Workplace bullying is more than just a dispute between co-workers, it can be a symptom of a poor workplace structure or environment. The best way to prevent bullying at work is to create an environment where bullying behaviour is unlikely to develop. Workplace policies focus on prevention before the bullying can even occur. It is essential to have these measures in place, to avoid compromising workplace relationships and increasing risks to health and safety.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying can happen in situations where people are working together, in any type of workplace, and can cause psychological or physical harm to a person. Whether it is one co-worker making degrading comments to another, or the changing of a work roster to deliberately inconvenience a colleague, bullying behaviour is:
- Unreasonable; and
- Directed towards a worker or a group of workers; that
- Creates a risk to health and safety.
Why You Should Prevent it
Workplace bullying cannot only affect the people involved, but also their families, other co-workers (or the work team), and the running of the business as a whole.
By law, employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to manage and eliminate any risks associated with workplace bullying under Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws. Failure to take appropriate steps will result in a breach of these laws. Often bullying can arise in a work culture where there is poor organisation and stress among individuals.There are specific management strategies that you can use to prevent and minimise bullying behaviour among colleagues.
Steps to Take to Prevent Workplace Bullying
Establish a workplace bullying policy
It is important to establish from the outset that bullying behaviour will not be tolerated. Identify the standard of conduct that you would like to see in your team members or organisation by implementing a workplace bullying policy. To learn more about establishing workplace policies, contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH. The policy must be accessible to all business members, and administered consistently to ensure fairness. Bullying behaviour can be minimised if everyone in the business understands the causes and extent of its impact.
Set the standard of conduct
To create a productive and organised work culture, managers and leaders must reflect the standard of behaviour they would like to see in the organisation. A good leadership style will involve good communication with coworkers and mentoring new or underperforming colleagues. This ensures that workers have the resources and advice to carry out their tasks effectively, and discourages an atmosphere that gives rise to bullying behaviours.
Act on bullying behaviours early
If bullying does occur, it is important to act on it quickly and early. This establishes that bullying behaviour will not be accepted and minimises any risk to health and safety.
Sometimes an employee may not be aware that his or her conduct amounts to bullying. For example, social media use. It is important to establish a social media policy that defines the appropriate online behaviour. It can also help to talk to the employee and clarify how the behaviour affects other workers. The conversation can be sensitive and difficult and you may need a member from human resources to undertake the conversation or be present during it.
Promote a positive workplace environment
To create a constructive workplace culture it is important to foster tolerance and respect among co-workers. Bullying behaviour can arise where there is poor organisation, or where roles of employees conflict with one another. It is important to ensure that each employee knows their role and has the appropriate skills by implementing clear employment contracts.
Employees who witness or directly experience bullying in the workplace may feel anxious, angry or unhappy. This can result in poor work performance or low self-esteem. It is important to respond to these signs early on and provide support or seek help.
Implementing workplace anti-discrimination policies or social media use policies will minimise the likelihood of workplace bullying occurring. Find out more about Australian work health and safety on ComCare and the Fair Work Commission website.
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