Bullying

Bullying can range from mild teasing through to more serious abuse.

Although you may be aware at some level when you're being bullied, sometimes it’s hard to know if it’s real. When bullying is mild it can also be hard to describe to other people. On the other hand, bullying can be so threatening and physical that you're too fearful to talk about it or to take action.

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What is bullying?

Bullying is deliberate and repeated intimidating behaviour by one person, or a group of people, directed towards another. It's not a single event and isn't just physical. Bullies can be found at all ages, in all cultures, in the home, school and workplace, on sporting fields and on social networking sites, and at all levels from school girl to chief executive.

Bullying can come in many different forms:

  • verbal – teasing, name-calling, insults, and personal, sexist or racist remarks
  • psychological – making threats, nasty looks and gestures, and manipulating or stalking someone
  • social – spreading stories or rumours, playing tricks that are deliberately mean or humiliating for the victim or excluding them from a group
  • physical – pushing, tripping or hitting
  • cyber – using email, mobile phones, chat rooms and social networking to abuse, humiliate or threaten.

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What are the health impacts of bullying?

Bullying generally results in feelings of stress, which may make you:

  • anxious
  • unable to sleep
  • emotionally numb
  • tired or fatigued.

You may also have physical symptoms:

  • general aches and pains
  • headaches and migraines
  • sweating and palpitations
  • changed appetite
  • constant tiredness.

Psychological symptoms that are related to bullying include:

  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • thoughts of suicide
  • memory or concentration problems
  • tearfulness, irritability, angry outbursts, sullenness and mood swings.

Bullying can also affect your thoughts, behaviour and personality. You may feel shy or find it hard to make decisions, be motivated, or enjoy things that used to make you happy. You may feel fear, shame and/or embarrassment, all which might stop you telling anyone about what is happening.

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Workplace bullying

Unfortunately, bullying at work is common and can occur between co-workers, come from a manager or supervisor to an employee, or from an employee to a manager or supervisor. The most common form of workplace bullying is verbal abuse, although all forms of bullying occur. Examples include:

  • abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments
  • undue criticism
  • excluding from normal work activities, including discrimination on the grounds of gender, age or ethnicity
  • withholding information, supervision or resources that someone needs to do their job
  • overloading a person with work or not providing enough work
  • setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
  • changing work arrangements, such as rosters, leave, training or the location of a person’s office or desk, to the disadvantage of a worker or workers.

If you are bullied at work, be it cyber bulling or any other form, you should report this to your employer.

Victoria is the only state with laws against workplace and cyber bullying. Your employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees.

There are lots of resources on the internet in relation to workplace bullying. The Workplace Bullying page on the Australian Human Rights Commission website provides links to the relevant state authority, which you can contact if you’re experiencing workplace bullying. 

You can report bullying to your state or territory work health and safety authority. They will also be able to provide you with advice and help.

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Strategies to combat bullying

The best protection against bullying is to build up your emotional strength and social skills, both of which can be developed through self-awareness and good communication. A good strategy is to learn how to express what you think, how you feel and what you would like to happen. This is easier said than done, and you may need help from friends, relatives or a counsellor or therapist.

Developing a wide and supportive network will help to make you less vulnerable to teasing, bullying and harassment. It’s important to distinguish between friends who care about you and support you, and those who don't. Choose friends with whom you feel comfortable and avoid those who make you feel uneasy. This will also help you to protect your friends and other vulnerable people and to intervene assertively and respectfully when they are at risk of being bullied.

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Disclaimer

The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.

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