A proactive approach to bullying could really change the landscape of workplace bullying in Australia – yet organisations continue to lose millions of dollars in reactive approaches instead.
That’s according to a leading Australian industrial psychologist, who says organisations simply aren’t doing enough to prevent workplace bullying from happening in the first instance. “If we are to truly address the problems associated with workplace bullying and its cost to the economy, we need to broaden our focus beyond punitive measures and how we deal with incidents once they have occurred,” Dr Rod Gutierrez, head of psychological-based safety programs at DuPont Sustainable Solutions said.
To Gutierrez, the stock-standard approach taken by most organisations – replete with zero-tolerance policies and counselling of offenders, is failing. “Far more can be achieved when we take a more holistic view of both the risk factors and their associated effects, allowing governments, organisations and individuals to more effectively deal with and stamp out this problem,” he commented.
Most organisations have safety rules, oversight professionals and a system to manage performance. Yet, despite all these well-established procedural and behaviour-based reinforcement measures, incidents have shown a sharp rise over the past decade. According to Gutierrez, viewing workplace bullying in isolation is compounding the problem, and he says much of the time and effort that currently goes into punishing workplace bullying would be better spent on preventing it and creating a psychologically safer workplace from the start.
A new approach gaining traction among some organisations is to conduct a so-called ‘bullying audit’ – instead of reacting to complaints as they come through, the workplace culture and relationships are proactively reviewed to ensure compliance with policies. One consultancy which deals in the business of external workplace reviews and audits is Worklogic, who say conducting a review is the first step in identifying negative indicators which could turn problematic if not addressed. These indicators may include ‘noise’ about workplace problems, such as gossip or excessive absenteeism.
Conducting a review or audit should not be a witch-hunt, or done with the intention of exposing anyone; rather, much like a general health check-up, it is an open and qualitative exploration of what is going on in the workplace from the perspective of the employees.
According to Worklogic, the key features of a workplace review are:
The workplace review is instigated by the employer
There is no need for a specific complaint from a named complainant
The person or team conducting the review/audit speaks to a larger group of employees
Employees should not be probed about a particular issue or “problem”. Instead, a workplace review provides an opportunity, in private, for each employee to explain their experiences in the workplace, and to raise any concerns they have about their workplace and any opportunities for improvement;
The end result may be a report which, rather than making ‘formal findings’, makes recommendations about how the workplace can be improved.
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