Bullying at work is a real issue here in Australia, with many people both male and female impacted on a daily basis. The result can be debilitating for not only the workers involved, but the entire business as well. Creating a safe work place is everyone’s responsibility, but today I want to share something we have recently gone through that has severely impacted not only our staff, but our company. As I have since gone on to find out, we are not the only ones to have had this issue and perhaps some of the information I share will be of benefit to your business as well.
Bullying At Work – Creating A Safe Work Place
Bullying doesn’t just make victims of staff, sometimes the victim is the business owner, in fact it happens more often than you might think. Since opening up about our story to some fellow business owners, I have come to understand that many small businesses are suffering in a similar way to we did.
I feel passionately about this being a time of change, and the only way we can make that happen is to stand together and demand that we are protected. Let me share our story. This is being shared with The Builder’s permission.
Some time ago we began a job for what we knew to be demanding clients, but we had seen no signs of anything other than a strong drive to get their job done. What we didn’t see until it was too late, was that these demanding clients were also manipulative and when we finally awoke to the manipulation, their demanding personalities were revealed to be something we had never experienced before.
This was a long job, a lengthy and complex renovation that had the Builder working closely with the owners. All was fine in the beginning as we were working to processes that suited the clients, but in time something came up that wasn’t to their liking, and this is where the issue began.
When demanding people don’t get what they wish, and manipulation isn’t working, bullying often follows. I cannot tell too much of this story just yet, as we prepare for the next step legally, but I can tell you that a campaign of bullying followed.
I have many copies of abusive, belittling emails, along with recorded voice mails, and finally accounts of physical intimidation. These were not only experienced by myself, and the Builder, but also our staff. We had many of our “subbies” refuse to go back to site, due to the way they were treated, and all by the client.
This bullying led to a breakdown for The Builder, then led to another but this time not only for him, but for our supervisor, that is how intense the intimidation was.
You might think this a rare story, but I have spoken to 3 businesses in the last week who have been through similar either with the client, or a neighbour to the client.
It seems that the quote, “The customer is always right” has been taken too far in these instances, and when we were facing our challenge, we could find no support.
Even a call placed to our building governing body, was met with a comment, “well it’s time for your husband and your workers to pull up their skirts and get on with the job”. That statement from a government official when I pleaded for help as my husband was too sick to leave his room, on a day when I had received a call from yet another sub-contractor who wouldn’t go back to site.
Last week a friend in a similar position finally had the breakthrough we all needed, when after 4 attempts at speaking with “Safe Work” representatives, she was told that we are covered by Workplace Health and Safety Law.
As the home we are working on is now our workplace, we are covered regardless of our position. WHS law protects us from workplace bullying and is enforceable even when it is the client or a neighbour doing the bullying. While this information came too late to help us, by sharing what was shared with me, I hope to prevent others from the terrible campaign we endured and the after effects we are still feeling to this day, some 12 months later.
There is a fantastic resource that can be found on the Safe Work website, click here for a direct link.
Workplace bullying should never be tolerated, I for one, can attest to just how much bullying can impact not only someones life, but the business as well. I encourage you to get educated about how to prevent this and what to do if you do experience it. Creating a safe workplace is everyone’s responsibility.
Have you ever been bullied at work? Was your complaint taken seriously?