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How do you know you're being bullied?

How do we define what it is to be bullied or harrassed at work?


I have felt nothing but scrutinised and constantly monitored in my job for everything big and small for the last few years. This is a result of my direct manager's style and the company culture, and it's had a terrible impact on my health. I started to take valium and sleeping tablets at work to stay calm, & this went on for more than a year. I recently have had sick leave and now am mostly free of any medication. The panic and anxiety I was experiencing on a daily basis has subsided somewhat. The behaviour I experienced, that I felt was harrasment and that undermined my health, is as follows:


- Having work removed from me at any given moment for any perceived error (not proven or demonstrated errors, just perceived) 


- Being told by the head of the team that my body language was bad and that I wouldn't be allowed to take on different work until that changed. I was told this was something all coworkers had said about me. I care about how I might make someone feel, so I spoke directly with my coworkers and documented our conversations - apparently no one had said anything about my body language or had indeed been negative, contrary to what the head of the team said. 


- Being asked why I was still at the company/in the job by both my direct manager and head of the team


- Being constantly watched in meetings, and in the office, by coworkers who are close friends with the head of team, and having them report back any perceived concern or indiscretion. I'm not supposed to notice that this is going on as they think they're being discreet. This happened on and off for over a year.


- The head of team and the direct circle of close friends who are coworkers, conduct conversations about team members and work situations outside the office, and in groups standing outside of the office building, whenever something they are unsure about happens. We're not supposed to know we're all being talked about when it happens. 


- The head of team wanting me to sit next to them so they can supervise me all the time (this person isn't an expert in my discipline & has never done my work)


Other things that did not happen to me, but that distorted the work environement:


- The head of team hired a close member of their family into a permanent full time position, and potentially acquired them a work visa in doing so. This person was retained even when there wasn't enough work, and no one else was interviewed for the position. This was never questioned by anyone in the company.


- A coworker who is close friends with the head of team, approaching contractors and suggesting that if they go home with them, they will ensure they are made permanent employees. This is done in a joking manner, but makes the contractors uneasy. One of the contractors is very unhappy about it and tells their direct manager, who says that this person has done it to them too (when they were a contractor) and to not worry about it.  


I'm feeling that this is definitely not right, however no one takes a stand and so it continues. HR teams are either complicit or act simply in a risk management capacity. I've spoken out because I think it's lunacy and feel like I have no alternative, but have been made to seem incompetant at what I've been doing competently for years (I've been told this is a common tactic in companies & it's really their only line of defence). What constitutes bullying/harrasment?


Re: How do you know you're being bullied?

Hi @mermaiduk welcome to RO. Thanks for sharing your situation with us. It sounds like you're going through a lot of anxiety at your workplace and from what you've written, the work culture does sound odd. I just want to let you know that ReachOut is a service for Australian youth between 14-25 years of age and is centered around providing a supportive environment for mental health related issues. We cannot provide legal or medical advice but we can definitely try and give people resources that they can use to get more clarification for their situation if they need it Smiley Happy


I'm really sorry you had to take medication to stay calm at work. That's awful. Were these prescribed by your GP? I'm wondering if you've had the chance to talk to a counsellor about what you've been going through. Many workplaces have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which allows employees to discuss their issues and usually includes a number of sessions free of charge. 


Depending on the industry you are in, you can also talk to the appropriate union. You don't have to be a union member to have a chat about your issue and they might be able to provide advice on what's going on. 


Another option is to call Relationships Australia and they could be of great help as well. Here's a link to their page about workplace relationships:


I would urge you to look out for yourself and find ways of coping safely with all the stress and anxiety. Your wellbeing is most important. As I mentioned above, talking to a counsellor would be useful. It's very difficult to try and manage such a confusing and anxiety-provoking situation on your own.



Re: How do you know you're being bullied?

@mermaiduk it sounds like you've been through a lot! I say well done for the work you've done on your own health after going through this. It must have taken a huge amount of effort and resilience.
I can't offer a lot of advice other than I wish you well if you do look into what @Monda-RO offered.