From time to time the word bullying can come up in the workplace. Bullying allegations can quickly become a living nightmare for an employer who is ill prepared to deal with the situation.What is bullying?
Bullying is defined as repetitive, unreasonable behavior towards worker/s that may create a risk to health and safety.
- The bully may be a work colleague, external contractor or a manager.
- Bullying can take form in verbal abuse, isolation or humiliation all in varying degrees.
- The perpetrator may act alone or a group may be involved.
Recent Beyond Blue study has found that almost 1 in 2 Australians have suffered workplace bullying. The study found that those who had experienced workplace bullying had higher rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress order.
The effects of bullying
Workplace bullying can be (amongst many other things) exhausting for the person being bullied, and if left unaddressed can lead to serious harm to the workers’ mental health. Bullying may therefor adversely impact the entire workplace. Workers may take more sick leave and be less productive, both of which damage productivity.
What is not considered bullying?
Reasonable management action is not bullying. Examples of reasonable management action include performance management, informing an employee about unsatisfactory performance, disciplinary action or asking an employee to perform reasonable duties in keeping with their job.
Tips for reducing the chance of bullying
Here are some handy tips to reducing the chance of bullying occurring in your workplace.
- Set clear workplace standards
- Have a Bullying Policy and Code of Conduct in place
- Increase awareness through training
- Ensure staff know what to do if they are being bullied or witness bullying
- Speak with staff to find out if bullying is happening in the workplace, be aware of what is going on within your organisation.
What to do if your employee claims bullying?
In the first instance bullying claims should be handled at the workplace.
- Take the claim seriously
- Conduct thorough investigation
- Document all findings
- In some cases, you may need to implement measures to keep your workers’ safe
- Maintain confidentiality; and
- Act impartially.
The Fairwork commission will typically allow an employee and employer to resolve issues in house in the first instance, but they will step in if they have concern for the employee or don’t see acceptable response.
If you require help with bullying or harassment complaints in your workplace, contact our team today. Sometimes a perspective and expertise from outside your organisation will be a big help in sensitive cases such as bullying claims.
Written By HR Business Partner, Sasi Virtanen