Hostile workplaces on the rise in Australia

by HRD18 Aug 2017
A “disturbingly high” number of workers in the US have reported working in hostile or threatening workplaces and these findings are largely consistent with the situation in Australia.

The US study found nearly one in five workers say they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, which can include sexual harassment and bullying.

This was based on an in-depth study of 3,066 US workers by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr Lindsay McMillan, lead researcher at global HR think-tank Reventure and campaign leader of a future that works, said unfortunately, the US findings are not unique.

“Half of Australian workers have experienced one or more serious incidences of conflict or negative impacts at work including verbal abuse or bullying,” said Dr McMillan.

“It is no wonder then that 14 per cent of Australian workers experienced a mental or physical decline as a direct result of their work, and almost one in three have high stress levels often or always.

“We need to take workplace culture more seriously.”

Dr McMillan said to improve Australia’s standing in the workplace stakes, a stronger focus on workplace relationships was urgently needed.

“Hostility can be external, and customer facing workers bear much of that burden, but, internal hostility and a threatening culture is bred when employees do not work together,” said McMillan.

“This is typical in highly competitive and highly punitive workplace cultures and it is up to leadership to change the nature of workplace relationships by example.

“Something as simple as showing employees their development options can make a big difference to employees because it shows that you are thinking about their long-term prospects.

“Our research shows that the four principles to keep workplace relationships healthy are engagement, development, inclusion and life enhancement.”

The US research also found that nearly 55% say they face "unpleasant and potentially hazardous" conditions.

Moreover, nearly three quarters said they spend at least a quarter of their time on the job in "intense or repetitive physical" labor.

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  • by Michael Leiter 21/08/2017 4:02:12 PM

    The article makes a solid point about the workgroup culture having a defining role. Rude comments and thoughtless behaviour can become an ongoing, unfortunate part of life at work. Usually groups are good at sorting things out when relationships go off the rails, but sometimes they get stuck. Correcting a toxic workgroup culture requires more than good intentions. Our research has shown that workgroups can change their culture through a structured, facilitated group process. Within a psychologically safe setting, employees practice ways of promoting civility and respect despite pressures to the contrary. They support one another in applying these actions to their day-to-day worklife. It makes a difference. They not only find their workplace interactions more pleasant, they feel a lot less burned out and more engaged.
    Professor Michael P. Leiter, PhD, Deakin University

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