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Fighting back: How to combat workplace bullying

Every allegation of workplace bullying or harassment is different - but there are some hard and fast rules HR professionals can live by when dealing with a complaint. We speak to Karin Adcock of Pandora, Peter Coyne of Crown Casino and Travis Kemp of Marsh for their tips on handling these difficult situations.

Video transcript below:

Stephanie Zillman, HC TV
Stephanie Zillman:
 Hello, I’m Stephanie Zillman and you are watching HC TV. Dealing with allegations of workplace bullying or harassment can be a headache for HR.  But take it from Crown Casino’s  Peter Coyne, who says no good can come from ignoring it.

Peter Coyne, Crown Casino
Peter Coyne:  We take it very seriously.  I mean we are a large work force, we are a young work force, we are a hospitality based work force, so really the opportunity for you know less professional behaviours is there.  So we have a very broad network of contact officers working in an embedded way within all of our business units.

Travis Kemp, Marsh
Travis Kemp:  The Australian culture of potentially putting your head in the sand in relation to the particular issues is no longer, because organisations will be penalised in that regard.
Stephanie Zillman:  Travis Kemp of Marsh says claims of bullying and harassment are not only damaging for the employees involved, but also for your brand. 
Travis Kemp:  It’s not only the fiscal impact on that, it’s actually also the brand impact that has for your organisation.  Because the last thing you want is your brand attached to such instances, particularly with the media coverage.  It’s prominent in the media, once the media get hold of it in terms of that management, that can spiral out of control very quickly from a brand perspective.
Stephanie Zillman:  And while it’s an issue most organisations will have to deal with on occasion, the situation can be handled best if there is a good policy in place.  Karin Adcock of Pandora says, a  clear system outlining the chain of escalation is vital.
Karin Adcock, Pandora
Karin Adcock: If you generally have a nice working environment where people are respected for them as individuals and are encouraged to share and behave as nice human beings towards one another, I think that would probably take away 80% of cases which could develop.  There will always be some and then it’s just very important to have a very specific escalation process in place.  So if it happens then there is a very clear way of what to do and how to then manage the situation.
Simon Boulton, Aequalis Consulting
Simon Boulton:  It’s a really hard topic because bullying can be so many things to different people in different organisations.  So I think it’s really important here to get the details, examples of what is happening rather than just I don’t like them because they are bullying me.  It has to be a really factual and I think statements real examples of what’s happening, so that’s the first thing.  It needs to be done properly, so I think again employees need to go to their managers and talk to their manager about this sort of thing, so that regular communication is being there as well.  Then it’s case of trying to manage that process.
Peter Coyne: Bullying or harassment is a very personal thing.  It occurs often in very insidious ways within businesses.  So it’s about, often about culture and if you haven’t put in place some workplace culture then you are going to struggle in that place.  So if there is a tolerance of that sort of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, you are going to be in strife. So again it’s really about the foundations, the values of your business.
Stephanie Zillman: For more on anti bullying strategies and other HR issues, click around HC Online.  I am Stephanie Zillman and I will see you again soon on HC TV.