Bullying isn’t cool

The Victorian Government is running an anti-bullying campaign.  As parents, bullying is something that Mr O and I watch out for signs of, as any parent should.  Fortunately, we haven’t seen any indications and the children attend schools with active anti-bullying strategies in place so we don’t expect to see any signs!  How do I know about this campaign? Mr O Jnr 2 wants to enter and win the iPad, iPod Nano and the $500 iTunes voucher prize!  Clearly though, they have been talking about the topic at school.

There is a competition to name the campaign, entries can be made at http://www.namethecampaign.com.au/.

In the old days, bullying was physical or verbal in nature.  Now it has expanded:

Cyberbullying: is direct verbal or indirect bullying behaviours using digital technologies. This includes harassment via a mobile phone, setting up a defamatory personal website or deliberately excluding someone from social networking spaces.


I find it sad that as a species, humans seem to manage to turn anything and everything to a negative purpose.  There is a page devoted specifically to cyberbullying on the Education Department site.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in school.  Victoria has criminalised bullying in the workplace, prompted by the death of 19-year-old Brodie Panlock in 2006.  Brodie committed suicide after co-workers bullied her relentlessly.  Over the years there have been many reported cases of “initiation rites” going wrong in workplaces and young people being badly injured or killed.  While not specifically bullying, surely a workplace culture that accepts or promotes such activities is rather strange.  It is one thing to send an apprentice on a hunt for a left-handed screwdriver or striped paint: it is another altogether to encourage or demand dangerous activities.

Another bullying case reported in The Age in 2010 alleges:

Pay was regularly docked for taking too long on a task, or cleaning tools, and Mr Hutchinson and other staff were regularly abused.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/small-business/managing/workplace-bullying-case-worst-ever-seen-20100428-tshs.html#ixzz1qJFJHxco

 Why on earth do people do such things?  What is funny about abusing or bullying either our fellow-students or our co-workers?

There has been an increase in reports of bullying in the workplace since the introduction of Brodie’s Law, but it seems often these are not substantiated.

”I think what we are seeing is that the term bullying is being used quite loosely in the community now in many instances to describe something that has ‘gone against me’ or ‘that I haven’t liked’ or something that ‘I haven’t wanted to do’,” says Mr Forsyth.

”As a result, we are seeing a mismatch between what is being labelled bullying and what would really constitute bullying under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/most-workplace-bullying-claims-fall-short-20110723-1hub7.html#ixzz1qJGBwOwE

I find this equally odd behaviour.  Why trivialise a very serious issue by making claims that clearly are NOT bullying and tying up resources that could be concentrating on serious cases? From the above article, the Occupational Health and Safety Act defines bullying as ”repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”.  Missing out on a pay-rise might be infuriating personally, but it doesn’t create a risk to health and safety.

Under the new laws, the penalty for workplace bullying in Victoria is up to 10 years in jail.

Let’s go back to bullying in the schoolyard.  One could suggest it might be a good idea to penalise parents when children are found guilty of bullying.  Perhaps not jail time, but a hefty fine might be a deterrent.  The problem with this approach is more often than not bullies are from dysfunctional homes, in which case the child is likely to be subjected to verbal or physical abuse in the home if the parent is penalised.  This simply exacerbates the problem, rather than solving it.

I’ve seen cases reported of some very strange parents defending unacceptable behaviour by their children and arguing the school is wrong for enforcing policies, such as school uniform policies.  These are the “My little Jimmy would never” type of parents.  They set no behavioural boundaries and the children run riot.  Some of these children also become bullies.  Some of  these parents would be taking people to court if it were suggested “little Jimmy” was ever a bully.

What do childhood bullies grow into?  Bullies in the workplace.  Bullies in their domestic life.

If you are reading this and you are worried or concerned about bullying in your workplace and don’t feel you are able to raise the issue safely at work, you can contact Fair Work Australia, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or WorkSafe.

If you are a parent and you suspect your child might be a victim of bullying, speak to the school immediately.  If you feel you are not being heard, escalate the matter.  Bullying is unacceptable. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Bullying may occur because of perceived differences such as culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability or disability, religion, body size and physical appearance, age or economic status. Bullying may be motivated by jealousy, distrust, fear, misunderstanding or lack of knowledge.



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37 comments on “Bullying isn’t cool

  1. Very good article! Bullying at all levels needs to be recognized and stopped. Some people would argue it’s normal childhood behavior, but as you point out – these kids will grow up to become workplace bullies. I started my work life in the 1970’s when sexism was alive and well. Flirting and inappropriate comments were common in the workplace. Just because it was normal doesn’t mean it was appropriate. After much effort and a few lawsuits, that type of behavior is recognized as wrong. If we keep raising the issue of bullying at all levels, people will learn to recognize that it is also wrong and not tolerate it.


    • Thank you Jean. I’ve never thought bullying was normal childhood behaviour. I’m a farmer’s daughter: I never saw lambs or calves bullying each other growing up. Play fighting, yes. Bullying no.

      I know that pack behaviour can be to exclude the weakest for the survival of the pack, but even that decision is not taken lightly in the animal kingdom. Yet for some reason humans seem to be different.


  2. There’s lot of conversation on this subject which is a good thing but I still believe that parents must be advocates for their children and not settle for that ridiculous line… “It will get better, just bear it!” Sadly, some parents stand by and expect the schools to do all the work and that is the wrong approach. It will take collaborative effort, parents and teachers, to put a stop to bullying…


    • Loud applause! Totally agree. I would NEVER suggest “It will get better, just bear it” if there was physical violence involved or the verbal/cyber bullying was over the top. There is a spectrum of severity, coupled with not buying into others’ opinions of us (not always easy or appropriate, of course). It is a very difficult situation.

      I definitely believe parents must take part in resolving the issue. The problem we have seen here in Australia though is in many cases, the parents of bullies are not the sort of parents to want to be involved and do not see their child as doing anything wrong or disbelieve any evidence.

      Difficult problem needing much work, sadly.


  3. Such an important post. I just had a talk with my daughter, who’s just starting to use the internet, about cyberbullying. She is still young and sheltered enough (at eleven) that she doesn’t believe such a thing could happen.

    You can prepare your kids and encourage them to come to you (and monitor their internet activity) but you can not stop another child from engagiing in this behavior–whether online or on the playground. I believe that bullies are working out some deep pain, which is why they must victimize others.

    Interesting links too. Thanks, Robyn.


    • Thank you Lisa. I too believe bullies are dysfunctional, although I am not sure it is always a deep pain. Some are simply sociopaths (although I understand that word is not longer in use).

      You are right – the best we can do is prepare and educate our own kids.

      At eleven, your daughter needs to understand it can happen. All ours have computer access at school here, so they need to be prepared.


  4. While I don’t condone bullying (and fervently wish that we would learn to get along and embrace our diversity), there is another common element to verbal bullying that seems to be overlooked when we rush to place blame on others for “causing” our distress.

    And that is our excessive concern with what others think of us.

    We are trained from birth to look outside ourselves for acceptance from our peers. We are socialized to “dress for success” and buy symbols to signal our “status” to the world. We judge people based on the cars they drive, the houses they live in, the churches they attend, their sexual preferences, and the clothes they wear . . . and they repay the favor by judging us.

    When we accept ourselves “as is,” we are more able to shrug off the irrelevant opinions of others.

    Instead of poisoning ourselves by internalizing the hate, ignorance, and fear demonstrated by the bullies of life (who are trying to make themselves “bigger” by making us appear ”smaller”), we embrace our individuality.

    When we have the courage to swim against the stream of outdated societal expectations and values (whatever they are), we become strong and resilient. We learn to survive and thrive, instead of tossing in the towel or cashing in our chips when others disagree with our lifestyle, our choices, or our unique point of view.



    • Nancy, I think you have a very good perspective. For instance, if people were to verbally bully me because I “married out”, it is up to me whether I let that bother me or not. Of course, I wouldn’t let it bother me. As I have said in the past, if someone has a problem with it, that is their problem, not mine! I am not about to take on their problems.

      I do think the workplace can be a problem. People have bills to pay and children to feed and can feel trapped. Often times in the workplace bullying is not just verbal, it also involves physical abuse.

      Also, Nancy, you are a lawyer. I am also a professional. We learn certain skills and methodologies professionally that we can easily apply in our personal lives. Not everyone has that benefit, certainly not children in the schoolyard.

      Your words are very wise, Nancy. I am just aware that they will not apply in every case.

      Definitely no cashing in of chips here!


      • I agree. Children (and many adults) have not learned to “shrug off” the opinions of others ~ when someone criticizes them, or a group to which they belong, they take it to heart.

        We need to teach them that . . . “No one can make us feel inferior without our consent.”

        Once “we” are strong . . . we are less likely to be bullied.


      • The discussions I’ve been having with our children on this very topic will be the subject of an up coming post, Nancy. VERY much along similar thoughts to your comment above. I will beinterested in your views when I publish.


  5. Hi Robyn, reading the article in the link above the outcome always seems to be the same. If I had my time again I would get hard proof before proceeding, I now have the technology to make recordings – my iphone! God it just makes me so angry…I’m off for a stomp!


    • He did lose his job – or “resigned” but I hear he has bounced back to another job. He had quite a history, as it turned out. She didn’t get much money, we think about $800,000 roughly in the end (she settled out of court) but she did achieve making companies sit up and take notice that they could be sued. Hopefully the young lady achieved something.

      None of that helps you though and I am sorry my article brought all this up again for you, Pip.

      I hope you had a very good stomp!


  6. Hey Team O, Right On, bullying is totally lame ~ let’s get along.


  7. Bullying in all it’s forms is unacceptable. I’ve seen so much of it lately since I’ve been using the ‘net more especially on social networking sites. I myself was a victim on one of these sites, Friends Reunited ( hah!) because of my stand against bigotry and intolerance. It was horrendous and I was made to feel like a criminal of the worst kind. I terminated my account and I will never go there again.
    And how tragic the number of young people committing suicide because of homophobic bullying.


    • Thank you for sharing your experience with cyberbullying as an adult, Jessie. We have a Dj here who campaigns diligently against homophobic bullying in schools. Unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember her name right now, but she has lifted the profile of the problem in recent years, especially amongst teens and young people.


      • We have to rally against cyber-bullying! This has to stop. Those sites can have a zero tolerance for cyber-bullying. Let’s keep this discussion viral.

        If you have a story, please leave a link to your blog in my comments section at:

        Let’s make these sites put in place a ZERO tolerance policy for cyber-bullying! I will put a link to your blog on my page. :)


      • Hi there. Yes, cyberbullying is a terrible thing and some of the cases even involve mothers impersonating their teenage daughters to bully other teenagers. It is really the bad side of technology.

        I wish you well in your crusade against the problem.


  8. Bullies are very sad human beings. They feel happy when they snatch positive energy from others. I love it when such issues are brought to light. It becomes easier for those bullied to speak up and get back their power.

    All the best to Mr O Jnr 2, hope he gets to win an ipad :) You are doing right by your kids Robin. What a great campaign for the young one to be part of.


    • Very sad human beings, Veeh. I do wonder what happened to trigger the behaviour initially, whether it be children or adults.


      • It has to be the adults. When we are born, we come to this world pure and all accepting. We absorb everything our caregivers give and tell us without question.

        There maybe exceptions but I feel that adults have a great part to play in how a child behaves and views society as a whole.


      • I agree with you Veeh. We learn from our parents. Certainyl there are cases where it is nature rather than nurture, but I do feel in many cases it is nurture (or lack thereof) rather than nature.


  9. I was bullied in the workplace by my boss. Physcological bullying – you can’t prove anything. But it’s destructive. I tried to take him to court, but my solicitor advised against it. I came close to having a nervous breakdown, but one day I woke up and thought if I destroy my life he has won. I was exceptionally good at my job and went to work for their main competitior. Freelance. Boy did that seriouly pee my old boss off. He even tried to sue me. THis only happened a few years ago….but the memory of his actions are still like an open wound that will not heal.

    I don’t know how you can stop bullying. I did not consider myself a weak person, but he found my achilles heel. It can happen to anyone. I think we have to look at this from another view point. Not so much how we can stop bullies (they will always be there) but how we can prevent others from bullying us. If bullies see they are upsetting us, they continue. If we do not allow them in to our mind and take control, they can’t. We need to turn the tables on bullies but we need to learn how.

    Thought provoking post.


    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Pip. I’ve only once felt subjected to any sort of workplace bullying and the perpetrator did it to everyone. Staff turnover was horrendous.

      I agree with your concept, learning how to prevent bullies bullying others.


    • So sorry to hear about your experience PIp. I am just glad you are talking about it. You are giving voice to some who are not yet ready to speak up. Bottom line… they feel that they are not alone.


      • Hi Vee,

        I think once you’ve been bullied you are wiser in hindsight. You say how did I let this happen to me? How could it happen to me? Why did it happen to me? I bottled it up inside me for a couple of years. I prostituted (if that’s a word) myself to the job because we needed the money. So I felt trapped.

        Robyn, I wish bullies in the workplace were dealt with severly and ahve it marked on their work ref. I was a manager but when the bully is a senior director where do you turn? Everybody just covers their back for fear of losing their job.

        I wish there had been a helpline for me to talk to someone at the time. When you are being bullied you feel very vunerable, and totally alone. Almost like a terrified little rabbit transfixed and motionless as you stare into the headlights of an oncoming car at speed. You are powerless to move.

        To anyone who is being bullied, do seek advice and have councelling (can’t spell it). I wish I had.


      • This was a high profile case here, Pip. While I believe in the end the young lady didn’t receive much in the way of a settlement, it certainly raised the profile of the problem.



    • I was also bullied in the workplace by our branch manager and I took it for two years, I also believed I was a strong person. I felt betrayed by my coworkers as no one is willing to speak up in support for fear of losing their job . HR swept it under the mat and our so called systems and support distressed me even more and I ended up in hospital with a breakdown. I tried to help myself by asking for help but help made it worse! It wasnt just me he was bullying staff turnover was huge but I was the only stupid one that stayed on to fight for my rights as I loved the work I was doing.

      I am now strugling with depression in and out of hospital and where is the bully??? He is still branch manager with a clear work history, I now have a workcover smear on my previous 40 year perfect work history!


      • I am very sorry to hear of your experience, but thank you very much for sharing. I am sure it helps others to know they are NOT the only one. I think often times in difficult situations, no matter what the situation is, we can feel as if we are the only one in the world.


      • Hi Dee,
        I feel for you as I was the same. I went after the bully through the correct channels and was penalized. My coworkers were too frightened to support me even though they suffered. Two years later I met one of them in the supermarket and out of the blue she came up to me gave me a hug and kept saying “I’m so sorry, we’re so sorry. We had our chance to do something and we stood by and did nothing. Nobody realised how much work you did until after you had gone” I hugged her and started to cry. She suffered shame and cowardice. the bully still resides.

        It’s a shame you have a smear on your work record. I’m not sure once we have been bullied we ever put it behind us. IT leaves us feeling very fragile but at the same time it has given me an inner strength. what about you? I know you say you are depressed but if you look deep within is there a glimmer of the old you, you can rekindle?

        I started up my own business as I could not face working in an office again. I suppose I felt also betrayed by my coworkers which hurt as much.

        I don’t work now but I suppose one day due to the government raising the age when I now recieve my pension, I will have to. I feel so frustrated at time times but my blog is a release and I try to see humour in different situations, and it is an escape.

        We have an English saying “Don’t let the bastards grind you down!” not very PC but, hey neither is bullying.


      • Dee and Pip – I have added a link at the bottom of the article – you might both find it interesting – Block the Bully.


      • Thank you for your comments. Its nice to know someone heard me and understands. I think here in Australia the government needs to be seen to do the right thing with regard to bullying and harrasment but its just a front. I pleaded with many government departments for help but it is all too hard for them to actually help. They are too busy working on posters and advertisments on tv to stop bullying than actually helping people. I am in hospital wondering where my last 4 years have gone!

        I will never work in an office or for a boss again. I will think of something to do for myself once I have some control of my depression and find my life and identity that the bully and bureaucrats took from me.

        Best of luck to you for the future


      • Dee, you have a point. I know how it feels to be crying our to government departments asking for help and feeling as if no-one is listening or cares. My problem was different, of course, but the feeling of being ignored and abandoned was very much there. Australia needs to walk the talk.

        I wish you every success with your recovery and your future, Dee.


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