Almost each day there are terrible stories in the media about a child being bullied at school but this behaviour is not limited to the school yard. Some of those children who are bullies grow up to become workplace bullies and even lot owner bullies.
If you’ve encountered a bully in your building, or are dealing with one now you need to arm yourself with some knowledge before dealing with them.
One of the first things you need to know is what exactly is bullying behaviour – how do you identify someone who’s a bully and someone who is just rude or had a bad day?
Psychologist Kim Harrison says that bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a person or group that creates a risk to health and safety. This can involve behaviour that causes humiliation, offence or intimidates.
Bullying can occur anywhere that people live or work together. Strata and community living unfortunately can create an ideal situation for a bully to thrive especially if they find their way onto their executive committee.
Examples of bullying include:
• verbal abuse
• putting someone down
• spreading rumours or innuendo about someone
• interfering with someone’s personal property or work equipment.
“The test for whether a person’s behaviour is bullying is known as the reasonable person test,” Kim explains. “This refers to behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten individuals.”
Bullying can also take extreme forms from verbal abuse to ostracising and can involve electronic and social media such as SMS and messages posted on Facebook or via Twitter. Bullying may also be directed towards one person or a number of people.
Workplaces often have systems in place to deal with bullying issues. Employees who have been subject to this type of behaviour usually have access to information and support as well as some recourse. Ultimately they can also search for a new job and leave the toxic workplace behind.
In a strata living situation it can be particularly uncomfortable as leaving may not be an option and what was once your sanctuary can turn into your worst nightmare. Taking the matter up by seeking a legal solution can be just as difficult.
So how do you deal with a bully? If this is a one off then the person may not be aware that their behaviour is unacceptable or that it has come across as bullying. If you are the victim of this behaviour then while it may be difficult, Kim suggests that the best way to address the issue is to confront the person.
“Directly confronting the person and telling them what effect their behaviour is having on you can be a way of ensuring the situation comes to an end. Of course it is very hard to do and it is always best if you have a support person to help you.”
“The thing with bullying is that it is often a number of small things that add up and it can be difficult to pinpoint the specific behaviour. You may not even be aware that the behaviour is having a detrimental affect until it is really ingrained and difficult to address.”
In Queensland, NSW and Victoria the government bodies responsible for strata and community title legislation all offer mediation services which can help address the issues.
“Having access to an independent third party can help diffuse the situation and bring some rationality and common sense into the matter,” Kim says.
The worst thing you can to is to retaliate. Do not under any circumstances use the bully’s methods against them as this could end up with you being seen as the bully and you could be the one who is subject to legal action.
If you’re on an executive committee and someone reports an incidence of bullying to you it must be taken seriously. Bullying creates a risk for the health and safety of the person or group of people it’s affecting. As a committee member you may also be held personally liable if you are aware of certain behaviour but did nothing to address the issue.
If you’re the person being bullied know that there is help there for you. In the first instance organisations such as Lifeline can be wonderful in listening to the problem and giving you tools to cope.
Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For mediation or other information about living in strata contact:
Queensland Office of Fair Trading 13 74 68
NSW Fair Trading 13 32 20
Consumer Affairs Victoria 1300 55 8181
Disclaimer: The information provided above is a general guide only and not intended as a substitute for legal advice. The company disclaims all responsibility and all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs which might be incurred as a result of the information provided by the company in this article.