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How to avoid bullying in your workplace

How to avoid bullying in your workplace (Last Updated On: May 12, 2016)

Instances of bullying in the workplace is an issue that troubles almost all employers at some point and if not managed correctly can be very costly.

Is it a realistic notion to believe bullying at work can be completely eliminated? A workplace free from bullying may seem like a fantasy, but below are some tips you can implement in your workplace to ensure you manage any issues appropriately.

An extreme case of workplace bullying is that of Dean Hutchinson. Mr Hutchinson experienced ongoing harassment at work and was hit in the head by one of his workmates with a 30cm long piece of wood, while a number of colleagues looked on and laughed. Not only were the police involved in this event, but adverse action claims were also launched against the employer for breach of workplace rights. Although this is one of the more severe, it brings to light a major issue employers need to make sure they are aware of.

Every employee has the right to be free from violence, harassment and any kind of bullying in the workplace. Employers carry a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace and leave themselves open to a number of legal issues if bullying is present. Workplace bullying is taken very seriously, once a claim has been made to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), it will be dealt with within 14 days.

What constitutes bullying?

To minimise instances of workplace bullying, employers must first be able to identify it and this can be tough as not all occurrences are as obvious as Mr Hutchinson’s.

Bullying or abuse can often be hard to recognise as it appears in a number of forms including:

  • verbal
  • physical
  • social
  • psychological

It is also important for both employers and employees to remember that particular workplace practices may seem unfair, such as discipline, demotion or termination, however if these carry justifiable reasoning, they should not be considered workplace bullying. Bullying claims often arise around these practices if correct procedures are not followed or reasoning is not justified.

Tips to avoid major bullying issues and following a fair procedure

Any significant bullying issues in the workplace can be de-escalated if employers implement the following items:

  • ensure a clear anti-bullying policy is in place
  • conduct regular reviews on any anti-bullying related policies
  • communicate anti-bullying policies to all employees to ensure compliance
  • provide information and training to all employees
  • take all claims of workplace bullying seriously
  • conduct your own investigation rather than relying on individual employees stories
  • document investigations and evidence
  • provide ample opportunity for the accused employee to respond to the allegations
  • monitor employees behaviour
  • ensure an open door policy so employees are comfortable to discuss concerns

Bullying and harassment is a sensitive topic that needs to be handled with the utmost care to ensure you are adhering to your employer obligations. If you have any questions relating to workplace bullying or need advice regarding an instance of bullying in your workplace, contact Employsure on 1300 651 415. We can offer tailored advice to your business or assist with any other workplace issues you may have.

Author: Stefannie Guzewicz

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