No Bullying at Flinders
9 August 2007
Date Last Amendment:
Nature of Amendment:
Consequential amendments arising from a restructure of Central Administration/VC's office and the creation of new senior executive positions replacing the EDA and Registrar
Date Last Reviewed:
Director, Human Resources
Flinders University is committed to providing a work and study
environment that maximises the opportunities for all staff and students
to undertake their work or study. Respectful relationships between
the people within our community are the basis for such an environment.
Respectful relationships require that all people
- are treated with integrity and goodwill;
- are aware of the impact of their behaviour on others; and
- adjust their interpersonal styles and methods to the social
and cultural environment.
Flinders University considers that all forms of harassment, including
bullying are inappropriate and unacceptable behaviours.
This statement applies to all students and staff of the University
when engaged in any activities reasonably connected with their role
at the University, including activities undertaken beyond the campus
such as fieldwork, placements and consultancies.
Bullying defines persistent or ongoing behaviours directed towards
an individual or group that a reasonable person, having regard to
the circumstances, would find offensive, intimidating, humiliating
or threatening and that potentially or actually affects health and
Examples of bullying behaviours
Examples of behaviours that, when repeated, may cause others to
feel offended, intimidated, humiliated or threatened include, but
are not limited to:
Work- or study-related
- acts or situations that use ‘strength’ or ‘power’
and that are displayed by an individual or a group who perceive(s)
they are in a position of power, or that are received by an individual
or group who perceives that the perpetrator is in a position of
- deliberately withholding resources or information vital for
effective work / academic performance (time, information, training,
- arbitrarily dispensing punishment, blaming, ‘ganging
up’, preferential treatment for an individual / group to
the detriment of others
- unreasonable criticism about work or academic performance
- electronic harassment (email, WebCT, telephone, SMS) eg emailing
a lecturer with a question and sending numerous emails demanding
a response within 24 hours; inappropriate comments about individuals
on webCT discussion groups
- constantly changing work / study guidelines, requesting impossible
deadlines, assigning unreasonable workload or demeaning tasks,
denying appropriate breaks / leave
- unreasonable and repeated demands for leave at short notice
- undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work /
- coercive or persecuting behaviours which bewilder and confuse
- hostile nonverbal communication and/or interfering actions
- personal insults and name-calling, verbal abuse, sarcasm, threats,
repeatedly shouting or swearing at staff or students
- physical or psychological harassment
- spreading malicious gossip, rumours, innuendo
- excluding or isolating someone socially
- intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying
- tampering with a person’s personal belongings or work
/ study equipment
What is NOT bullying
It is appropriate and expected that managers, supervisors and academic
staff will offer constructive and legitimate advice and comment
as part of their role in a way that does not demean or humiliate.
Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to manage a variety
of activities within their areas (staffing levels, leave requests,
workloads, budgets, structural changes etc), provide guidance and
conduct performance counselling with their staff, and may have to
instruct them in more effective ways of performing their duties.
Academic staff are responsible for undertaking assessment of students’
work. They are also expected to provide academic guidance and advice
to students to complement their assessment and may have to instruct
them about academic policy, process and time-line provisions.
In itself, the act – even repeated acts – of correcting
staff / students or pointing out inadequacies of performance does
not constitute bullying.
Similarly, invoking unsatisfactory performance procedures or misconduct
procedures does not in itself constitute bullying of staff. Applying
student progress procedures, academic integrity procedures or assessment
due dates does not in itself constitute bullying of students.
Adverse effects on health and wellbeing
Some effects of bullying can manifest immediately as discomfort
/ unease or may be expressed as feeling ‘degraded’ or
‘undermined’. Other effects evolve over a period of
time as the behaviour gradually erodes an individual’s or
group’s confidence, self esteem and work / study performance.
On those experiencing bullying
- stress related illnesses, including headaches, nausea, insomnia
- loss of confidence, reduced self esteem, depression and suicide
- social isolation, absenteeism, overworking
- reduced performance at work or in study
- risk of economic devastation through the loss of their job
or withdrawal from study
- failure to report problems for fear of retaliation by bully
or that the complaint will sound pathetic or trivial
On those witnessing bullying
- fear that they might be the next target and therefore withdraw
- guilt that they are not stopping the behaviour
- anger and resentment that nothing is being done about it
- fear of retribution if they intervene or take sides
On the University environment (study or work)
- reduced commitment and respect for the organisation
- breakdown in communication and teamwork
- increased staff turnover / student dropout rates
- targets and witnesses leave causing morale of the remaining
group to drop
Points to consider about bullying behaviours
- the behaviours may be either obvious or hidden, intentional
- the behaviours are often the accumulation of trivial or minor
- the misuse of power – formal or informal - is often involved
- both staff and students can experience, and can be perpetrators
of bullying behaviours
- people who ‘bully’ others need as much assistance
to change their behaviour as people who are ‘targets’
need to restore their resilience
- witnesses can be just as affected by the behaviour as targets
and can play a significant role in either preventing or perpetuating
the unreasonable behaviour
- while one-off acts can be serious and need to be addressed,
they do not necessarily constitute bullying.
How bullying is managed at Flinders
Bullying will be managed according to the situation, the context
within which the behaviours occur and the people involved.
Staff and students are encouraged to take appropriate and relevant
action to address bullying early for their own well-being and the
well-being of those around them, to prevent an escalation of the
situation and to facilitate a positive resolution.
Appropriate and relevant action
Actions that are ‘appropriate and relevant’ will differ
according to the situation, the context and the people involved.
Some actions include but are not limited to
- talk to someone about the alleged unreasonable behaviour to
test perceptions of ‘reasonableness’
- raise the matter directly with the person concerned
- change your response to the behaviour
- report it ‘up the line’ or to the Head of School
- make diary notes of instances describing the behaviour and
the context within which it occurs
All people have a responsibility to oppose bullying behaviours,
for their own well-being, the well-being of others and to maintain
the safety of our University community. Speak up, don’t ignore
the behaviour – there is no such thing as an ‘innocent
bystander’ where bullying is occurring.
Information and Support
Flinders recognises that the experience of being bullied, being
accused of bullying or managing these situations is highly stressful
and emotional. We are committed to ensuring that our staff and students
have access to information and support on campus.
Initial contact to discuss the situation can be made by both
students and staff to
For Students, information and support is available from
- Equal Opportunity Contact Officers - www.flinders.edu.au/eo_unit
- provide information about ‘appropriate and relevant
actions’ and available options within grievance procedures
for addressing a bullying situation
- provide support for people who wish to make a complaint
of bullying. This support can include attending meetings as
a support person, and discussing the problem
- are not involved in resolving the complaint
- Flinders One Student Assist phone (08) 8201 2371 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Health & Counselling (08) 8201 2118 - www.flinders.edu.au/healthcounsel/
- the fieldwork/placement Coordinator in the case of bullying
behaviours being experienced while on fieldwork or a placement
For Staff, information and support is available from
For those managing bullying situations (supervisors/Deans of Schools) extra support is available from
Information and support is also available from the Equal Opportunity
Unit, particularly if the behaviours are based on sexuality, race,
disability, pregnancy, age, sexual harassment etc – www.flinders.edu.au/eo_unit
Flinders University expects that all staff and students will conduct
themselves in a manner which respects the rights and welfare of
other members of the University community and which respects the
reasonable freedom of such other persons to pursue their duties,
studies, research or other activities.
Supervisors/Deans of Schools
- provide a safe work and study environment that is free from
harassment, discrimination and bullying
- provide information about ‘appropriate and relevant’
- initiate appropriate and relevant action
- take all complaints of harassment, discrimination and bullying
seriously and handle them fairly and expeditiously using the agreed
.All complaints of bullying will be taken seriously.
The University encourages the resolution of any grievance by informal
means based on principles of procedural fairness, natural justice,
confidentiality and protection from victimisation as set out in
the relevant grievance procedure.
Use the relevant grievance procedure to invite the involvement
of a third party to speak with the alleged bully, or to seek a facilitated
discussion and / or mediation / conciliation.
For informal complaints a ‘no blame’ approach is taken
as the objective is for both parties to agree about acceptable behaviours
and to commit to changing behaviours that are offending the other.
The focus is on restoring a professional relationship between those
involved in the issue.
If the situation is not resolved informally a formal complaint
may be lodged in accordance with the relevant grievance procedure.
(Students can lodge a complaint with the Director, Academic and Student Services
either orally or in writing and staff can lodge a written complaint
with the Director Human Resources).
If a formal complaint is substantiated there is the potential for
disciplinary action arising from the investigation which can range
from warnings to dismissal from employment / cancellation of enrolment.
Throughout any grievance process a staff member or a student may
request assistance or representation by a person of her / his choice
provided that the individual is not a practising solicitor or barrister.
Related policies and legislation