30 April 2009

BOOK REVIEW - Bullying and Harassment

Bullying and Harassment

Editor: Justin Healey
ISBN 978 1 920801 41 0
Year 2006

Bullying and Harassment

Volume 231, Issues in Society

Bullying and harassment occur when people (bullies) use and abuse power to trouble, oppress or annoy a person. Bullying and harassment are common in Australian schools and workplaces – it has been estimated that at least 20% of Australian school students have experienced bullying and harassment; cost estimates of bullying in Australian workplaces have been as much as $3 billion a year. Continual bullying can have serious short- and long-term effects on the psychological and physical wellbeing of a large number of victims. This book explores the various forms of bullying and harassment – verbal, psychological, physical, social and sexual – and presents advice on how to develop strategies in schools and workplaces and how to identify and deal with bullying and harassment behaviour.

Chapter 1 Bullying and Harassment at School
Understanding bullying; Bullying; Harassment; Violence at home breeds bullying ; Let’s harass bullying out of existence; Beating the schoolyard bully; Cyber bullying; No place to hide from cyber bullying; ‘We h8 u!’; Mobile phones and bullying; Bully for you; What to do if you are being bullied; Bullying: information for parents; Bullying and restorative justice; Principles for managing school bullying; In and out of class.

Chapter 2 Bullying and Harassment at Work
Bullying in the workplace; Good practice, good business: eliminating discrimination and harassment in the workplace; Workplace bullying; Examples of workplace bullying or unacceptable behaviour; Reasons for bullying behaviour; The effects of bullying; Bullying: impact on the individual; Impact of bullying on organizations; 20 years on: the challenges continue ... sexual harassment in the Australian workplace; Dealing with workplace bullies; Workplace harassment and bullying – how to handle it appropriately; Resolving or investigating complaints.

FAST FACTS from this volume

  • People are often bullied because of a perceived difference. The difference can be related to culture, sex, sexuality, physical or mental ability or disability, religion, body size and physical appearance, age, cultural or economic background or being new to a school, workplace, to a country, to a social group, or being new to a sports team.
  • There are many ways that someone can be bullied: verbal; physical; social; and psychological.
  • A bully can be an individual, or a group of people. It can either be someone your own age or older, including friends, your boyfriend or girlfriend, brother or sister, or an extended family member. A bully can also be an older person, or someone in a position of power such as a teacher, parent or boss.
  • Students are more likely to attack someone at school if they are male; they live with one or no parents; their mother is 35 or younger; their parents use corporal punishment; they are poorly supervised at home; they have family problems; they have problems reading or writing.
  • One in six Australian children is bullied weekly and 20-50% of children are bullied at some point in their school life.
  • Students who are bullied have a greater likelihood of reduced school achievement, loss of self-esteem, loss of trust in others, dropping out of school, using drugs and alcohol and developing depression; 20% of all youth suicides are related to present or past bullying.
  • The ringleaders who initiate bullying situations are more likely to become involved in anti-social behaviours e.g. 65% of students who bully others on an ongoing basis have a criminal conviction by the age of 24. They are also more likely to become involved in domestic abuse and physical abuse of their children.
  • Up to 50% of children have been bullied in the past year, with new research indicating up to 10% of children are bullied on a weekly basis.
  • Primary school students report being bullied more often than secondary school students.
  • Boys are more likely to experience direct physical bullying, including hitting, kicking and pushing.
  • Girls are more likely to be the victim of indirect, non-physical forms of bullying, such as exclusion and having rumours spread about them.
  • Direct verbal bullying, such as cruel teasing and name-calling, is the most common form of bullying in children, with boys and girls experiencing this about equally.
  • Physical and mental health factors associated with being bullied include poorer health, lower self-esteem, greater feelings of ineffectiveness, difficulties with relationships, higher levels of depression, increased anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
  • A Queensland university study discovered that 13% of students had experienced “cyber bullying”, 25% knew of someone who had been bullied in this way and more than 50% thought it was on the rise.
  • Workplace bullying behaviours range from social bantering to teasing, verbal abuse, blame, humiliation, personal and professional denigration, overt threats, harassment (e.g. racial, sexual) manipulation of job specifications, unrealistic workload, aggressive emails or notes, professional and personal exclusion or isolation, sabotage of career and financial status, whistleblower attack, blackmail, overt aggression/violence, criminal assault and murder.
  • The incidence of bullying in the workplace varies from 4-5% in Norway, to 10-20% in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Other research mentions up to 50% being bullied.
  • We could make a guesstimate from the current research that an average of 15% of people are being regularly bullied in the Australian workplace at any time.
  • Studies have found that 85% of bullies have bullied previously, 34% of new supervisors exhibited bullying behaviours and 51% of victims changed jobs because of bullying.
  • Workplace bullying costs Australian employers between $6 and 13 billion dollars every year, when hidden and lost opportunity costs are considered, using a very conservative prevalence estimate of the extent of the bullying (3.5% rate). Between $17 and 36 billion dollars per year is lost when a somewhat higher estimate of 15% prevalence is applied. The number of victims can be assessed at 350,000 Australian workers based on the first estimate and 1.5 million workers based on the second calculation.
  • In Australian research, most victims reported that the workplace bullying directly affected their health and wellbeing. Physical and psychological symptoms like depression, fatigue, and sleep disorders were reported by about three-quarters of victims surveyed in one study, and 32% sought medical or counselling help. Over half also said that their relationship with their partner or family had worsened because of the bullying.
  • In a recent South Australian study, almost three-quarters of victims sought medical attention or professional counselling for symptoms resulting from workplace bullying incidents.
  • In an Australian study, 34% of bullied victims took time off work. The average time taken was 50 days, including 28 days on paid sick leave. Almost one-quarter resigned or retired, and organisations incur costs in replacing those staff as well as losing valuable experience.
  • A Human Rights and Equal Opportunity survey found that 41% of Australian women aged between 18 and 64 years and 14% of men have experienced sexual harassment. Two-thirds of this sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, with 28% of Australian women and 7% of Australian men having experienced sexual harassment at work.

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