Bullying is an extremely important issue to manage in any workplace. Bullying can be damaging to a business for numerous reasons, such as having a negative impact on productivity, staff retention and the overall reputation of the business. It is important that both employers and employees are educated on what bullying looks like and what processes are available within the workplace to resolve disputes. Without the implementation of an effective internal process, an employer exposes the organisation and its employees to unnecessary financial risk.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
According to Australian workplace law, bullying is considered repeated, unwanted, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker, which poses a risk to health and safety. Although bullying is generally defined as repeated unreasonable behaviour, isolated occurrences should not be ignored. While bullying incidents must occur in the workplace, bullying behaviour arising during work-related activities – such as staff Christmas parties or workplace social media use – may be taken into consideration for a workplace bullying claim.
Some examples of bullying might include: continual teasing; abusive or insulting language; inappropriate remarks about an employee’s personal circumstances and/or appearance; overloading an employee with work and/or work that is beyond an employee’s capabilities and/or excluding an employee from certain entitlements.
WHAT IS NOT BULLYING?
Actions and behaviours not considered bullying behaviour include: management conducting employee performance appraisals; counselling; investigations into misconduct and/or addressing underperformance. However, it is of course important that these actions are carried out in a fair and reasonable manner.
In undergoing management action, employers should ensure that established internal procedures are followed and that personal circumstances of the employee are taken into account.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MINIMISE THE RISK?
- Provide an organisational statement on the inappropriateness of workplace bullying
- Create codes of conduct and provide to all employees
- Implement procedures and complaints processes for dealing with internal disputes
- Provide a confidential means of communication to all employees
- Be transparent and inform employees on how their complaints will be investigated
- Educate staff about bullying (perhaps providing specific examples)
- Keep written records of all communications
- Obtain legal advice and/or assistance if a dispute cannot be resolved internally
WHERE CAN I OBTAIN MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BULLYING?