor, and Lifeline Crisis Supporter and Mentor. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Health Promotion), Diploma of Counselling, and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
With natural compassion, a determination to help others and extensive experience in training and facilitation, Engel provides an environment that fosters learning and ownership.