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Is Workplace Bullying the Right Christmas Gift?

Sydney – WEBWIRE

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia December 2013 - When we think about bullying behaviour we often revert back to our childhood and think about those kids in the school yard that would taunt, steal lunch money or food, cause or threaten physical harm, verbally abuse and generally just make life miserable for the kids around them. Unfortunately the reality is that some of those kids continue this bullying behaviour into their adult life and become the person that makes derogative and inappropriate comments, withhold vital work information or even spread malicious rumours.

Bullying in the workplace is a problem that is costing Australian businesses anywhere between $6 billion and $36 billion a year, according to the Australian Productivity Commission. This figure includes indirect costs such as absenteeism, staff turnover, loss of productivity and legal costs. According to Comcare, in 2011 the number of mental stress claims from workplace bullying equalled those for stress from work pressure.

Bullying is a complex issue. Case management can be difficult and organisations often lack follow-up procedures. What is more, Australian law does not easily categorise workplace bullying. It can fall under the mantle of workers compensation, unfair dismissal, workplace health and safety, discrimination and even criminal law.

From 1 January 2014, workers can apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop the bullying. Robert Keft, Managing Director of the Safety Australia Group said many employers and organisations are nervous and are looking to seek advice on what to do. “There may not be obvious signs that bullying is occurring but does not mean it is not occurring. What we do know is that wherever people work together, there is a risk of workplace bullying occuring. We also know that the longer the bullying behaviour continues the more difficult it is to address and the harder it becomes to repair working relationships” Mr Keft said.

What is bullying?
Safe Work Australia define workplace bullying as “repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”. Bullying behaviour can take many forms and can be carried out in a variety of ways, including through email or text messaging, internet chat rooms, instant messaging or other social media channels. A single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not considered to be workplace bullying however it may have the potential to escalate and should not be ignored. 

What can you do?
It is really important to create a work environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and unreasonable behaviour is not tolerated. Employers should have systems in place to prevent bullying as well as having clear procedures to respond to any allegations that may arise. 

Safety Consultants Australia
 who are part of the Safety Australia group and recommend a risk management approach and treat workplace bullying as a safety hazard. If bullying is occuring at your workplace now then the issue should be dealt with promptly just as you would address any other workplace hazard. When investigating allegations it is really important to ensure procedural fairness and that all parties are supported. If you do not have the internal professional resources to deal with bullying allegations we recommend you seek professional advice.

If there are no obvious signs of workplace bullying occuring, a good starting point would be to speak to workers to find out if there are any instances of unreasonable behaviour occurring or situations which could increase the risk of bullying. Keep an eye out for changes in workplace relationships, patterns of absenteeism, turnover or workplace grievances.

Everyone in the workplace should have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and work towards productive and respectful relationships. Safety Consultants Australia have developed the ’Safety Hazard’ initiative which seeks to create a more harmonious and collaborative environment in three ways:

  1. Effective case management: to deal with incidents of bullying and harassment when they occur (responding);
  2. Constructive communication skills; to build skills for dealing with workplace conflict and engender collaboration (managing the risk); and 
  3. Positive culture development: to create a system of working together that enables constructive communication and inhibits bullying behaviour (controlling the risk). 

The idea is to concentrate far more effort on prevention of bullying and promotion of constructive communication.

For more information please visit the Safety Consultants Australia website: 


 workplace bullying
 risk management
 bullying case management
 safety consultants
 safety australia

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