5 ways leaders can address workplace bullying

Is your leadership promoting a culture of bullying?

5 ways leaders can address workplace bullying

Think Australian workplaces are much better than their overseas counterparts when it comes to addressing workplace bullying. Think again.

In fact, many would be surprised to learn that Australia ranks as the sixth highest workplace bullying nation, according to research by Safe Work Australia.

This October marks ‘National Bullying Prevention Month’, and as a CEO or leader it’s important to ask yourself: is your leadership promoting a culture of bullying or are you making employees accountable for their actions and fostering a progressive culture?

Moreover, the Australian Workplace Barometer Project found workplace bullying costs Australian employers approximately $693 million per annum in lost labour and claims. Additionally, 32.6% of workers have been bullied at least once a week, with 62% of bullying cases directly involving a manager or supervisor.

Simon Rountree, founder of Change Ready, said that despite our notion that Australians love to give people a fair go, it seems the data is suggesting otherwise.

Indeed, all CEOs or leaders need to understand and fully appreciate their duty-of-care to protect their employees from workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying and ensure that they’re aware of their rights.

“My first-hand experience as a CEO, where I’ve managed a national, multi-sited workforce of thousands of employees, is that for any business to perform at its best, they need to create a culture that rejects the notion and behaviours of humiliation, intimidation and threats,” he said.

“No matter how large the organisation is, every CEO can put a greater emphasis on this, and introduce measures beyond their bullying policy and procedures. A policy is no longer enough.”

As the former CEO at Camp Quality for 16 years, Simon Rountree has outlined five actions he implemented into this workplace to help propel the organisation forward.

Take all matters seriously. All bullying reports must be reported to the CEO, no matter how big or small. They should be made aware of the case and how each case is assessed on its merits and facts.

Regularly consult with workers, and health and safety representatives. Find out if bullying is occurring or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying. Take a day to observe behaviours on the ground yourself and identify the issues.

Setting the standard of workplace behaviour. You can achieve this by linking the workplace code of conduct to a Reward and Recognition scheme that acknowledges positive behaviours. At Camp Quality, our scheme involved employees nominating a colleague whose actions and behaviours were creating positive and trustworthy environments, which was then sent to their manager who rewarded the individual with something small, such as two movie tickets, whilst posting the person’s name and actions up on the company Intranet. It wasn’t so much about the tangible reward, but more about being acknowledged to the rest of the organisation.

It’s also important to take a step back and assess your leadership style. Are employees mirroring any of your actions? For example, using fear-based tactics to get the most of someone or excessive monitoring.

Allocating sufficient resources, information and training. This investment is needed for employees to manage risk and carry out their work safely.

Being open and transparent. You must keep records and measure the business against certain KPIs. If you’re falling short, assess and implement new policies immediately.

“By adding the above actions to your leadership activities you’re not only establishing that you take workplace bullying seriously but you’re also setting the benchmark for other businesses to follow,” said Rountree.

Rountree also cited statistics by The Australian Workplace Barometer Project which found that workers with low engagement due to harassment or bullying have approximately 12% more sick days per month and an average performance loss of 8%, costing employers $4796 per annum.

“Therefore, committing to a psychologically healthy workplace simply makes good sense from a cultural, financial and productivity perspective.”

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