QUESTION: My son works has a good job on the checkout at our local supermarket but he tells me he wants to quit because an older woman on the staff is bullying him.
I've offered to help but he says he's over it and he'll find another job. He said that this supervisor picks on heaps of his mates and that it's best to leave because once she starts she never lets up.
I can't bear to think this woman is getting away with this.
Shall I intervene even though my son says he doesn't want me to?
ANSWER: You can intervene, but it would be more beneficial if you could convince your son to take this matter further himself, with your support. This problem usually requires the following of correct procedures to be effective.
Perhaps start by reassuring your son that he is entitled (as is every employee in this country) to a safe, non-discriminatory work environment. He should understand that this bullying supervisor also has a boss, who has a legal obligation to ensure that his/her workplace is safe.
'Unsafe' may seem an extreme word imply but repeated bullying can lead to anxiety and depression. Having disgruntled staff members leads to unproductivity, high absenteeism and a fast staff turnover.
Your son may not want the hassle of going through official channels and it may seem easier to quit and find another job in the short term, but let him know that his actions could help other young people who don't have any support.
Get your son to document examples of the perceived bullying; where/when etc. He might find strength in numbers so if he feels able to, he can document his co-workers (or other workers who have already left the job). It's sometimes easier to stand up to authority when you're in a group.
I'm sure you'll be aware that at this stage, the supervisor is not guilty of bullying; it is just your son's opinion. She could be a hard task master or an 'old-school' supervisor, or it could be that your son is not a good worker or adaptable at getting on with all types in the workplace. Follow the process but don't close your mind to other possibilities.
There are agencies where you can get free advice to help you proceed with sorting this matter. Check out Safe Work Australia.