Sadly, bullying and harassment in Australian workplaces are significant risk factors for mental illness and anxious feelings. These negative experiences can cause depression, anxiety, PTSD and other psychological injuries. If you are suffering from any of these conditions, it is crucial to seek help from a mental health professional.

Workers who are bullied or harassed often fail to recognise that psychological injuries such as anxiety disorders or depression are caused by maltreatment by others. These negative experiences can be a significant risk factor for developing mental health problems. When bosses or other workers bully or harass them, they may not understand why they feel the way they do because the behavior in their workplace is seen as normal behavior.

However, it is important to note that this behavior is never normal, and it is never appropriate.

Bullying at Work Explained

Bullying can cause psychological injury and can include harmful, repeated remarks or personal attacks on staff members by managers or co-workers. These may be targeted attacks by others who make fun of you or your family, your culture or race, sexual preference, gender identity, economic background or education. It can also include sexual harassment.

Other Examples of Bullying:

  • Grabbing, pushing, tripping or shoving at work.
  • Giving you pointless jobs that have nothing to do with your work duties.
  • Giving you impossible tasks that can’t be done in the time allowed or with the resources provided.
  • Holding back the information you need to get your job done correctly.
  • Changing your schedule or work hours deliberately, makes it difficult for you to get the job done.
  • Hazing or initiation practices where you are forced to do inappropriate or humiliating things to be accepted in a team.
  • Equipment or other objects thrown at you; threats or attacks with guns, knives, clubs or any other thing that could be weaponised.

Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment is described as someone making an unwelcome sexual advance on you or making unwelcome requests for sexual favours. It also includes engaging in unwelcome conduct that is sexual in nature. (Sexual assault is an unwanted or forced sexual act without consent).

Examples of sexual harassment at work:

  • Inappropriate, unwelcome touching
  • A request for sex
  • An unwanted invitation
  • Staring or leering at another worker or making sexually suggestive jokes or comments
  • Posting sexually explicit posters or pictures.
  • Sending sexually explicit emails or text messages.
  • Unnecessary familiarity, such as brushing up against a person.
  • An insult or a taunt of a sexual nature.
  • Asking invasive or intrusive questions about a person’s body or private life.

Effects of Workplace Bullying & Sexual Harassment

Bullying and sexual harassment at work can have devastating effects. It can affect a worker’s job performance, family relationships and everyday life. If this is you, you may have no positive emotions, be less successful or active, less confident in your work, feel frightened, and experience anxious thoughts. You may also have difficulties sleeping, suffer stress or feel depressed and not fully understand why.

Relationships and study can be adversely affected; you may feel reluctant to go to work and often call in sick, distrusting the boss or co-workers. You may exhibit physical signs of stress like sleep problems, headaches, and back aches. If you suffer from any of these symptoms and are bullied or sexually harassed at work, you may be eligible to claim compensation.

Psychological Harm From Workplace Bullying & Harassment

Here are some of the more common kinds of mental health problems or psychological damage to a person’s mental health from workplace bullying or harassment, sexual or otherwise. They include PTSD, anxiety and depression, generalised anxiety disorder, and stress disorder.

Shock can be experienced by anyone bullied or harassed at work. These events and situations can affect day-to-day functioning and cause the development of severe PTSD symptoms of trauma such as:

  • Flashbacks: Recurring, intrusive memories of the event/s, uneasiness, intense fear, emotional reactions, panic attack, reliving the incident.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding work, having a startle response when receiving a call or message from the boss or manager, etc.
  • Hypervigilance: feeling “jumpy”, being hyper-aroused, easily startled, dissociation, feeling out of your body or distant from reality, i.e. ‘depersonalised’.
  • Nightmares: These can be about stressful events or non-specific things that are frightening.
  • Acute Stress Disorder (ASD): Usually occurs around a month after the trauma, and lasts at least three days and up to four weeks. These are similar to symptoms suffered by people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
  • PTSD: Mental health problems and symptoms are often panic attacks or extreme fear similar to how the person felt during life-threatening events or severe trauma. These can be re-lived causing recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, and intense emotional or physical reactions like sweating, heart palpitations or panic, and feeling numbness. The symptoms can last a lifetime.

Contact Our Team of Lawyers at PK Simpson

There are other psychological injuries and mental health conditions that can develop in someone exposed to the above traumas. These may include social anxiety disorder and panic disorder which require expert treatment, diagnosis and support from a qualified mental health professional.

At PK Simpson, our personal injury lawyers can help you get the right treatment and diagnosis, and help you with a workers’ compensation claim. Contact our expert compensation team today at 1300 757 467 or enquire online so we can help you.