Could Un-Friending A Coworker Be Workplace Bullying?

Facebook is looking to launch into the workplace, but navigating the professional and personal use of the social network just got even more stressful in Australia. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Facebook un-friending could be seen as bullying in the workplace, the the country's Fair Work Commission ruled recently.

The national tribunal voted in favor of a real-estate agent in Tasmania, Rachael Roberts, who claimed that an associate named Lisa Bird was bullying her. In addition to several instances of hostile behavior — including a tense face-to-face confrontation where Bird called Roberts a "naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher," Bird also un-friended her workmate on Facebook, which could have been the final straw. Un-friending Roberts "evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behavior," the decision said.

"The Fair Work Commission didn't find that un-friending someone on Facebook constitutes workplace bullying," Josh Bornstein, from Maurice Blackburn lawyers, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation News. "What [it] did find is that a pattern of unreasonable behavior, hostile behavior, belittling behavior over about a two-year period, which featured a range of different behaviors including berating, excluding, and so on, constituted a workplace bullying."

The takeaway? It's okay to un-friend that one person you never talk to. But when you un-friend a person following a blowout at work — that could be problematic. And we've learned more than once to be careful about our workplace relationships.

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