Why bullying needs to be banished from the workplace

Wednesday February 28, 2018

Workplace bullying can have a devastating impact on the individual and erode your organisation’s culture. It is a risk to health and safety because it may affect the mental and physical health of workers.

There is no place for bullying behaviour at work and organisations must take responsibility for stamping it out or face the consequences. With the current spotlight firmly on harassment in the workplace, this is a real risk area for business owners if not taken seriously.

The cost of bullying

It can be easy to think of bullying as a bit of ‘banter’ between colleagues. And that it’s not for the boss to break it up. But it can have a huge negative impact on individuals, the team and the organisation as a whole.

Bullying costs businesses $A32bn a year in lost productivity, turnover and disruption. In addition, it causes delays in projects, a hostile working environment and a drop in morale. Staff with lower engagement have approximately 12% more days off than those with higher engagement levels.

Despite anti-bullying policies being widespread, the problem is becoming worse, not better. In 1998, managers in 7% of workplaces reported grievances raised concerning bullying. This rose to 8% in 2004, and to 11% in 2011.

What is the impact?

A staff member who’s being bullied can dread coming in every morning. They can feel overwhelmed, less motivated, hopeless and depressed.

Bullying is never acceptable in the workplace. As well as the impact on individuals, it can cause issues such as:

  • Poor morale and employee relations
  • Loss of respect for managers and supervisors
  • Reduced performance and productivity
  • An increase in absenteeism
  • Higher staff turnover
  • Damage to your company’s reputation

Bullying and the law

Workplace bullying is considered a health and safety risk. Failure to try and prevent workplace bullying can result in a breach of work health and safety legislation. Failure to try and prevent workplace bullying can result in a breach of work health and safety legislation.

In some circumstances, an order to prevent or stop a worker being bullied can be made under the Fair Work Act 2009. The Australian Human Rights Commission can investigate complaints of bullying based on a person’s sex, disability, race, age, criminal record, trade union activity, political opinion, religion or social origin. There are far reaching implications for businesses who do not take action to prevent and tackle bullying at work.

Stamp it out

So what should you do? Have a policy in place. Make sure staff receive regular training on the anti-bullying policy so everyone knows and understands it. This should be supported by clear procedures for dealing with grievance and disciplinary matters in a handbook. This will ensure staff know what the consequences are and that it could be dismissal. It needs to be acted upon consistently, and your managers will need support in this.

Management action that is not carried out in a reasonable way may be considered bullying. But proper performance management, expectations that your employees meet their goals and that they shoulder their responsibilities is not bullying. Whilst we support employers in dealing with and standing up to real bullying in the workplace, we are a little fed up with the cries of bullying when poor performance is challenged.

Training managers on how to spot bullying and root it out can improve their management style. It can help them be the flag-bearer for challenging bullying and building a culture where it’s not tolerated.

Need a hand?

Bullying can be a very emotive issue. Sometimes it can be hard to work out where to start in changing a culture and challenging the behaviour. Get in touch with The HR Dept for a chat about how we can help you reduce bullying and staff turnover in your business.


Preventing People Problems

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