What is workplace bullying?

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace Bullying

Regardless of the industry in which you work, as an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure your employees are protected from a variety of workplace hazards and dangers, so you need to be across such topics as, most crucially, workplace safety.

It is also an employer’s responsibility to ensure employees can work within your establishment free of sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace bullying.

Though sexual harassment and discrimination can both be categorized as forms of workplace bullying, they are actually very specific types of bullying.

Workplace bullying is defined as “repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.” So, as you can see, the definition of bullying in Australia is extremely broad and could, possibly, encompass a range of behaviours that may not traditionally have been thought of as bullying.

Examples of bullying behaviour, whether intentional or unintentional, that may be considered workplace bullying if they are repeated, unreasonable and create a risk to health and safety include but are not limited to:

  • abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments
  • unjustified criticism or complaints
  • deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities
  • withholding information that is vital for effective work performance
  • setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level
  • denying access to information, supervision, consultation or resources to the detriment of the worker
  • spreading misinformation or malicious rumours
  • changing work arrangements such as rosters and leave to deliberately inconvenience a particular worker or workers.

For more info visit Fairwork site

While it is everyone’s responsibility to report and stop workplace bullying, the brunt of responsibility to ensure a safe, bully-free workplace falls squarely upon the shoulders of an employer.

So, what can an employer do to prevent workplace bullying?

The first thing to do is to recognise that no workplace is exempt from workplace bullying and that all employees must be trained to understand what it is, who is affected and how it can be prevented. By ensuring all your employees are made aware of what constitutes workplace bullying, you will (hopefully) build a workforce that not only recognises when they are, potentially, partaking in behaviour that constitutes workplace bullying, but also one that is aware when they may, potentially, be being bullied.

The first step in combatting workplace bullying is to develop a workplace bullying policy.

The workplace bullying policy

This policy can be a stand-alone document or part of an existing code of conduct or workplace health and safety policy.

Whatever form your policy takes, Safe Work Australia recommends this policy be developed with the help of your employers – and that it should include the following at the very least:

a statement that the organisation is committed to preventing workplace bullying as part of providing a safe and healthy work environment the standard of behaviour expected from workers and others in the workplace a statement, where relevant, that the policy includes communication through email, text messaging and social media how and where to report incidents of unreasonable behaviour the process for responding to reports the consequences for not complying with the policy the process for managing vexatious reports.

Provide training and information

Once your work-place bullying policy has been created, all workers including managers and supervisors should be aware of their roles in relation to preventing and responding to workplace bullying and have the appropriate skills to take action when and where necessary.

These skills should be finessed through company-provided and/or sponsored- training.

Training should be offered for existing workers on a regular basis in addition to being introduced at the induction training for all new employees.

Induction training for workers should include information on:

  • the standards of behaviour expected in the workplace including the use of social media if relevant
  • how workplace bullying should be reported and how such reports are managed
  • where to go for more information and assistance.

A continuous training program should cover:

  • awareness of the impact certain behaviours can have on others
  • the work health and safety duties and responsibilities relating to workplace bullying
  • measures used to prevent workplace bullying from occurring
  • how individuals can respond to workplace bullying
  • how to report workplace bullying
  • how workplace bullying reports will be responded to including timeframes.

It is extremely important that your managers and supervisors be trained in how to properly and adequately respond to any reports or claims of workplace bullying while continuing to promote a healthy work environment and respecting the needs of those involved.

While there is no fail-safe method for preventing workplace bullying, it is important to ensure that you as an employer have done everything that you can do to prevent this destructive type of behaviour in the workplace.

The effects of work-place bullying go well beyond a financial expense. The effects of work-place bullying can result in costly turnover and the associated recruitment and training and potential overtime expenses; low morale, and low motivation which can spread throughout your organisation quickly, increasing absenteeism and unpredictable and lost productivity, as well as lower quality standards.

Worse still, it may affect the employee or employees who are subject to the bullying emotionally and physically in both the long and short terms.

Prevention, as they say, is far better than any cure and, when it comes to work-place bullying, that is doubly true.

Do you have any questions or great tips to share?

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This article is intended to provide general information only. It is not offered, nor should it be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a legal representative before taking any action or making any decision with potential legal ramifications.