Stand Up to Bullying

Friday 23 February is International Stand Up to Bullying Day. It started in Nova Scotia when two Year 12 boys stood up for a fellow student who was being bullied, and now it is an awareness day for bullying internationally.

Awareness is at an all time high. It’s time for the next step. We need the tools and options to prevent, manage, stand up and eliminate bullying in all environments. Nicole Turnbull and Neon Shed focus on eliminating psychosocial hazards, including bullying, in the workplace.

Why don’t we stand up to bullying at work?

There are many reasons people don’t (or can’t) stand up to bullying at work, and many more reasons why it continues.

We don’t know how

How do you stand up to bullying without creating more conflict, aggression or problems? What do you say? Who do you say it to?

Most training tells you the legislation and the definition of bullying, but how to respond often is missing (other than the usual policy line of talking to the person directly, reporting it to your manager or HR)..

Bullying is complex, it impacts people differently and there’s a lot of uncertainty. Violence and aggression are easy to identify. Incivility and deception are difficult to call out. It isn’t a black and white problem, and doesn’t come with a black and white solution.

Not knowing how to speak up means most people say nothing, or they react emotionally after a period of time of being exposed to these behaviours. When we feel attacked or targeted, we can react rather than respond to these situations. Having options and a considered response helps people feel confident in managing these issues.

Bullying isn’t taken seriously

We’ve come a long way when it comes to physical safety at work. We still have a way to go when it comes to psychosocial hazards and psychological safety.

Bullying is often brushed off as a one off incident, a personality clash or not serious – until a workers compensation claim is being made.

Nicole Turnbull discusses why bullying isn’t taken seriously with Evelyn M Field OAM, FAPS in the Under the Rug at Work podcast.

We don’t understand the true harm that is caused

Research is showing that bullying can cause brain injury. Mental health issues and workers compensation claims are increasing, with workers taking much longer than physical injuries to return to work, if they do at all.

Nicole Turnbull talks to Evelyn M Field OAM, FAPS and Dr Pat Ferris about the harm caused to targets, and the solutions individuals and organisations can implement in the Lived Experience Summit.

You can now watch the full interview on YouTube for free.


Most people are afraid of the real or perceived consequences. They are scared they may lose their job, scared they won’t be supported or scared that saying something will cause more conflict.

  • How have bullying behaviours been handled in the past?
  • When issues are raised, do people get defensive or look at it objectively?
  • Are complainants or whistleblowers targeted, isolated and victimised or is everyone supported (including the perpetrator)?

Investigations are often uncomfortable and combative. Prevention is always better than cure.

Nicole Turnbull and Dr Donna Stemmer talk about whistleblowers at work – why they do it, the consequences of speaking up at work and why organisations need to remove the problem, not the person, on the Under the Rug at Work podcast.

It’s part of the culture

If bullying is accepted or ignored, or if leaders use bullying behaviours themselves – staff will not speak up and will more likely start engaging in the behaviours themselves.

So what can be done?

Bullying and workplace violence is a problem that is costing Australian organisations financially (more than $30 Billion annually as identified in the article by Allison J Ballard PhD and Doris Bozin: The true (financial) costs of workplace violence in Australia). It can impact your reputation, culture and the ability to retain good staff.

It’s time to do something about it.

Fix the plumbing

In the Summit interview above, Dr Pat Ferris talks about the toilet bowl cycle of workplace bullying and how organisations ‘fix the plumbing‘.

One of the ways out of the toilet bowl is through belonging and compassion. Dr Pat Ferris and Nicole Turnbull discuss this more on the Under the Rug at Work podcast.

Understand what is and isn’t bullying

Bullying is a continuum, from banter and teasing to harassment and physical violence. Staff need to have clarity on what is and isn’t bullying, and expectations should be set and managed early (usually in the onboarding process). If this hasn’t been done yet – now is the perfect time to start!

Leadership development

Reasonable management action isn’t bullying, however some leaders are not reasonable in their management action.

If leaders aren’t trained or aware of how to positively manage issues, they can cause more harm than good. It’s a difficult process and expecting people know how to manage difficult situations is a risk.

Managers are often promoted because they are great at their jobs, but leading a team requires a different skill set. Understanding how to manage conflict, bullying, poor performance and generational differences will increase the success of the whole team.

These topics are icky, so we tend to sweep them under the rug in the hope that they go away – which they never do. Nicole Turnbull and Neon Shed provide small group training and coaching for leaders to navigate the tough parts of leadership. Get in touch for more details.

Know your rights and responsibilities

WHS legislation has been amended in Australia to include new requirements to manage psychosocial risks. Psychosocial safety is now as important as physical safety.

There are a number of things employers need to do to meet their legal obligations. However, everyone has role to play in managing psychosocial risks. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as an employer, leader and worker will ensure you meet your legal obligations and improve safety, health and wellbeing at work.

At a minimum, there needs to be policies, procedures, training, assessments, consultation and action to prevent, manage and eliminate bullying and other psychosocial hazards at work. If you don’t have these – get in touch ASAP

Understand the root cause

Psychosocial hazards are symptoms of other issues. Getting to the real cause of hazards like bullying, sexual harassment, poor change management, support or organisational justice will help you stop the cycle of harm and focus on the real problem.

Root causes are often structural or behavioural and most risk assessment identify the perception of the symptoms. Nicole Turnbull has partnered with Dr Donna Stemmer to provide psychosocial risk assessments that identify the root causes so you can fix the problem and stop the cycle. Contact Nicole to find out more.

Evelyn M Field OAM, FAPS’s revised book: Bully Blocking delves into behavioural issues, stemming from the school yard.

This book is based on current evidence worldwide. It explains what bullying is, why it occurs, why it is so toxic, as well as how to empower workplaces, parents, teachers and counsellors to manage it effectively. Find out more here.

Next steps

We know that bullying is a complex issue. We help make it simple.

If you need a partner who can help you with this dark side of work, connect with Nicole Turnbull or reach out directly at and let’s create safe, courageous and thriving workplaces.