Taking control

Taking Control

What can I do if I am being bullied?

Bullying can take place within a number of relationships, manager/supervisor and employer, between staff members and can be either downwards directed from managers to employers or upwards directed from employers to managers.  If you think you are being bullied it is important to differentiate between a person exercising reasonable authority and a person who is undertaking bullying or abusive behaviour.  Remember feedback and counselling, which is constructive and appropriate is not considered bullying, as it is intended to improve behaviour and performance.  However, if the feedback is delivered in an inappropriate manner, then this may constitute bullying.

If you are being bullied you have a number of actions you can choose to take:

  • If there is threat of physical violence remove yourself from the situation and seek assistance from management or Human Resources (HR) representative
  • Speak with a colleague.  It is always a good idea to seek support and viewpoints from trusted colleagues, who may be within your work area or outside of it.
  • Choose to do nothing.  This may seem to be the easier option however it will not stop the issue.  However, sometimes this may feel like the best way to manage this situation.  Should you choose to do this option, it is still important that you document what occurred and seek support from family, friends or a colleague.
    “If I do nothing what might be the worst thing that happens?  If I do speak up what might be the worst thing that will happen?  Will they stop their behaviour?  I am moving to another area in a week so I will just put up with this now.”
  • Approach the person and ask that they stop the bullying behaviour.  You need to feel comfortable and safe to do this. Speak assertively and clearly ask for the behaviour to cease.  It is possible to access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which is a confidential external counselling service, to seek coaching in how to have this conversation with their colleague. Doctors’ Health SA can also provide support during this time.
  • Try using the DESC script as a prompt when speaking to the person.  Name the behaviours that you find offensive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening and ask that these behaviours stop.
  • Approach the person who is bullying you with a support person and speak with them requesting the bullying stop (see above for tips).  This may be union representation, colleague or a manager.
  • Report the incident/s on the Safety Learning System (SLS) reporting system.
  • Approach your manager or HR representative and report the incident
  • Approach the manager of the other person and report the incident

No matter what you choose to do, it is important that you document the incidents.  Do this in a paper based diary (an electronic diary can be changed or deleted) where you detail the dates, times and actions or language used during the incident.  Also include the names of others who may have witnessed these incidents.

Key Points:

  • Understand that what is happening is not acceptable
  • Seek support from colleagues, family and friends.  Being bullied or harassed is a very stressful time and you need support from others to manage.
  • Check that the behaviours you are experiencing are actually bullying (repeated and unreasonable), sexual harassment or discrimination.
  • Make diary notes; do this in a paper based diary with details of what is happening, when it is occurring (dates and times), names of any witnesses.
  • If confident and you feel able to speak assertively to the perpetrator, do so by naming the behaviour and ask that they stop the behaviour.  Utilise the DESC script.
  • Speak to other staff members or staff members, who may have left the area but have worked with the person, to see if they have experienced similar issues.  They may be able to provide you with ideas on how they managed or support you.
  • Avoid being alone with the person, this may be difficult in some circumstances.  However if the bullying continues then, with the support of management, avoid working alone with them
  • Contact the organisational psychologist or the EAP provider to get assistance to think through different options of taking action.  It is a good idea to think about what it is you want to gain from these people.  They will be able to support you emotionally and ensure that you are managing during this time. The EAP could also support you in speaking to the person undertaking the bullying.  You may like to role play how you will speak with the person with them.  They will also be able to provide you other suggestions and support.
  • Take appropriate action, this may include reporting the incident to a manager (their managers or yours), approaching the union, or any other person who may be able to assist you with the complaint (e.g. Director of Clinical Training, Director of Medical Services or Medical Education Officer).  Take your diary notes so you can clearly and confidently explain exactly what has occurred.  If you speak with the perpetrator ensure you speak assertively and be confident in your own judgement and ability.