Research shows that half of Australians will experience workplace bullying at some point in their careers. Under health and safety laws and the Fair Work Act, employers have a duty of care to identify and tackle bullying associated with their workplace.
As bullying claims can now run into millions of dollars and even result in prison sentences in some instances, this is an issue no employer can afford to ignore.
Even if a bullying case doesn’t result in litigation, there are numerous other business costs that are known to be linked to workplace bullying, including:
- decreased productivity;
- increased absenteeism;
- loss of valuable staff;
- high employee turnover;
- toxic business culture; and
- damage to business’s reputation.
Certain types of bullying, such as openly aggressive or overbearing behaviour, belittling, mocking and malicious gossip are sometimes easy to spot, but bullying can also be subtle and may go unnoticed.
It might take place between peers, managers and even senior staff and, if a distinct pattern of behaviour is repeated, it could represent a classic bullying situation.
Here are 11 signs of bullying that aren’t always easy to identify:
Lies or deception may be used to create a false sense of hope to get in one’s way.
Intimidation isn’t always overt, scare tactics and threats can be tacit.
Legitimate concerns or feelings may be purposely discounted or ignored.
Conflicts and stigmatisation may be encouraged to pit staff against each other.
Expectations and guidelines may be continually shifted to create unease.
Lack of communication
Information may be intentionally withheld from individuals.
Scapegoating may be used to avoid responsibility and downgrade other staff.
Not giving credit
Contributions and ideas may be deliberately unacknowledged or stolen.
Staff may be complimented to win trust and make them susceptible to manipulation.
Individuals may be excessively criticised to make them feel ashamed or inadequate.
Creating a low sense of self-worth
Continual allocation of menial tasks, unevenly delegating duties between staff and neglecting to provide feedback may all be intended to destroy one’s self-esteem.
How to successfully manage workplace bullying
Employers must implement an effective anti-bullying policy, reporting structure and procedure that is clearly understood by all staff.
While it is everybody’s duty to stand up against bullying, employers should be aware that responsibility starts from the top. In fact, more than 70% of workplace bullies hold supervisory positions.
Overall, employers need to:
Accept that workplace bullying does take place
Unfortunately, bullying may not be noticed until the damage is done. When it is covert, the victims themselves might not realise they are being bullied, despite their distress and hindered work performance.
Take all reports of bullying seriously
Employers must always address the issue. Even if the bully is a ‘star’ performer, it is essential that any complaint is correctly reported.
Respond immediately and act promptly
Investigate any complaint quickly and thoroughly and, if the allegation is proven, notify the complainant of the action that has been taken.