Bullying And Harassment - Can You Identify Bullying Behaviours Within the Country Fire Service (CFS)?

08 October 2019

Bullying is a serious issue in workplaces across Australia and a risk factor for depression, anxiety and suicide. It does not just hurt those involved. The wider workplace also feels the effects through lost productivity, increased absenteeism, poor morale and time spent documenting, pursuing or defending claims. It is estimated to cost Australian organisations between $6 billion and $36 billion a year.

We often think about bullying as an individual or interpersonal issue. However, Beyond Blue research shows that broader environmental factors, such as poor organisational culture and a lack of leadership, are in fact the main hazards.

Can you spot the signs of bullying in the workplace?
Examples of workplace bullying include, but are not limited to:

  •  abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments
  •  aggressive and intimidating conduct
  •  belittling or humiliating comments
  •  unjustified criticism or complaints
  •  spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
  •  victimisation
  •  practical jokes or initiation ‘ceremonies’
  •  pressure to behave in a particular manner
  •  repeatedly displaying offensive material
  •  deliberately excluding someone from work-related activities or events
  •  withholding information that is vital for effective work performance
  •  deliberately setting unreasonable timelines, constantly changing deadlines, too much or too little work
  •  repeatedly setting tasks unreasonably below or beyond a worker’s skill level
  •  denying access to information, supervision, consultation or resources to a worker’s detriment
  •  changing work arrangements such as rosters and leave to deliberately inconvenience.

Violence, for example physical or sexual assault or the threat of physical or sexual assault, should be reported to the police by calling 000 if it is an emergency, or 131 444 for non-urgent matters.

Have you experienced any of these behaviours at CFS?
According to CFS workers who completed the Your Voice: I WORK FOR SA Survey

  •  61% of respondents report the level of stress in their job has a negative effect on their work
  •  60% of respondents report witnessing bullying and harassment in the last 12 months
  •  45% of respondents have personally experienced bullying and harassment in the last12 months

Anyone can be bullied. Casual employees, part-time workers, those employed on individual contracts and lone workers are generally more vulnerable to bullying because they are less likely to complain.

Fellow workers, supervisors or managers can carry out bullying, however in the vast majority of cases bullying is carried out by a person in authority.

How the PSA can help
The Public Service Association (PSA) is working with union members at CFS to call out bullying and ensure CFS is a safe place to work. As part of this process, information is being developed to educate members about their rights and how to best deal with bullies in the workplace. If you have something specific you would like us to cover, please contact PSA.

Are you being bullied?
The PSA provides advice and information to members regarding workplace rights and obligations. PSA members can contact PSA for more information. If required, the PSA can provide members with individual representation.