Using our voices to stamp out bullying behaviour

It’s been a bad week for Australia when it comes to bullying.

Social media went into a spin following an outburst by radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands and papers reported the death of a school pupil amid claims he was bullied.

I’ve been bullied at both school and in the workplace. At the time I felt I didn’t have the skills or support to adequately deal with the repugnant behaviour I experienced. I know I am not alone – many people I know have similar stories to report. It’s not acceptable.

Last week’s stories are just two examples highlighting that Australian businesses and schools need to take urgent and radical action to stamp out bullying, belittling and abusive behaviour.

Leading psychologist and multi-award-winning businesswoman Eve Ash says enough is enough. “Dishing out hate and hurt really can’t be tolerated. We need to urgently implement cultures of respect in our workplaces and schools”.

She says a two-pronged approach is needed – stamping out unacceptable behaviour in businesses and targeting young children to empower them with the right tools.

She should know – she’s studied human behaviour for more than 30 years. Ash, the CEO of Seven Dimensions, who has created more than 500 training dvds and programs for businesses and schools – winning more than 150 awards – has a solution for both our younger and older generations.

To teach children to stand up for themselves and their rights, she’s enlisted the help of Olympic Gold Medallist Cathy Freeman. Working with children’s charity Save the Children, she’s produced ‘Finding My Magic’, a series of cartoons featuring Freeman as an animated character who is bullied but learns to stand up for herself and teach others about respect and self confidence to speak up for themselves.

Ongoing concerns about workplace issues have led to Ash creating training videos for adults to learn respect at work. The newly completed series ‘Cutting Edge’ has already received rave feedback in the United States and Ash says the training couldn’t have come at a better time for Australian business given recent news events.

Last week countless people took to social media to voice their opposition to what they deemed unacceptable behaviour. More than 22,000 to date have signed a petition targeting advertisers of radio show that employs Kyle Sandilands. Many advertisers listened and responded. Some pulled their ads from the show, others from the whole station.

Whatever the outcome, it can’t change what happened. The only thing we can change is our future behaviour. What this social media storm shows me is that when people have a voice, positive change is possible – and that goes for a wide range of issues. That’s why I persist with running my organisation m.a.d.woman – to make a difference.

Have you ever been the victim of schoolyard or workplace bullying? What have you done to stand up for something you believe in?

  • Hi Melina. I was bullied. Failed to stand up. Paid the price big time. If I had my time again, I’d stand up (and smack down) the lot of ’em. It’s a rotten business. Teach your kids karate is my take out. P. :(

    • I keep hearing more and more stories like this Paul – we need to educate our kids to stand up for their rights and to provide safe environments for them to get support. The Finding My Magic series has some great tips for kids.

      Workplaces are another whole story – people should be able to go about their business in safe and nuturing environments. It’s better for everybody – and the bottom line!

      thanks for sharing your experience. Well done for getting through it!

  • Oh Melina, as a Mum, these stories fill me with terror. I don’t think I was ever really bullied and I feel terrible for anyone that did. And while I agree that karate is terrific to defend oneself against physical abuse Paul, I think it’s just as important to instill mental toughness or resilience to help our kids sidestep the harm that emotional and cyber bullying causes.

    • I totally agree! I wonder if there has been any studies done into what happened to people who did the bullying as well as those who were bullied. I’m starting to see some themes that those who came through being bullied have gone on to be high achievers.

      I wonder if any of those who bullied are now remorseful and have changed their ways or if they have continued that behaviour.

  • I’ve received some comments on Twitter from people who have been bullied for many years – it’s incredibly disheartening to hear those stories. what is good though is some of those people have gone on to do amazing things with their lives.

  • My dad always told us if someone bullied us to take them around the back of the school building and punch ’em. Haha. Never did do it, but then – Im a bit of a force to be reckoned with *glare*

    • Thanks Leah – not sure if I subscribe to your Dad’s theory :) however I think it is important to have strategies in place to deal with bullying and to minimise violence in general – be it physical or implied!

      appreciate you taking time to comment. *smile*

      • He’s an old Clint Eastwood type of guy :) so don’t think his theories really float at all. Not unless you think pouring diesel on everything fixes.. everything.

        Sort of like Windex really.

  • Roni

    I’m in the process of taking a stand at work. I’d love to share my learnings but it wouldn’t be prudent
    at this point in time.

    I will say the experience makes me very interested in the Kyle Sandilands incident. I believe this has the potential to be a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about bullying, particularly since he commands such a large share of the 10-17 and 18-25 year old audiences.

    I do hope it doesn’t devolve into a debate about misogyny. It’s the behaviour itself that’s unacceptable, not the underlying political motivation (if any), and insulting a woman’s appearance is a classic *female* bullying tactic.

    I’ve noted many of the twitter comments supporting Kyle seem to be coming from teenage girls. They don’t understand what the fuss is about, eg “what’s up with calling a fat slag a fat slag?” It’s girls like these who most need to learn this behaviour is unacceptable.

    • HI Roni – very thoughtful comments from you. It’s a shame some of Kyle’s supporters don’t seem to understand the broader issues and how they fit in to them. Bullying at any time is just terrible.

      The media have gone very quiet in relation to this case. I had hoped that we might see some positive changes come out of this – here’s hoping we still will!

      good luck at work – I hope you get the outcome you are looking for. Best wishes, Melina

  • Bullying’s not on but I think it is so hard to combat because it comes in so many forms – it’s not all beating up kids for lunch money but also name calling, excluding, spreading stories, ridiculing, and so on.

    I consider myself to have been picked on at school rather than bullied, and it’s not at all nice. The problem is that many bullies choose are shy, quiet and non-phsyical people to start with so it’s really hard for them to stand up – I found it hard to speak up when I felt safe so had no hope when feeling threatened or unwanted.

    I love that schools now actively teach self-esteem and personal development – its not always enough or perfect but at leads it is a start. It is a different culture than when I was at school so I take that as a positive that we are making a difference – we need to do it faster though.

    BUt it is heartening to see so many people against the bullying last week – if people see they are in the majority over such issues, it may just give them the strength they need to stand up more.

    • Hi Tash – there is a whole cultural shift that needs to take place. I have seen some very passive aggressive bullying in the workplace (as well as some outrageously overt instances). I know teachers work hard to stamp out bullying. Unfortunately for some children they are threatened outside of school and feel too traumatised to stand up for themselves.

      I’m sure addressing bullying will go a long way to addressing issues of depression and youth suicide – both major issues in their own right.

  • Thank you for your article and your initiative to stamp out bullying. We see that in the media, our so called leaders both at work and play, at home and in our everyday lives on the road, in shops etc. For children no wonder it becomes a way of life – we have accepted bullying behaviour in every facet of our lives and in some cases seen as a positive. We need to stop this cycle of bullying, and it starts with small steps. A good centre is to consider, is something coming up from a place of fear or love?

    Thanks again.