Unfriending a colleague on Facebook constitutes workplace bullying, a tribunal in Tasmania has ruled.
Real estate agent Rachael Roberts filed an application with Australia’s Fair Work Commission (FWC) in order to put a stop to workplace bullying.
She reported 18 incidents of being bullied by the agency’s principals, husband and wife team James and Lisa Bird, as reported by news.com.au.
This included an occasion where Lisa Bird defriended her on Facebook.
The case started in January this year, when Roberts phoned the agencies owner James Bird to ask why none of her listed properties were displayed in the front window of the business.
According to Roberts, Lisa Birds called her a “naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher” after she learned about the call.
The incident drove Roberts into tears and when she logged onto Facebook the next day, she found that she had been unfriended.
Roberts also claimed she was treated unfairly by Lisa Birds, who used to allegedly acknowledge everybody except her in the morning and would not deliver photocopying or printing services to her, even though she did it for everyone in the office.
The tribunal was convinced by Roberts that she was suffering from depression and anxiety as a result of being bullied at the workplace.
“This action by Mrs Bird evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour, the likes of which I have already made findings on,” said FWC deputy president Nicole Wells.
Essentially, the ruling implied the collective actions of Bird constituted bullying, part of which was the episode of the unfriending on Facebook.
Damian Rhodes, managing director of head hunting firm FocusCore, however, doesn’t consider “unfriending” a colleague on Facebook to be bullying at all.
“I would recommend that bosses have a consistent ethic here. Personally I would accept friend requests from people in my teams, but I didn’t add any of them myself,” he said.
He is also on the opinion that companies should be able to limit Facebook in the workplace, explaining that it can be a drain on staff time.
“In addition, I would suggest that if employees state their company name on their Facebook account, then their employer has the right to insist they avoid bringing the company into disrepute and themselves personally and avoid posting anything offensive, racist or abusive,” he added.