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Bullying in the workplace: how to deal with it.

One of the biggest threats to culture in the workplace is the existence of bullying. While you may not think that it could be happening in your workplace, bullying can easily go by unseen and left to damage company culture. 

It is for this reason that every workplace needs to be properly informed and educated about how to identify and handle bullying to protect employees and the work culture. Preparing your workplace and employees for bullying incidents is very critical as the effects of bullying can be widespread, affecting not only the victim but the organisation as well. Learn more about how to minimise the effects of bullying before it even starts. 

What is considered bullying in the workplace?

Bullying in the workplace is defined as repeated negative and obstructive behaviour that is targeted at an individual employee or a group of employees. The impact of bullying is not limited to the health and safety of the victim but also affects the culture of the organisation. While a single incident of harmful behaviour is not considered bullying, it should still be dealt with to avoid it escalating. Anyone in the workplace can be a victim of bullying, regardless of status or job title. 

Examples of bullying

What isn’t considered bullying? 

A manager or employer can perform reasonable actions within their managerial authority that are not considered bullying. This includes decisions made based on an employee’s poor performance, disciplinary actions, constructive criticisms and management of how work is to be carried out. Employers are also allowed to demote, fire, transfer and give warnings based on an employee’s behaviour if it has been unsatisfactory. 

The effects of workplace bullying

Bullying in the workplace can impact on more than just the victim: other employees can also be affected. Just some of the effects of workplace bullying include:

How to deal with bullying in the workplace

Workplace anti-bullying laws are made to protect employees, interns, contractors, subcontractors, outworkers and volunteers.

Getting help as an employee 

Victims of bullying in the workplace should first and foremost talk to someone they trust, such as fellow coworkers, as well as stay educated on what the organisation’s policy procedure is for bullying in the workplace. For reporting purposes, bullied victims should record all bullying incidents including what happened, when it happened, the response, and if any other witnesses were present.

To take a formal course of action, employees should ask for help to address bullying either in the workplace or an external authority. This will depend on who you feel you can trust and who the perpetrator of the bullying is. 

In the workplace, you should reach out to your manager or supervisor, a health and safety representative, your Human Resources department or a registered union in your industry. Some external authoritative bodies you can report to are the Fair Work Commission (if you’re still employed, you will need to apply for eligibility), the health and safety body in your state/territory, or the Australian Human Rights Commission

Getting help as an employer 

Employers can get assistance from the Fair Work Commission in lodging bullying complaints. 

As leaders, employers have the responsibility of upholding bullying prevention methods to ensure a positive, safe and supportive workplace environment. When employees are stressed and unwell due to bullying or any other reasons, employers need to provide health and wellbeing solutions to support them. This includes educating all their staff about how to identify it, the effects and disciplinary actions that can be taken if it occurs.

Factors that increase risk of bullying in the workplace

There are a number of factors that can influence the likelihood of bullying in the workplace, such as the nature of the workplace and leadership styles. Sometimes the lack of progression in these areas perpetuates the existence of bullying.

High work pressures

Bullying is more common in workplaces where the job is demanding or boring, limited job control, security, conflict and change occurs frequently. Employers who tolerate unreasonable behaviour or have no behavioural standards also allow bullying to thrive more easily. 

Authoritarian leadership styles 

Controlling and strict leaders that don’t give employees a say in decisions, give little to no guidance, and delegate responsibilities in an inappropriate manner also make the workplace culture vulnerable to bullying. 

Inadequate work system and enforcement standards 

Workplaces that do not enforce a standard working system and lack training, resources, performance standards and policies can allow for unfair management and treatment amongst employees. 

Lack of interpersonal relationships

Environments where employees have conflict, little support and bad communication tend to provide a higher likelihood of workplace bullying.

Characteristics 

Some employee groups are more susceptible to workplace bullying due to being young, new to the workplace, injured, working on a casual basis or as an apprentice/trainee. Those in a minority group are also at risk, with these characteristics including religion, gender, disability, sexual preference or ethnicity.

Get in touch with the team to learn more 

Want to stop and prevent bullying in the workplace? Speak to the Performance by Design team. We offer the resources and assistance to help your organisation operate more effectively and reach your goals. Boost employee satisfaction, efficiency, and productivity by partnering with us.