Like many others, our hearts shattered seeing the impact bullying has had on Brisbane boy, Quaden Bayles, after his mother (Yarraka Bayles) posted a heartbreaking video online last week, sending a shockwave across the world.
What made this particularly hard to watch is the knowledge that bullying doesn’t stop after school. Every day countless bullying, work-related mental stress, discrimination and harassment claims are made in workplaces across Australia, with statistics showing nearly half of Australian employee’s experience workplace bullying during their lives.
The effects of bullying are dire, with victims suffering a range of mental health issues and reduced quality of life, which in turn inflicts significant financial and social costs for workers, their families, their organisation and the wider community. Witnesses of workplace bullying also experience poorer mental and physical health because of the negative effect bullying has on the workplace and experience greater levels of distrust, especially where bullying is not adequately dealt with by their organisation.
Business Owners, Board Members, Leaders and Colleagues alike, need to accept that Australia is experiencing a Bullying epidemic.
Safe Work Australia confirms:
- 39% of mental disorder claims are caused by harassment, bullying or exposure to violence in the workplace
- 15% of mental stress claims are a result from exposure to occupational violence
- 1 in 3 women who claim for a mental disorder involved harassment or bullying
- 1 in 5 men who claim for a mental disorder involved harassment or bullying
- 37% of workers report being sworn or yelled at in the workplace
- 22% of workers report being physically assaulted or threatened by patients or clients
There is a perception that bullying comes about due to an individual or interpersonal issue, however Beyond Blue research confirms broader factors such as poor organisation culture and a lack of leadership are in fact the main drivers. Dr Grant Blashki, a lead clinical advisor at Beyond Blue, explains mentally safe workplaces have the following four key elements:
- A positive workplace culture — “Somewhere that people feel good about coming to work and everyone feels really encouraged and supported.”
- Reasonable stress levels — “That means not having unrealistic deadlines, job uncertainty, poor communication, poor boundaries between work and time off.”
- Supporting people with mental health issues — “We know that about one in four people will experience anxiety, one in six will experience depression.”
- Zero tolerance for discrimination — “Not uncommonly people with mental health issues have had problems with bullying or being poorly treated in their workplace.”
We all have a part to play in being an active, positive contributor to eradicating bullying, whether that be bystander intervention, educating or leading your teams to a higher standard of behaviour and proactively changing organisational culture. We cannot ignore the bullying crisis or expect someone else to step in and fix it. We each need to be that change.
What will you do to stomp out bullying?
Thank you Yarraka and Quaden for shining a light on bullying and lighting a fire in the belly of the world with your Call-To-Action on bullying. #WeStandWithQuaden.
If you are an employer or a worker and want to find tips about managing mental health in the workplace, go to the Heads Up website. Or, if you or anyone you know is suffering from a mental health issue, please contact:
- Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 for crisis support and suicide prevention
- Beyond Blue Support Service: 1300 22 4636 if you’ve experienced bullying and it is affecting your mental health
- Magee, C., et al. (2014) Workplace Bullying in Australia. Melbourne: Beyond Blue. Link to report.
- Safe Work Australia. (2020, 15 January). Infographic: Workplace bullying and violence. Retrieved from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/infographic-workplace-bullying-and-violence#picModal