New report shows bullying on increase

By Jeff Salton on November 29th, 2016
  1. Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
  2. Bullying in the Workplace

Aggressive Businessman Shouting At Female Colleague

Back in 2010, the Productivity Commission estimated workplace bullying cost the Australian economy up to $36 billion annually! And that was when around 7% of Aussies reported to being bullied.

That figure has increased to 9.7%, according to a Safe Work Australia survey, titled: Bullying & Harassment in Australian Workplaces: Results from the Australian Workplace Barometer Project 2014/15. Imagine the cost to business now?

Participants in the survey were randomly selected across all States and territories.

According to the report, supervisors are the most common source of bullying behaviours, and says efforts should be made to provide education and training regarding appropriate supervisory behaviours, particularly in relation to managing the performance of employees.

The report also identified relatively high levels of bullying in the electricity, gas and water supply industries; Health and community services; and Government administration and defence industries.

In the report, bullying incidents may include psychological acts (e.g., humiliation), physical acts (e.g., violence) or indirect behaviours (e.g., social exclusion), all of which place the target in a state of fear and inferiority.

Of those who reported that they were bullied, approximately 32.6% were bullied at least once a week. The most common forms of harassment reported were:

32.0% – being sworn at or yelled at;

32.0% – being humiliated in front of others;

32.0% – being physically assaulted or threatened by patients/clients;

32.0% – unfair treatment due to gender;

32.0% – negative comments due to race or ethnicity.

Women were more likely than men to be bullied and experience unwanted sexual advances, unfair treatment because of their gender, and experience being physically assaulted or threatened by a client or patient.

Men were significantly more likely to experience being sworn at or yelled at in the workplace.

While the report noted that as a worker’s psychological and emotional demands increased in the workplace, so did the prevalence of bullying. In contrast, when management committed to psychological health and safety of its workers, the prevalence of bullying decreased.

Bullying and most forms of harassment were associated with depression and emotional exhaustion.

The report says self-reported bullying and harassment are common in Australian workplaces and are associated with poor psychological health.

The report suggests to help counter workplace bullying, one approach is raising awareness among managers and supervisors about the profound effects of bullying and harassment at work, as well as the causes of workplace bullying and harassment.

Another approach is to establish worker psychological health as a core business value.

Businesses should create “systems that enable upwards and downwards communication about bullying and harassment, and participation of all levels of the organisation in monitoring, establishing controls, awareness raising, education and training on matters relevant to bullying, harassment, and risk factors,” the report says.

According to the report: “Workplaces should establish policies or guidelines for respectful behaviour, particularly toward women and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and how to address bullying and harassment should it occur; attention should be drawn to the legal and WHS implications and organisational sanctions.”

In your business …

Do you suspect bullying and harassment are problems within your organisation? Don’t know where to start to counter their effects?

Problem solved. Get your hands on a copy of Portner Press’s The Bullying Guide. Written in plain English by health and safety lawyers at Holding Redlich, it explains your obligations under health and safety legislation to protect the welfare of your workers. This includes doing everything you reasonably can to prevent the risk of bullying in your workplace.

Anti-bullying legislation introduced in January 2014 requires that businesses are proactive about prevention and that they are prepared to handle any complaints of workplace bullying.

And further, if you are aware of the risk of bullying and recklessly allow a worker to be exposed to a risk of serious injury, you could be found guilty of reckless conduct which carries a potential jail sentence and/or fines of up to $600,000.

Not only do you have an ethical duty to help put a stop to workplace bullying but it also makes absolute business sense to do so.

The Bullying Guide – a 49-page eBook – has been written by the team behind the Health & Safety Handbook and will help you to identify exactly what constitutes bullying and what you should do if an allegation is made. You’ll find out:

  • How to recognise the different types of workplace bullying
  • How the FWC anti-bullying scheme affects your workplace
  • 10 things you can do that will help identify bullying in your workplace
  • 6 different legal claims you could face if bullying occurs in your workplace
  • 6 things you can do to mitigate the risk of a claim being made under the anti-bullying scheme
  • 14 things you must take into account when developing your anti-bullying policy
  • What you need to do as soon as an employee makes a bullying allegation
  • 6 steps you should take when investigating a bullying allegation
  • How to determine whether unlawful bullying has occurred before beginning a formal investigation
  • How to determine what action you should take against the perpetrator when bullying has occurred

As a manager of staff, you have a health and safety duty to protect the welfare of your workers. Part of this means being aware of the potential for bullying to occur.

The Bullying Guide will help you take the proper steps to prevent bullying from happening in the first place and ensure you are well-prepared in the event that it does.

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