For some workers, every day at work can be full of fear. It only takes one other person to make the workplace hell.
Take the case of Melbourne’s Brodie Panlock, a 19-year-old with the world at her feet.
She endured a year of abhorrent bullying while working at a Hawthorn cafe where three male co-workers tormented and belittled her.
The teen was held down, teased about a suicide attempt, drenched in chocolate sauce, had fish oil poured in her bag, was spat upon and regularly told she was worthless.
Panlock later ended her own life.
Five years later, in 2011, laws were enshrined to outlaw serious bullying punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
The Victorian government called the anti-bullying legislation Brodie’s Law.
Every year, hundreds of Australians report cases of workplace bullying. It occurs across a range of industries, to a wide variety of workers.
Workplace bullying can take many forms: Shouting, threats, teasing or humiliation, being excluded or ganged up on, physical or emotional abuse, making unreasonable demands, deliberately making someone feel uncomfortable or excessive surveillance or micromanagement.
Understandably, this kind of vile behaviour can have debilitating effects.
Anyone at the receiving end can experience mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and physical issues, such as sleep loss and weight loss.
Everyone is entitled to feel safe at work and for those who don’t, unions are there for you.
Australian Unions will stand with you and stand up to bullies – whether they work with you on the shop floor or call the shots from the bosses office.
If you suspect you are being bullied, make a record of each interaction detailing the time, place, people involved, what was said and how it made you feel.
Recording instances of bullying can be used as evidence at a later stage, whether at mediation meetings or in court.
You should also tell someone such as a trusted colleague, union delegate or your Health and Safety representative.
If you feel confident and safe doing so, approach the bully and tell them their behaviour is unacceptable.
Many won’t feel comfortable taking this step, so the next best thing is to make an internal complaint to your manager, union delegate or your Health and Safety representative.
You can also make an external complaint, which is advisable for those who may have experienced bullying at the hands of someone in a management position.
Take your concerns to your union and if you need help finding the most appropriate union, contact the Australian Unions Support Centre.
If bullying can’t be resolved at the workplace, an application may be made for a stop bullying order at the Fair Work Commission.
If you feel your life is in danger, don’t hesitate to dial 000.
Don’t endure workplace bullying. Speak out.