As we bring awareness to the National Day Against Bullying and Violence it is important to understand that bullying doesn’t limit itself to children and students. Because bullying is also found in places of work. And this makes the work environment unhealthy and uncomfortable not just for the victim but everyone. As a result, it affects work progress and psychological health. Plus, in its worst form, it leads to modern slavery.

What is bullying?

Bullying takes many forms. According Maarit A-L Vartia, “Examples of the forms of single negative acts of bullying are negatively gesturing toward or glancing at the target; ignoring the target; refusing to talk or listen to the target; slander, laughter and scorn directed toward the target; and belittling of the target’s work.” For more information on Varita’s study on workplace bullying and its affects click here.

Bullying could also include various forms of humiliation, verbal abuse, and even spreading rumours.

How is bullying connected to modern slavery?

Bullying is a controlling feature of modern day slavery. Because victims are forced to work with conditions of violence and intimidation. This creates an unsafe work environment and negatively impacts a person’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Because the ‘controller’ of the victim uses bullying to impact the mind of the victim. In addition, they threaten them and use violence to control them.

A study conducted by Robyn Powell found that former corporate executive Kerin Kenny suffered from workplace bullying. And she ended up in hospital for clinical depression and severe anxiety.

“There were several incidents where I look back now and I had been insidiously undermined in the role. And then there was a situation where I was publicly embarrassed,” she said. To learn more about Powells research into Australian workplace bullying, read more about it here.

An attack on a person’s privacy and personal space has shown the strongest correlation to psychological problems. Those who experience bullying have increased levels of depression, aggression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and much more.

So corrupt managers can easily use bullying to control and employee and it can lead on to forced labour. Forced labour is modern slavery. Because it involves, no pay and psychological control of a person being exploited. If a senior executive like Kerin Kenny can end up with severe mental health issues due to bullying, it is easy to see how a migrant worker in our country can be. Migrant workers often have little English and don’t know their rights.


Staying aware and informed

It is important that we stay aware of our own actions and how it may impact someone else, no matter how small it may be. In order to have safer workspaces and environments it is everyone’s job to ensure that the environment is safe. And people can rely on others for strength and encouragement. It is also important to watch out for the signs that someone is being bullied or controlled by a manager. Especially when you are shopping or in a restaurant. If they look sad, malnourished, and fearful while working, they may be in a situation of exploitation or forced labour. It may seem small but it is always worth reporting to the police, so it is on record.

At The Freedom Hub we help people who have experienced modern slavery in Australia. We help them recover from the trauma. We help them rebuild their confidence, teach them their rights and help them with employment pathways. So this provides survivors specialised help that is catered to their needs.

For more information on what The Freedom Hub Survivor School is click here.

Written by: Natasha Lewis – Freedom Hub Volunteer