Scott Morrison’s answer to allegations of bullying has so far been denial and minimisation, yet those accusations keep coming. Our country is losing important politicians who we voted for, to represent us.
It’s extremely unhelpful to say that he is “100 percent confident” that bullying is not a problem in government circles. This statement does little for our Prime Minister’s credibility and our confidence in him as a believable leader.
Clearly there is a huge problem in this workplace.
We’ve heard it all before, worked with all levels of government and understand that politics is a tough place to work. Competition to win seats is the difference between a successful powerful career and loss. It’s not a career for the feint hearted. That doesn’t mean that a total lack of respect for others and bullying is ok. What it does mean is that the success of a politician needs to be on their intelligence, care for their communities and how well they represent their constituents?
Our current concern at interMEDIATE Dispute Management is, what sort of example as an employer, are governments setting as safe and healthy workplaces? It was the Federal Government after all who introduced the Harmonised WHS Regulations in 2014, which outlawed bullying, making it a punishable offense.
What message is the denial and minimizing of workplace bullying allegations sending to our employers and workers about dealing with allegations of bullying in their own workplaces?
Does the denial and minimization of these allegations give the green light to bullying & harassment in other workplaces?
The Golden Opportunity!
This situation is a wonderful opportunity for Mr Morrison to demonstrate to deal with complaints of bullying & harassment appropriately and effectively, benefiting workplaces across Australia.
Managing Director on interMEDIATE Dispute Management, Naomi Holtring, says that all workers have the right to be treated with respect and fairness in their workplace. This leads to greater satisfaction at work, higher levels of health and safety, which flows on to increased productivity.
So what does Scott Morrison need to do now?
She says that firstly, Mr Morrison needs to acknowledge that there truly is a workplace culture problem in government.
Instead of denial and minimisation, he needs to announce that he is taking all reports of bullying very seriously indeed and will order an independent investigation in every reported case. This needs to be done as a matter of urgency, to stop further escalation.
As leader of his party, Mr Morrison is accountable for his workplace culture. He needs to order independent climate studies, to assess the full extent of the problem, including gaining the input of workers into how they have been affected and to suggest the problems can be overcome. The results need to be taken seriously, assessed thoroughly, an effective plan to fix the problem needs to be designed and acted upon accordingly.
Importantly, there needs to be thorough ongoing training of all workers, from the most junior to the Prime Minister himself. All workers need to know how to identify, prevent and manage bullying situations as well as to resolve conflict as soon as it occurs.
Training will help workers resolve bullying issues themselves, whilst they are low level. However, for serious bullying and when workers cannot self-resolve, grievance reports need to be invited and encouraged. Immediate action needs taken to assist the target of bullying, bystanders need to become upstanders and all bullying behaviours must stop. Those who do not stop, need to leave the workplace.
Often workers fear making a report of bullying, fearing career ending repercussions. Managers need to be trained in how to effectively handle reports of bullying & harassment, as well as conflict management.
A confidential Bully Response Hotline can help those who are feeling too nervous to make a report directly, to report their issues and get confidential assistance.
Culture change, including stopping bullying, harassment and unconscious bias etc. are areas which need independent expert assistance. It will be a long term, sustained commitment, to fix a long-term entrenched problem. The success of any program needs to be regularly tested and reviewed so that effective measures can be put in place as necessary.
Just look at the behaviour of our politicians in parliament. It’s not enough to limit culture change to just one party. Every politician needs to be trained in respectful workplace behaviour, and every political environment needs a culture change program.
Imagine the floor of parliament being a respectful environment where robust and stimulating debate is the norm!
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