Monday, 27 January 2014

Understanding and Preventing Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is rife in the media and can affect people's physical and psychological health greatly and can lead to the risk of mental illness.  

The potential impacts of workplace bullying include the following:
For the workplace
*  Increased absenteeism
*  Reduced productivity
*  Increased staff turnover 
*  Decreased staff morale
*  Workers compensation claims
*  Bad publicity 
*  Legal action 

For the Individual
*  Increased feelings of stress, anxiety and depression
*  Potential risk of onset of mental health disorders including anxiety disorders, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
*  Risk of physical harm
*  Increase risk of health problems
*  Sleep problems
*  Ruminative worry
*  Inability to concentrate at work
*  Avoidance of the workplace
*  Feelings of fear when entering the workplace

What constitutes bullying?  
Dr Moira Jenkins (2011) defines bullying as repeated hostile or unreasonable behaviour that targets an employee or group of employees that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances would expect to create a risk to health and safety.  
Dr Jenkins refers to the repeated, persistent and ongoing nature of bullying behaviours. Bullying behaviour frequently escalated into worsening behaviour where one party has an imbalance of power over the other party, and may use their power within an organisation to undermine the other person.  

What are some examples of bullying?
*  Physical violence
*  Threatening
*  Placing excessive or unreasonable demands on a worker
*  Gossiping or spreading rumours
*  Defaming or damaging someone's reputation 
*  Fear mongering
*  Inappropriate jokes or pranks
*  Sexual harassment 
*  Racial vilification or comments
*  Social exclusion
*  Excluding particular workers from key information required for their work
*  Cyber bullying including inappropriate comments via social media
*  Inappropriate emails
What doesn't constitute bullying?
A manager has the right to provide reasonable comments and feedback regarding an employee's work and to take "reasonable administrative action in a reasonable manner"  This may involve performance management, comments regarding performance or the right to refuse a pay increase.
However, the key is that such behaviours are conducted in a fair and reasonable manner.  
Are you are manager seeking more information about best practises for performance management or managing underperformers in the workplace?  Check out the FairWork Australia Best Practise Guidelines for managing underperformance here!

In what type of work environments is workplace bullying more likely to occur?
*  Organisations with unclear role descriptions
*  Organisations undergoing change
*  Competing job demands and excessive workload
*  Workplace where cutbacks or redundancies are occurring
*  Organisations with lack of policies and procedures
*  Isolated workplaces or workers in remote locations
*  High volume, low control work environments - ie, process workers
*  Organisations with managers with an autocratic leadership style
*  Organisations with over or underrepresentation of certain groups, such as cultural groups, sub-cultural groups, education level etc

Where to go for more information:
*  Fairwork Australia.  From January 2014, the Fairwork commission will have the power to make orders to stop workplace bullying.  Click here to see the anti-bullying benchbook
*  Talk to your HR team if you need to report bullying in your workplace or if you're unsure of how to access your workplace's bullying and harrassment policies
*  Ask your manager or HR representative about how to access your EAP counselling service if you need to talk to someone
*  Your GP - your GP can refer you to a psychologist if required

What are some practical strategies you can implement to look after yourself if you are the victim of workplace bullying? 
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series!!!

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