Mental health in the workplace is something that should be taken seriously. Certainly more seriously than what it often is. There are many industry sectors who seem to believe that aggression, intimidation and blatant verbal abuse are all ‘part of the job’ and that people should learn to just ‘suck it up’. The reality is often different with long-term exposure to these types of environments potentially eroding someone’s self-worth and their belief that they’re capable of even doing the job successfully.
In short, if you have someone standing over you, screaming that something is not good enough for long enough, you’re going to start to believe that you, too, are just not good enough.
Friends, this is just not good enough.
The old saying of ‘if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem’ is, sadly, very true here.
It is such a shame that I find myself writing lines like, ‘I think many of us can say that we’ve all found ourselves in a job at one point or another with a manager or business owner who felt that intimidation and aggression was an acceptable way to “manage” their staff.’ It is estimated that half of all Australian employees will experience workplace bullying during their careers (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-09/half-all-australians-experience-workplace-bullying-survey-finds/7916230). The fact that so many of us have experienced that kind of environment only reinforces my original point that the mental health of staff is often not taken seriously enough.
How does it happen?
For a moment, let’s step away from the concept of people being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and look at it more from the perspective of how people cope. We live in a world where people climb the corporate ladder and often, the higher they go, the more responsibility there is. With that responsibility comes additional stress and anxiety. Managing other people. Managing timelines and deadlines. Managing direct managers who might constantly complain that things are ‘just not good enough’.
We all have a friend who just doesn’t seem to handle situations well and who always has a drama. It doesn’t mean we don’t like them, we just know that they’re not very good at creating strategies to cope with these situations. Often it will result in them become stressed, incapable of thinking properly, and potentially even rage and blame.
As people are promoted, rarely are they given training around how to deal with the added pressure of their new responsibilities. As a result, often people continue to climb until they reach their breaking point. This isn’t healthy for them or for the people directly under them, nor is it healthy for the business. Last year, it was estimated that the cost of mental health on business was around $200 billion dollars (http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-wellbeing-cost-of-mental-health-hits-200-billion-20160909-grcxxl.html); you would think that would be enough to make businesses stand up and take notice, yes?
What defines bullying in the workplace?
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/bullying-and-harassment), workplace bullying is when a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers or when the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.
Unreasonable behaviour includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening. Whether a behaviour is unreasonable can depend on whether a reasonable person might see the behaviour as unreasonable in the circumstances.
Examples of bullying include:
teasing or practical jokes
pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
excluding someone from work-related events or
unreasonable work demands.
What should you do if you are being bullied?
If you believe that you’re being bullied, then you need to take immediate steps to ensure that you protect your mental health.
Jot down any comments or incidents into your diary, complete with who said what and the time that it occurred. Make note of any people who witnessed the event. Also, document what actions you’ve taken to stop the behaviour.
Go and see your doctor. Let them know your situation and check to ensure that you’re handling the stress of the situation appropriately.
Speak to your HR person and ask them if there is a policy around bullying or a complaints procedure. Talk with them about the situation and, if it is safe, perhaps even approach the person doing the bullying to see if you can resolve the situation with them. Ensure that you report the situation though so that it is documented under OH&S.
Research online to ensure that you know your rights and what you can do.
Some useful resources include the following links:
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