Studies show that 25% of people are bullied in Australian workplaces. Not only does is this figure alarming in itself, but the financial implications that come with it are becoming increasingly impossible to ignore.
Workplace bullying is defined by Safe Work Australia as the ‘repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.’ Bullying can range from verbal abuse to setting tasks that are unreasonable for a person’s skill level or their timeline.
Each year, workplace bullying costs our economy up to $36 billion, with payouts ranging from $17,000 to $24,000 for each claim. Throughout 2014, the Australian Government will be introducing new laws to combat workplace bullying and employers will be required to fork out fines of up to $51,000 if they are unable to stop the bullying of a worker.
Bullying is detrimental to the victims and to the overall atmosphere of the workplace. It has been proven to lead to physical issues including muscular tension and sleep disturbance, as well as mental issues, including depression and anxiety. In order to prevent workplace bullying, it is vital that you take every possible step to encourage a safe work environment. As an employer, it is in your best interest to look after your employees in an informed way which will allow you in turn; to avoid paying out these huge costs of workplace bullying.
Being a manager means you are on the forefront of employee relationships. This gives you the unique opportunity to prevent and respond to workplace bullying.
Here are some helpful tips on how to enforce workplace policies and procedures, and put a pin in potentially expensive behaviour:
1. Set a standard for behaviour
Present a policy to your employees so that they are aware of how they are expected to behave. This includes the standard of their conduct, their commitment to a safe working environment, as well as the consequences of not complying with the policy and how issues can be reported.
2. Encourage reporting
Oftentimes the person who is being bullied may find it difficult to come forward with a complaint. You need to show them that it is safe for them to do so. It is also important to encourage witnesses of the bullying to not be bystanders, but to instead take action and protect victims.
3. Ensure that information is widely understood
It is helpful to create a procedure that workers can follow when confronted with workplace bullying. It is especially important to include policies and procedures with the induction of new employees. This information should be provided during their training, and should be consistently advocated within the workplace.
It can be difficult to recognise bullying. If you receive any reports, it is important that you conduct an investigation before you take any action. As you want to be able to intervene as early as possible, you need to investigate in an objective and timely manner. You must also remember to keep this sensitive information confidential.
5. Communicate and Review
After you have conducted your investigation, you should take any disciplinary action that is necessary. At this point you need to review your workplace policies and procedures to reinforce your prevention of workplace bullying. You can also run more awareness and training sessions to instill the values in your workplace policy.
If you need a hand with any workplace bullying related matters, get in touch with us at the College for Adult Learning.