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 wellbeing.
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 power
- deliberately withholding resources or information vital for effective work / academic performance (time, information, training, support, equipment)
- 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 / academic progress
- coercive or persecuting behaviours which bewilder and confuse the recipient
- 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 or stalking
- 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 / resign
- 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 or unintentional
- the behaviours are often the accumulation of trivial or minor episodes
- 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 Dean 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
Equal Opportunity Contact Officers - www.flinders.edu.au/equal-opportunity who
- 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
For Students, information and support is available from
- 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/equal-opportunity
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’ actions
- initiate appropriate and relevant action
- take all complaints of harassment, discrimination and bullying seriously and handle them fairly and expeditiously using the agreed grievance procedures
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 Manager, Student Policy and Projects 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.