16/03/2017 10:05 PM AEDT | Updated 18/03/2017 6:07 PM AEDT

What You Need To Do If You're In the Bullying Dangerzone

Awareness is one thing but many people are left in the dark.

Bullying, whether it's online or face-to-face, can have a dreadful impact on our health and well being.
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Bullying, whether it's online or face-to-face, can have a dreadful impact on our health and well being.

Society has come a long way when it comes to dealing with bullies; there's an abundance of awareness campaigns and the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is just one way people are trying to tackle bullying behaviour and encouraging a 'Zero Tolerance' policy.

Awareness is one thing but many people are left in the dark when it comes to knowing exactly how to address the issue when it's happening at work and impacting on your health and well being.

Leadership and people management expert Karen Gately is passionate about promoting bullying awareness and the existence of a Bully Audit - making people aware of steps you can take to ensure bullying doesn't continue and how to recognise if you're in the dangerzone.

"It all comes down to the appropriateness and respectfulness of the way people are behaving in your work environment and, if you feel you're being bullied, you need to take action. It's also about making a choice about whether you're in the right environment for your personality," Gately told The Huffington Post Australia.

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If you're a sensitive person, you'll have more difficulty dealing with bullies at work. In some cases the behaviour might not be typical bullying at all; rather it could be your sensitivity that's the issue.

"There are some environments that are more dynamic and people aren't as focused on the pleasantries. If you're a sensitive person you might find it difficult, so it might not necessarily be bullying."

"But you need to make a choice for yourself, whether you suit the culture of the organisation. If it's not, then you need to take control of your own work life and move on."

If an employee is being bullied there are several steps to take, each depending on how the victim feels about confrontation.

Obviously, not all of us could stomach the thought of confronting a person who is making your life hell, particularly if the bully is your boss, or another 'superior' in the office.

"If the victim of bullying if able to, he or she can speak directly to the bully and say, 'Your behaviour is not acceptable and you must stop.' But not everybody is able to confront the bully. If they have a good relationship with their boss, they can tell her and that way they can get their boss involved so they're not alone," Gately said.

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One of the first steps to take in dealing with bullies is to confront them, get your boss involved or take the issue to HR or Fair Work.

"If you can't approach your boss or you don't want to and you have access to Human Resources, get that support and advice. But if there is nobody to help you, you'll need to get Fair Work to help you."

Bullying impacts on the health and wellbeing of the person being bullied. Gately said it's all down to an employer adopting a 'zero tolerance policy' - but they also need to realise that sometimes people are unconscious bullies.

"There are some people that just don't realise the extent that their behaviour impacts on others and it's not until they're made aware of their behaviour and then coached, that can improve. It's not just about reprimand, it's about education and coaching," Gately said.

Karen Gately's Tips

  • If you can, confront the person who is bullying you. Let him/her know that their behaviour is not acceptable and it needs to be stopped.
  • If you're not able to confront the bully, you need to tell your boss. If you can't tell your boss - perhaps your boss is the bully - then you need to make an appointment to see Human Resources staff.
  • If you're not able to contact HR, then Fair Work will be able to help you.
  • If the bullying continues, you might need to look at whether you need to leave, for your own health and well-being.
  • Also, you might need to address the fact that your personality might not be a 'right fit' for the culture of the organisation. If it's a place where there is no focus on pleasantries and that is something you like or are used to, it might not be a great place for you to remain in the long term.