Being bullied at work? Here's an app to help

Is it them? Or is it me? Wondering whether you're being precious or have a genuine grievance is par for the course for individuals who believe they're being bullied at work.

Write it down, advises Brisbane entrepreneur Margo Atkinson, whose experience at the hands of a workplace bully inspired a business venture designed to help victims generate a detailed report of their case as it unfolds.

An online program that allows bullying victims to create a running record of events, MyWorkFair is free for the first 30 days then costs $50 for a six-month subscription.

For their money, subscribers receive unlimited access to time stamped journaling software that enables them to record the who, what, when and where of suspected harassment and bullying incidents.

Journal entries can be converted into reports that may be used as evidence, should victims seek redress via the human resources department or through external avenues.

It's a step up from the little blue diary Atkinson bought to document the persistent incidents of bullying she endured from her former manager five years ago.

Although she was ready to walk away from her high-flying dream job as an air crash investigator at a large organisation, her resignation was rejected by the HR department. Instead it launched an investigation which led to the dismissal of the perpetrator.

The value of keeping a diary was thrown into sharp relief when Atkinson was asked to turn her entries into a formal statement.

Advertisement

"Bullying can be ambiguous and subtle," she says.

"I bought a journal and would jot my notes into it, whatever I could that would mean something to me later on … If I hadn't have had my notes, I'm not really sure what I would have done."

Research shows becoming a victim of bullying is a commonplace experience. A Safe Work Australia report from 2013 revealed just over five per cent of Australians were experiencing workplace bullying at the time of survey.

A further 16 per cent stated they had been bullied previously in their current workplace, while 24 per cent of respondents reported they had experienced bullying in a former workplace.

Researchers identified a gamut of experiences, from rumour-mongering "person-related bullying", setting impossible work targets and other shades of "work-related bullying" through to violence and intimidation.

Workers on the receiving end report a sharp spike in significant depression symptoms and an increased risk of suicide ideation. One in five choose to quit rather than take on their tormenter, according to research from Career One.

Enable Workplace Consulting psychologist Alexina Baldini says contemporaneous notes can carry weight in bullying investigations, but few victims realise their importance until they've endured several incidents.

As well as recording vital evidence, documenting events allows victims to externalise their emotions and feel in control of what is usually a stressful and emotional experience.

"Good documenters get a better outcome and feel less anxious during the process," Baldini says.

But don't pin your hopes on a finding in your favour just because you've kept tons of tabs, Henry Davis York workplace relations lawyer Vanessa Andersen cautions.

Writing something down doesn't make it true – and in cases where incidents of bullying are not reported until months after the event, it can be reasonable for an alleged perpetrator to state they can't remember what transpired.

Workers who feel they're being victimised should say something sooner rather than later, instead of stewing in silence, Ms Andersen says.

"I don't think anything can substitute for actually telling someone in the organisation as to what's occurred," she says.

"As an employer and manager I would hate to think there were employees sitting there journaling at night without speaking up about it."

Want to see more? Follow Executive Style on Twitter and Facebook.