Bullying

Unfriending a Colleague on Facebook Now Constitutes Workplace Bullying in Australia

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Friending your co-workers on Facebook just became a dicier proposition thanks to a recent decision by a labor tribunal in Australia.

Real estate agent Rachael Roberts filed an application with Australia’s Fair Work Commission in order to put a stop to workplace bullying by the agency’s principals, husband and wife team James and Lisa Bird.

While Roberts sited 18 different incidents in which she claimed she was being bullied, nine were upheld by the Commission, according to News.com, including what may be the most provocative slight of all: that Lisa Bird defriended Roberts on Facebook.

Related: Parents May Be Held Accountable for Kids' Facebook Activity, Court Rules

“This action by Mrs. Bird evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behavior,” wrote deputy president Nicole Wells in her decision, adding that unfriending Roberts was “the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship.”

All in all, Roberts filed a slew of complaints -- including that she was called a “naughty little school girl running to the teacher” and forbidden from adjusting the office’s air conditioning -- which she says led her to seek psychological treatment and medication for sleeplessness, depression and anxiety.

While workplace bullying is a surprisingly prevalent and productivity-slashing phenomenon that can be difficult to delineate, the decision in Australia sets a rather stunning precedent when it comes to social media ethics. Nevertheless, it might not be unwise for business owners to examine such tenets in the future in order to avoid these kinds of run-ins.

Related: Bosses Who Pick on One Employee Ruin Everyone's Productivity, Study Shows

Edition: December 2016

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