2 min read

How can we help an office bully?

Q: We have a manager who has been found guilty of bullying workers in his department. He has admitted to making comments that could be construed as bullying. However, he is not the type of perpetrator who should be dismissed but rather helped. We wish to provide assistance and guidance to this manager. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Under the WHS law, officers are required to exercise due diligence. A breach of this obligation may arise from failure by the officer to ensure that the organisation:

  • has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise the risks of bullying to health and safety, or
  • has, and implements, processes to enable the organisation to comply with its WHS obligations.

In relation to workplace bullying, the business should ensure that it has in place robust workplace bullying policies and procedures, which are communicated and enforced in the workplace. HR and WHS staff should ensure a coordinated approach to managing complaints and reducing the incidence of bullying, and to share knowledge, information and expertise. If you wish to constructively assist your manager, a few options include:

  • requiring staff, including the manager, to attend educational seminars, workshops and/or undertake training in bullying;
  • having a speaker from HR, senior management (e.g. the CEO or managing director) or an external organisation come to staff meetings to discuss issues of acceptable behaviour;
  • arranging an organisational development activity to strengthen your workers’ connections with one another and build understanding about different working and personal styles;
  • if one exists within your company, distributing any bullying policy of yours around to all staff, reminding them of their rights and obligations when it comes to bullying;
  • approaching the manager, recommending areas that may be improved upon, and suggesting that their behaviour be improved upon before any further review of their pay/commission structure can be done and/or potentially revoking such privileges;
  • placing the manager on a performance improvement/management plan with set goals to be reached; and
  • providing access to an employee assistance program (EAP), if not already.

We recommend that you review Chapter B1 – Bullying and also Safe Work Australia’s Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying.

It is likely that you will discharge your duties to provide a safe work place under the WHS law, as well as reducing the likelihood of bullying complaints under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) if you take the above measures.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Bullying for current advice.

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