Bullying in the workplace can be a serious problem because of the potential impact on workplace morale, productivity and employee wellbeing.
Concerningly, research suggests that almost 50% of Australian workers have experienced bullying at work at some point in their lives.
While Federal and State laws (including the Fair Work Act) provide protection for workers from bullying in the workplace, managing this type of behaviour can be challenging for employers.
So, what exactly constitutes bullying in the workplace? And what strategies can you as an employer use to manage workplace bullies?
What constitutes bullying?
While we’re all familiar with the term ‘bullying’, what kind of behaviour actually constitutes bullying in the workplace?
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, bullying occurs when “a person or group of people repeatedly behave unreasonably towards another worker or group of workers” and also when this behaviour creates a health and safety risk.
Some examples of behaviour which may constitute bullying include:
- behaving aggressively towards others
- teasing or playing practical jokes
- pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
- excluding someone from work-related events
- unreasonable work demands.
It is important to remember that not all interpersonal conflict in the workplace is going to constitute bullying. For example, a rude comment made once (but not repeatedly) would likely not constitute bullying.
Why it should be taken seriously
Workplace bullying is a serious problem when it happens and employers are obligated to address.
Bullying in the workplace can have serious consequences – both for employees and for a business.
When an employee is bullied at work, this can have a serious impact on their mental health as well as their ability to perform their job.
Furthermore, bullying in a workplace can “can contribute to low morale and reduced productivity”.
So… it is incredibly important for employers to act when they know or believe that bullying may be occurring in their workplace.
How employers can approach bullies
While it can be a difficult challenge, there are strategies employers can utilise to prevent and address bullying in the workplace.
If you believe an employee’s behaviour may constitute bullying – or that it may eventually lead there – early intervention can be helpful in addressing the problem before it becomes severe.
The first step is to have a conversation and set clear limits and boundaries with the employee regarding their behaviour.
In setting clear boundaries, you provide clarity to the employee that their behaviour and the manner in which they interact with others is not acceptable and must change.
Be clear about the consequences
After setting these limits, it is also critical to clearly communicate to the employee in question that there will be consequences if their behaviour does not change.
While the nature of these consequences may vary (e.g. a formal warning or other disciplinary action), the employee is in no doubt that there will be repercussions if the problematic behaviour continues.
For some, bullying may be the result of learned behaviours or “fear based responses”. In some cases, a bully may not be fully aware of the effects or impacts of their behaviour.
Discussing the situation with the employee in question and offering help and support (where appropriate) may help to facilitate positive outcomes in terms of behavioural change.
While the above steps may be successful in some cases, it is an unfortunate reality that the behaviour of some workers will not change – regardless of guidance and boundaries set by their employer.
In these cases, ongoing bullying may lead to disciplinary action and dismissal.
Akyra’s key takeaways
- Bullying is a serious problem in Australian workplaces, and can have a major impact on workplace morale, productivity and employee wellbeing
- By setting clear limits on acceptable behaviour, communicating the consequences of continued bullying behaviour, and providing support where appropriate; employers may be able to facilitate positive behavioural change
- If these strategies fail, disciplinary action may be necessary
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to workplace bullying and people management. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.
https://community.hrdaily.com.au/profiles/blogs/three-actions-you-can-take-to-help-change-a-bully-s-behaviour, https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employment-conditions/bullying-sexual-harassment-and-discrimination-at-work/bullying-in-the-workplace, https://www.smartcompany.com.au/business-advice/legal/bullying-workplace/, https://www.fwc.gov.au/issues-we-help/bullying/what-bullying-work, https://hacsu.asn.au/Managing-Bullying-and-Harassment-in-the-Workplace~21220