Know Bull! puts the spotlight on workplace bullying

by Janie Smith03 Jun 2014
Workplace bullying has been in the spotlight recently, with new anti-bullying measures introduced by the Fair Work Commission earlier this year and today is the 6th annual Know Bull! Day, which is designed to raise awareness of workplace bullying.

June is also Workplace Bullying Awareness Month.

According to the Know Bull! website, two-thirds of workplaces have an “active bully”.

The website also reports that seven out of 10 people who experience or witness bullying leave their jobs because of it.

Employment law expert Amber Chandler of Kaden Boriss told HC Online that preventing bullying came down to creating a healthy workplace culture.

“It starts from the top down. You can have all the policies and procedures in the world, but unless the workplace culture is such that every manager and employee knows that bullying is not on in their workplace, you’re going to have incidents of bullying somewhere.”

She said in cases where an employee bullied a co-worker, it was harder for employers to monitor the behaviour than in cases where managers bullied their subordinates.

“When you’ve got a case of workers bullying other workers, that is harder for an employer to monitor because bullying can be very insidious. It can be subtle behaviour like sideways glances or mumbling under the breath as the worker walks past them.”

Chandler said managers could help combat worker-to-worker bullying by keeping an eye on office interactions.

“Even simple things like noticing which workers are always going out for coffee together and then noticing the week when, all of a sudden, they’re no longer having coffee together. In fact, they’re not even talking to each other. What’s happened?

“Find out, because those sorts of things can escalate and all of a sudden you’re slapped with Fair Workers Compensation claims and bullying by one worker to the other. If you’d noticed the signs early on, you might have been able to mediate some sort of solution.”

It was much easier for managers to monitor incidents of bullying by management to workers, she said.

“Employers can address bullying by providing the right management training and training managers in what is reasonable management action. It’s all very well for a worker to have stuffed up and been called into the office and given a warning. But it’s the fair process that has to be accorded to that worker that will avoid any allegation of bullying.”

As of March 31, the Fair Work Commission had received 151 applications for stop bullying orders, but only one was granted.

See related articles:
Anti-bullying laws: A storm in a teacup?
Bullying update: What is “reasonable management action”?


  • by Bernie Althofer 3/06/2014 12:16:34 PM

    The discussions that occur in relation to workplace highlight the insidious nature and damage that it causes to individuals and organisations.

    Unfortunately it does seem from various comments that some organisations only drag out their policy and procedure post event, or where some 'niggling' issues have been occurring over a period of time, an investigation has identified that 'everyone knew but no-one acted'.

    It seems that whilst some organisations have been proactive in developing support networks, the workplace culture has remained largely unchanged.

    At the same time, individual and organisational understanding about reasonable management actions can lead to confusion and perceptions of unfair treatment. Whilst some may perceive they are being bullied, the application of the reasonable management action is based on poor management and/or communication practices.

    Organisations do need systems and processes in place to maintain currency of knowledge regarding trends and issues, along with Court, Commission and Tribunal decisions and findings.

    The complex nature of the issues involved in workplace bullying do need to be unravelled and understood. In addition, organisations do need to consider those workplace hazards that contribute to environments where bullying is allowed or permitted to develop, grow and flourish.

    Conducting annual 'sheep dip' presentations might provide some degree of 'comfort' i.e. tick the box to say training has been provided. However, I would suggest that workplace audits or assessments are required to test whether or not the policy and procedure is being implemented and applied in the manner intended or required.

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