Bullying-Free Zone

How can you prevent Workplace Bullying?

Let's start with defining what constitutes bullying in the workplace.

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

Repeated behaviour refers to a persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of different behaviours over time.

The definition of unreasonable behaviour refers to the fact that a reasonable person having considered the circumstances would see the behaviour as victimising, humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.

Bullying is often seen as an individual issue that results from personality differences. Yet recent research suggests that organisational culture is a significant influencing factor in bullying behaviours.

So, what can you do to prevent workplace bullying?

  • Learn to identify bullying. Workplace bullying can take a range of forms, many of which may not be overt or obvious. Repeated hurtful remarks or verbal attacks, excessive criticism, social exclusion from the team, and the spreading of misinformation and hurtful rumours are all examples of bullying.
  • Have a zero-tolerance policy. Your workplace bullying policy should include guidelines for employees to lodge complaints and have their claims investigated, as well as providing a clear process by which disputes can be resolved.
  • Consult with employees. Regular and consistent conversations with your employees to help identify bullying behaviour in the workplace empowers your staff to identify examples of bullying early.
  • Most importantly, be an effective leader. When issues of bullying fail to be addressed effectively in the workplace, you send a message of condoning the behaviour. It is essential that managers, leaders, and supervisors all have relevant training to enable them to deal with conflict and bullying as soon as it is noticed in the workplace.
  • Identify the signs of bullying. Despite all your efforts to encourage employees to report instances of bullying, some may still be reluctant to do so. Some indicators of a person being bullied at work include them appearing less confident than normal, being absent more often or less productive than is usual for them, and displaying physical signs of stress such as headaches, body pain, or not getting enough sleep.
  • Find the source. Remember - bullying is not always visible. Acts of bullying can occur via email, social media, and text messaging.
  • Watch out for those most at risk. Statistics from Safe Work Australia indicate that some workers are more at risk to bullying than others. These groups include casual and young workers, new employees, injured workers, those on return-to-work plans, and anyone who is part of a minority group of some sort.
  • Reduce the stress in your work environment. Research has proven that bullying is more likely to occur in stressful work environments. Make sure staff workloads are monitored and manageable for each employee.

This is not an exhaustive list of the many measures that you can take to ensure that your workplace is a bully-free zone.

With nearly half of Australian employees having experienced some workplace bullying during their lives, managing, and preventing this behaviour is a major issue for Australian employers.

As an employer you have a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to provide and maintain for your employees, so far as is reasonably practical, a working environment that is safe and without risk to health, including psychological or mental safety.

It is a big and vital job, but it need not be hard. Contact me and we can get started on creating greater psychological safety in your workplace today.

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