With only 1 in 8 cases of Workplace Bullying and Workplace Harassment being reported in Australia, the workplace has been changed from a place of production to a battleground.
Australia has one of the highest rates of workplace bullying anywhere in the world with average rates being almost double that of most other developed countries with estimated costs due to Workplace bullying to be more than $6 billion a year. This includes indirect costs, such as absenteeism, labour turnover, loss of productivity and legal costs.
Workplace bullying occurs when a worker is subject to mistreatment by another worker that is persistent, regular and causes harm – and it can take many forms. Workplace Bullying occurs in every sector of the workplace and in every industry from retail to construction to law enforcement to health and in politics.
Some Types of Workplace Bullying
- Overt Acts - directed abuse
- Covert Acts - gossip, rumour spreading
- Restricted work conditions - denial of leave, longer hours
- Public Humiliation
- Denial of Promotion
- Unsafe/Hostile Environment
But one of the problems with bullying is that while “overt acts” – particularly where aggression is a feature – can be clearly identified and investigated, bullying of a more subtle nature - Covert Acts - are harder to prove. And these covert acts can lead to far greater consequences for the victim not just emotional but also financially in terms of loss of pay rises, promotions and loss of work.
Targets of workplace bullying were traditionally thought to be introverts – submissive, shy, and quite reserved. The type of person you might describe as “delicate” and who would find stressful situations difficult to cope with. But more recent research has shown that targets are often not shy, sensitive or silent. Rather, they are often someone who is outgoing, popular, successful and a high achiever, which can then cause envy among colleagues and makes them a target.
Research also shows that workplace bullies are more likely to be men. Although that said, the behaviours of women can often play out more subtly. So while men might shout and criticise in public, women are more likely to withhold information needed to successfully complete work tasks or spread rumours – which can make identification and investigation of an incident more difficult.
Bullies also often hold posts where there is an element of formal power which comes from their managerial or supervisory post. But managers themselves are not immune to being bullied either. And there is an increase in research showing that bullying can happen to managers when they are simply carrying out the will of the company. A recent paper on the topic even suggested that legitimate actions undertaken by managers act as “fertile ground for false claims of bullying”.
Dealing with Bullies at WorkWhen it comes to dealing with bullies in workplaces, it seems there is still quite some way to go – given that a recent survey of 1,500 UK workers showed that 91% of respondents did not believe their organisations dealt well with bullying at work.
These figures are concerning, as workplace bullying affects everyone involved. From the targets to the perpetrators, the bystanders, and the witnesses. Even clients, customers and the organisation itself are adversely affected. This is because motivation of workers begins to drop and loyalty is lost. Care over the end product or work can also decline because essentially workers do not want to be at work and remove themselves either mentally or physically.
What to do if you are being Bullied at Work?There are four key steps for you to take if you are being bullied at work.
1. Document Everything
When you are trying to end a problem or if it continues to the level where arbitration or legal processes are involved you cannot rely on your memory, you must have accurate records of the instances that occurred, by who and where.
We realise that this can be onerous but Workplace Bullies get away with their actions primarily because there is no documentation on their behaviour. Make sure you list down any witnesses or others present when the incident occurred - even if they don't want to write something in support of your situation you still need to detail this as it can demonstrate a culture or pack mentality to Workplace Bullying.
2. Use Internal Processes
First and foremost you must use your existing workplace processes to try and resolve the problem. Every company and business is required to have a Workplace Bullying policy and for those that work in larger organisations this is managed by the HR department.
Regardless of the size of your business you must put your complaint in writing and send it through the internal channels and processes first. Remember you must keep copies of your complaint and evidence your are sending through. Document any meetings you have internally, with whom, where and what times.
3. Fair Work Commission
Now the thing to remember is that Fair Work Commission, whilst having a range of services including Arbitration and Conciliation cannot solve every problem however you need to contact them if you are not able to resolve the problem through your businesses Internal Processes.
Yet again, document when you have called them or emailed them!
Fair Work will be able to advise you on the best course of action you should take and whether they can or not assist you.
4. External Help
As a last resort seek external help to end the problem through a lawyer. Yes we know that these can be expensive however there are a number of firms that will consider cases on a No Win - No Fee basis but you must have gone through your companies Internal Processes and tried to resolve through Fair Work first.
For any suit or legal action to be successful will solely rely on the level of documentation you have. The more you have documented the better and easier it is for a legal team to act on your behalf.
Ending Workplace BullyingMany people and organisations believe that to end Workplace Bullying we need to change people's and companies behaviours to respect all workers.
Whilst this is true and needed, we also believe that there is a more direct approach to ending instances of Workplace Bullying much faster.
We are currently developing a proposal to the State, Territory and Federal Governments to bring an effective end to Workplace Bullying immediately by holding companies accountable for failures to enforce their own policies.
Our proposal is simple yet effective focussing the responsibility of ending Workplace Bullying on the business/company itself.
We are proposing that in cases of Workplace Bullying, where it is proven that the company/business has failed to enact their own policies or to properly address the situation, that they are subject to a minimum fine of $500,000 in addition to any compensation or payouts to the victim.
These fines would be used to fund greater awareness to businesses and companies about their responsibility to their employees and to increase the level of support and services offered by the State, Territory and Federal Governments to victims of Workplace Bullying.
It is our strong belief that faced with a $500,000 fine for not following their own policies and procedures, the majority of companies and businesses in Australia will immediately act on all reported cases of Workplace Bullying. We are expecting to announce this proposal in February 2017.