Early Intervention Critical in Addressing Bullying | Fresh HR Insights

Back in September 2012, we wrote the below article. 8 years on what has changed. Not much in reality other than the voice against workplace bully and harassment has only got stronger and the stand against the treatment of women louder. The state of bullying at work in 2021 is at a point where 79% of working professionals have experienced or witnessed bullying at work. Of those that become a bully 52% are co-workers, 33% direct managers, 8% external managers ad 6% other company employees.  

When we look at what makes us bullying in the workplace the most common types are

  • Being picked  on or getting regularly undermined (women 66% vs men 55%)  – 60%
  • Becoming a victim of malicious rumours  – 30%
  • Having someone interfere with your work – 29%
  • Receiving aggressive texts, emails, or phone calls – 23%
  • Getting your work sabotaged – 12% 

It turns out—49% of employees don’t report workplace bullying and prefer to keep it under wraps. The remaining 51% of workers report getting bullied to:

  • Their own boss – 24%
  • Senior manager – 20%
  • HR – 16%
  • Lawyer – 1%

Interestingly, more experienced employees that have been in the workforce for 6–10 years are more willing to come forward and report bullying than their younger colleagues with only 1–2 years of professional experience (59% vs. 46%).  Similarly, working professionals with some university experience (but without a degree) prefer to keep things a secret from others, unlike those with a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree (37% vs. 52%)

But what can we do about Bullying

Workplace Bullying, Harassment, and Discrimination not only lead to psychological harm to employees but can significantly affect a companies reputation. A failure to understand and manage these issues can result in liability for employers and employees involved in a breach.

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

It is a risk to health and safety because it may affect the mental and physical health of workers. Taking steps to prevent it from occurring and responding quickly if it does is the best way to deal with workplace bullying.

Bullying can take different forms including psychological, physical or even indirect—for example deliberately excluding someone from work-related activities. It can be obvious and it can be subtle, which means it’s not always easy to spot.

Some examples of workplace bullying include:

  • abusive or offensive language or comments
  • aggressive and intimidating behaviour
  • belittling or humiliating comments
  • practical jokes or initiation
  • unjustified criticism or complaints.

According to Safe Work Australia Managing the risk of workplace bullying involves the following

Organisations can minimise the risk of workplace bullying by taking a proactive approach to identify early, any unreasonable behaviour and situations likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying occurring.

Organisations should implement control measures to manage these risks, and monitor and review the effectiveness of these measures. This could include activities such as:

  • Regularly consulting with workers and health and safety representatives to find out if bullying is occurring or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying.
  • Setting the standard of workplace behaviour, for example through a code of conduct or workplace bullying policy.
  • Designing safe systems of work by clearly defining jobs and providing workers with the resources, information and training they need to carry out their work safely.
  • Implementing workplace bullying reporting and response procedures.
  • Developing productive and respectful workplace relationships through good management practices and effective communication.
  • Providing information and training on workplace bullying policies and procedures, available support and assistance, and how to prevent and respond to workplace bullying.
  • Prioritising measures that foster and protect the psychological health of employees.

If you as a business owner or Manager need help when it comes to your workplace book in a virtual appointment with us today by clicking on the link below. Bullying in the workplace will only stop if we all take a stand and say NO MORE.

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Post from 10th September 2012

Early intervention critical in addressing bullying: lawyer

Bullying in the workplace – Despite its ‚ ‘symbolic importance’, Brodie’s Law is a deeply flawed response to workplace bullying, according to prominent employment and industrial lawyer who also says the issue should not be confined to the‚ ‘realms of WHS’.

In Sept 2012, Josh Bornstein, principal for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers told a legal forum in Melbourne that a new policy and legislative approach to workplace bullying is‚ ‘overdue’ because the current system does little to afford victims with effective options for relief.

‘One of the keys to sensible legislative and policy reform on workplace bullying is to remove it from its current legal and cultural designation as an occupational health and safety issue,’ he said. Confining [workplace bullying] to the realms of WHS hasn’t worked and won’t work.’

Brodie’s Law – symbolic, but flawed

Bornstein explained that Australia has, for too long, accepted a‚ second-rate system wherein the regulation and policing of this issue is entrusted to state-based WHS regulators, which are ‚ simply not resourced sufficiently to manage the volume of workplace bullying complaints [they receive]’.

He also took aim at the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Act 2011, dubbed‚ ‘Brodie’s Law’, which took effect in Victoria in June 2011. The legislation extends existing criminal laws that deal with ‘stalking’ under the Crimes Act 1958 so that they apply to cases of serious bullying. This means that people can face up to ten years jail in ‘extremely serious’ cases of workplace bullying.

Brodie’s Law was prompted by the tragic 2006 suicide of 19-year-old Melbourne waitress Brodie Panlock, who was relentlessly bullied during work hours. Bornstein said that while Brodie’s Law is‚ ‘strong as a symbol’ those affected by workplace bullying need‚ ‘better, earlier protection’. Brodie’s law is not a bullying law but a stalking law, he said.

In reality, it’s useless in about 95 percent of workplace bullying cases. Even if it was amended to change that, it is deeply flawed. To give but one illustration of its flaws, imagine you are an employer and an employee turns up to work on Monday brandishing an intervention order prohibiting another employee from going within 100 metres of him or her.’

Criminalization is not a workable model

Bornstein disagreed with calls for Brodie’s Law to be adopted nationally. He also rejected the use of criminal law to address workplace bullying. It is not a workable model, he said. Criminal law should only intrude into the workplace in extreme situations. Most bullying cases are not criminal matters. The criminalization of workplace bullying is a misguided and ineffective way to address workplace bullying and provide victims with remedies.’

Early intervention, education and hard work . . .

Bornstein said that workplace bullying should be addressed by national workplace laws, which establish a ‚ user-friendly, proactive system; wherein, victims can take a complaint to a tribunal or court ‚ well before the situation has escalated to the point of damage to an employee’s health. Early intervention is often critical. Amending the Fair Work Act to allow this to occur would be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, Bornstein said that an investment in an educational campaign about workplace bullying, together with legal reform, would ‚ ‘reap a huge dividend by saving millions in lost productivity, healthcare costs, and social welfare payments.It would enhance managerial skills and improve the quality of our work environment. Also, Bornstein advised employers that implementing codes of conduct and policies is not the solution.

The era of the workplace policy or code of conduct being the key to managing workplace culture is well and truly over. It is one thing for employers to purchase a vanilla workplace policy off the internet. It’s altogether another to actually manage workplace culture. The gulf between culture and policy can and is often significant. Bridging that gulf requires sustained hard work and strong management.’

Myths debunked

During the forum, Bornstein debunked a number of myths about workplace bullying, including the belief that bullying is ‚ ‘unlawful and actionable’. This assumption is wrong,’ he said. Contrary to popular belief and despite the apparent scale of the phenomenon, there is no statutory scheme in Australia that proscribes bullying. The lack of a law that explicitly deals with workplace bullying is quite anomalous.’

Another myth was that workplace bullying is a ‚ ‘misguided reference to a personality conflict’. It has become fashionable by some to claim that bullying allegations are unfounded and simply the result of a personality conflict or relationship breakdown,’ he said. This is a myth generated principally by jaded OH&S regulators and bottom-feeding consultants seeking to drum up work.’ Mental health damage is often invisible to the eye. Bullying behaviors are often subtle or Machiavellian and an accomplished bully can often construct a defense of plausible deniability.’ He also said the view that there is no definition of workplace bullying is wrong.

Most OH&S regulators use working definitions of bullying that are remarkably similar,’ he said. The Draft Code of Practice released on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying, Safe Work Australia defined the term to mean repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.

Source: http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au