The case of two CSIRO employees who blew the whistle on alleged mismanagement and made claims about a bullying culture has thrown the spotlight on toxic workplace cultures.
As reported in The Age, two of three CSIRO employees who blew the whistle on alleged ''criminal or civil breaches of the law'' by the scientific organisation were later made redundant. The officials who were the subject of the complaints remain employed, the CSIRO confirmed via a spokesperson.
The details emerged after a group of former CSIRO employees began a campaign for a change in culture, alleging that mismanagement and bullying were rife.
Last week a parliamentary inquiry examining workplace bullying in Commonwealth agencies published the group's submission. It claims the group is aware of 60 cases of top-flight scientists and other officials who were bullied or otherwise forced out.
''Current whistleblower legislation does not adequately protect from persecution those making public interest declarations,'' the document says.
''This is particularly true in circumstances in which it is hard to identify a direct link between a whistleblower complaint and subsequent, seemingly unrelated, adverse action against the employee in his or her workplace.''
Stuart King, managing director of Risk to Business, told HC that his organisation’s research of 5,000 Australians and their experiences of bullying in the workplace painted a “sad indictment” of how employers are handling the problem. “This is what people told us about what their organisation did in response to bullying issues when they raised them: 5.8% made things worse, 23% turned a blind eye, 40.2% did nothing, 4.3% victimised the person who complained, 16.1% made things better.”
King added that corporate leaders can be classified as either ‘visionaries’ or ‘gamblers’ when it comes to building corporate cultures. Gamblers might be hired because they deliver on results, they increase profitability, increase market share, “and deliver on all those outcomes that organisations value”. However, he said there is often a “blind eye turned to how the person actually achieved that”.
These organisations, he added, are not interested in finding out what’s going on, or they hear about it and turn a blind eye, which in turn encourages toxic cultures to build.
A visionary leader, on the other hand, is open to asking questions to the employee group, including probing what it’s really like to work in the organisation. “It’s important to hold people accountable for the values in organisations,” King said. “I always say to senior execs, the higher you are, the greater your responsibilities are to articulating and living the values. Because people will see that and follow that; but the contrary is also true – if you don’t do that, people are almost rudderless.”
King advised companies to review their policies around workplace bullying, and recommended implementing independent help lines to triage workplace behaviour complaints, to refer people to EAPs, to support people to resolve conflict, and to provide assistance to managers when they are supporting people who are responding to conflict. “These all help to make the issues visible,” he said. “Treat it like a risk – once you identify the risk you can then treat it or mitigate it.”
Loyalty out as job hopping becomes the new norm
Time to revisit on-site childcare facilities?
Dismissal for health reasons ruled unlawful
Employers urged to look beyond glossy social media profiles
Brodie’s Law ineffective in dealing with workplace bullying