7 Steps You Can Take to Prevent Bullying in Your Workplace

By Charles Power on July 13th, 2011
  1. Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
  2. Bullying in the workplace

Dear Reader,

Workplace bullying is fast becoming one of the biggest issues facing Australian employers.

A recent study by Queensland’s Griffith University has found that bullying in the workplace now affects at least one in four Australian employees in one way or another – either because they’re being bullied themselves, or because they have witnessed a co-worker being bullied.

So in other words, a quarter of our country’s workforce is now feeling the negative effects of bullying.

And this is not good news for you OR your business…

Why? Because bullying increases incidences of absenteeism, stress leave and staff turnover – not to mention severely reducing employee efficiency and productivity levels.

But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg…

Bullying has a flow on effect – it can break down teams, contribute to the failure of projects, increase the workload of other staff members, damage your business’s reputation and generally erode employee trust and confidence in your management.

And unfortunately, prosecutions for incidences of workplace bullying are on the rise…

Continues below…


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Just last month, it was announced that a former senior executive of Berlei lingerie has lodged a $9 million unlawful dismissal claim against Berlei’s parent company Pacific Brands, alleging bullying and discrimination.

And in April, a senior sales consultant with IBM lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission seeking $1.1m in damages, claiming IBM failed to take action to stop her being sexually harassed and bullied by her male supervisor for two years.

Cases such as these are becoming more frequent – so it’s now more important than ever that you are doing everything in your power to prevent bullying occurring in your workplace.

But what can you do?

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent bullying in your workplace:

1. Develop a workplace bullying and harassment policy (if you haven’t already). The policy should define exactly what bullying and harassment is, how you expect your employees to behave, what employees should do if they feel they are being bullied and what action you will take if an allegation of bullying is made. Ensure that everyone in your workplace is given a copy of your bullying policy, and that you remind people about it often.

2. Make sure you encourage respectful and courteous behaviour in the workplace. You can do this by promoting the principles of dignity and respect, taking action to combat bullying and discrimination in your workplace and showing that you do not support it.

3. Make sure you understand what constitutes bullying – and make sure everyone else in your workplace does too. Your employees need to know exactly what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. You could also consider providing cultural awareness training to your employees.

4. Respond as soon as possible to any evidence of inappropriate bullying behaviour. You need to show your employees that you are serious about tackling bullying in the workplace.

5. Monitor your workplace for any bullying constantly. You can’t just assume that bullying is not occurring in your workplace. You need to keep an eye out for warning signs, like employees taking excess amounts of leave or becoming withdrawn or looking stressed.

6. Train your supervisors and managers about your workplace bullying policy. You should also encourage them to address any problem behaviour as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not a formal complaint has been filed.

7. Provide information about workplace policies and procedures on bullying prevention to all employees (including casual and labour hire workers) when you induct them. You could also consider introducing a buddy system for young and new workers.

For more detailed information and practical tips and advice on dealing with bullying, check out the Discrimination chapter in your Employment Law Practical Handbook.

Not yet a subscriber to the handbook? Click here for more information.

Until next time…

Claire Berry

Claire Berry
Workplace Bulletin

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