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Bullying at work witnessed by half of Australian workers

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HC Online | 07 Jun 2011, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Nearly half of Australian workers have witnessed a colleague being bullied or discriminated against at work, a national survey has found.
  • Bernie Althofer | 08 Jun 2011, 02:24 PM Agree 0
    Over the years I have spoken with numerous people about workplace bullying. It appears that once resolution options are explained, only a small number take action. People use the "I have a friend" approach or "hypothetically speaking ..." when seeking advice. If the survey indicates that 42% have witnessed bullying, how many of those have actually reported the incident? Organisations can have a range of systems and processes in place to prevent, detect and resolve bullying. However, getting victims/targets and bystanders to report any form of bullying is difficult. Some feedback provided to me indicates that reasons why witnesses/bystanders don't get involved are: "It's got nothing to do with me", "I have to work with both of them, so I don't want to take sides", and "I am not a dobber". Breaking workplace cultures where tolerance has lead to acceptability is difficult if training programs do not address culture. It also seems that those involved in contact officer networks (Harassment Referral Officers etc) should also be trained in more than just the bullying policy. For example, contact officers may be presented with issues where 'whistleblowing' or public interest disclosures are part of the bullying. If the contact officer does not know the organisational policy in relation to 'whistleblowing', how then do they provide appropriate advice. I would also suggest that there are hight expectations on HR managers and their personnel to 'do' something about bullying (and other forms of inappropriate workplace behaviour). As I indicated in another forum yesterday, it is my observation that the more organisations create in terms of contact officer networks and a perception that it is the role of HR to 'do' something, the more line managers/supervisors may chose not to be involved. HR might 'own' the policy, but it is up to line managers and supervisors to maintain standards of behaviour and conduct. If in doubt, they can seek advice from HR, but not pass responsibility over to them. I would be interested to know if the survey identified whether or not bystanders reported bullying, and if not, what were the barriers for not reporting?
  • Bernie Althofer | 08 Jun 2011, 03:55 PM Agree 0
    Creating a learning environment where participants get to test their understanding of the intent and purpose of the policy and procedure should be encouraged. Having a facilitator (internal or external) stand and deliver the same spiel about what is and what isn't can turn people off. Scenario training is conducted for a diverse range of situations and perhaps if a 'case' was built the ground up with the starting point being the flash point (incident) leading right through to the Court/Tribunal or Commission hearing. Getting people at every stage to understand their role and the relationship between what they do and what the next person does could help create a better understanding. I could imagine a scenario where a facilitator walks into a workplace (virtually unannounced) and starts the scenario. I have said before, most people don't go to work expecting to be involved in a bullying incident, and hence, they are totally unprepared when an incident occurs. Testing responses and knowledge prior to the 'real deal' in a Court, Commission or Tribunal can identify improvement opportunities e.g. what can the organisation do better to prevent and detect?, where are there gaps in the systems or process? and does the policy/procedure reflect trends and issues or developments and decisions from Courts, Commissions or Tribunals? Sometimes the 'training' has to be conducted in such a way that the 'tree' gets a really good shake.
  • Bernie Althofer EGL I ASSESSMENTS PTY LTD | 27 Jun 2011, 04:07 PM Agree 0
    There may be some witnesses who really don't understand the benefits of reporting incidents of inappropriate workplace behaviour. It may be all well and good for a facilitator to outline the policy and procedures. However, unless the broader implications regarding damage to individual and organisational reputation, costs of bullying to taxpayers and consumers, and the linkages between this type of behaviour, and other organisational issues such as absenteeism and presenteeism are explained, some witnesses may not wish to be involved. Putting bullying in the too hard basket is not an option. There are some changes coming in the shape of due diligence as outlined in the new Work Health and Safety legislation that may impact on whether or not witnesses report incidents. Organisations may have to consider mandatory reporting, or using health and safety management reporting processes to allow reporting of such behaviours. However, when does an incident become a 'near hit' or 'near miss'? It seems fundamental to reporting (either by witnesses or by the target) that there should be some clear understanding of what is and what is not bullying.
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