Bullying and harassment in the workplace are significant problems for many Australian workplaces.
Safe Work Australia has found that one in three women and one in five men who make a claim for a mental disorder will say it involved harassment or bullying. With these alarming statistics, it is a sad reality that many employees experience forms of negative attention as a routine part of their daily work lives.
Whatever form it takes, bullying is a type of abuse and completely unacceptable. It is a way of intimidating and dominating other employees, through physical, emotional, or psychological control.
For management or other staff to turn a blind eye or overlook bad behaviour is to send a message that it is accepted or tolerated in the work environment. The conduct you walk past is the conduct you condone.
What can bullying look like?
It is vital that everyone in your business has a clear idea of the kinds of behaviour that are unacceptable in the workplace.
It can sometimes be difficult to notice bullying as bullies are often well-versed at using non-verbal tactics or subtle humiliation, rather than outright direct threats. Seasoned bullies often know just how far to push their behaviour, while not crossing the line into physical violence or sexual harassment.
Bullying may look vastly different, depending on the environment and business culture. Things to keep an eye out for include but are not limited to:
- Continual snide comments about a person
- Putting a person down whenever they pitch ideas to the team
- Excluding a person from team conversations, meetings, or project work
- Insulting, yelling, or swearing at a person
- Hurtful comments making fun of a person or their work
- Spreading rumours, gossip, or innuendo about a person
- Giving a person pointless or demeaning tasks that do not help them do their job
- Making impossible demands that are setting a person up to fail
- Using a person’s roster to deliberately make things difficult for them
The Impact of Bullying and Harassment at Work
- Bullied workers have overall lower productivity levels, because of:
An incapacity to work or concentrate
A loss of self-esteem
Having trouble making decisions
- Presenteeism or alternatively, employee absenteeism. The latter can be illustrated by an increased use of sick leave and health care claims
- High levels of staff turnover, which bring added cost to recruit and train new employees
- Fines: If a bully in the workplace is convicted , it could involve fines for the individual and organisation they work for, legal costs and potentially jail terms
- Poor public image and negative publicity
Ensuring a bullying and harassment-free work environment
Employers have a strong responsibility to provide a safe workplace for their team, which means one that is free from bullying and harassment.
To reduce the level of liability and to minimise other associated costs, it is recommended that employers take a multi-targeted approach including:
Bullying & Harassment Awareness online training is a crucial first step to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all your employees.
Online training courses like the ones we offer here at GRC Solutions make sure that all employees are well-informed of your organisation’s stance and policies on bullying. This will allow them to know exactly where to go for information and who to contact in the unfortunate occurrence of bullying or harassment. They also allow the business to record the fact that a particular employee has received the relevant training, should disciplinary action be contemplated.
(Train Your Employees with GRC Solutions courses)
Establishing a strong bullying and harassment policy
As an employer, you should develop and implement a strong bullying and harassment policy, to show your commitment to providing a safe and productive environment for your employees. This policy will also ensure your organisation is compliant in this area, while promoting a positive work culture for all.
For staff, your bullying and harassment policy will help them to accurately recognise and understand unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, whilst guiding them to the appropriate resources and contacts for assistance.
It is crucial that all staff regularly review the policy and that this is recorded on their employment history.
Changing your business culture – Speaking Out
Do not suffer in silence. If you are affected, then you must speak up.
Culture is a significant factor in preventing workplace bullying and harassment as culture sets the standards and behaviours in a workplace. Management has a profound influence and responsibility for establishing a positive culture at their workplace.
Therefore, a culture that encourages speaking out, and promotes respectful behaviour and communication is more likely to result in workplaces that are supportive , safe, and free from risks to health.
On the other hand, a workplace culture that tolerates or rewards bullying behaviours are more likely to fail to meet the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in respect to a safe workplace.