Workplace bullying is not an uncommon occurrence in Australian workforces. If prolonged it can pose a significant impact on the wellbeing of employees and overall productivity of organisations. A study conducted by beyondblue and the University of Wollongong uncovered that an estimated 40% of employees will experience some form of workplace bullying during their career. Both Fair Work Commission and WorkSafe Victoria classified workplace bullying as recurring and persistent negative behaviour directed at an employee that creates a risk to workplace health and safety. This behaviour can be grouped into workplace bullying types which make the problem easier to address.
Workplace bullying occurs when an employee or a group of employees repeatedly act unreasonably towards a co-worker or a group of coworkers. Unreasonable behaviour typically includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.
Bullying can be intentional or unintentional depending on the bully. However if repeated and imposes a threat to health and safety, immediate help should be seek out right away. Workplace bullying includes but is not limited to abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments (this can be direct or indirect), unjustified criticism or complaints and deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities. Acts of bullying in relation to work performance includes withholding information that is vital for effective work performance, setting unreasonable timelines or constantly changing deadlines or setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level.
If a co-worker denies access to information, supervision, consultation or resources for the detriment of another co-worker, this can also be considered as bullying. Spreading misinformation or malicious rumours and changing work arrangements such as work rosters and leave to deliberately inconvenience a particular worker or workers are all considered to be acts of workplace bullying.
What is not considered as workplace bullying?
A manager can direct and control the way work is carried out if they make evaluations and decisions on poor performance and take disciplinary action. A reasonable management decision that’s carried out in a fair and reasonable way is not considered as workplace bullying. However if you deem there’s unreasonable management action, it may be considered as bullying. Workplace conflict can also occur but this does not constitute as bullying. Differences in opinion and disagreements are not considered acts of workplace bullying. Workplace bullying is also considered to be repeated acts of unreasonable behaviour so a single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not considered. However it may be repeated or can escalate so it should not be ignored.
If prolonged for long periods of time, workplace bullying has been found to reduce productivity and efficiency in employees and overall business profitability. There may also be higher absenteeism, sick leave and employee turnover. Workplace bullying slows business growth in companies and can be detrimental not only to the employee being bullied, but can have negative spillover effects to others as well. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t bullying in order to establish a safe working environment. Providing a clear definition of what is considered bullying – along with examples of actual behaviours of bullying that meet the definition can help reduce the possibility of workplace bullying.
Learning Seat is against workplace bullying and provides eLearning courses on how to minimise workplace bullying and to foster a fair and equitable workplace culture. If your company wants to create a workplace environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, misuse of substances, and unsafe conditions, contact us today.