At the very least, bullied workers are unable to perform at their best, and productivity suffers.
Bullied workers who are not provided appropriate assistance by their workplace often suffer mental health issues, and take extended time off. The employer may find themselves involved in WorkCover complaints, expensive insurance claims and increasing insurance premiums.
- Not responding to a complaint of bullying in a timely manner
Most workplace bullying goes unreported. When a worker complains of workplace bullying, they have usually suffered for some time and have felt very tentative about making the complaint and asking for help. Bullying, by its very nature repeats, although it can be a once off incident. It is likely to get worse, and can do so very quickly.
If the worker making the allegation feels they are not being assisted, they may believe their concerns are not being taken seriously and that their employer does not care about their health and safety. The bullied worker may even take retaliatory action and start planning their response with external service providers such as unions, Fair Work Australia, lawyers or police.
- Telling a worker who complains of bullying to let you know if it gets worse – hoping it will resolve itself
Deflecting complaints of bullying is negligence. Workplace Health and Safety is the responsibility of all workers. If you are a manager your responsibility is even greater. All complaints of bullying must be taken seriously, and handled effectively.
- Discouraging complaints of bullying
Some managers, warn workers who are making a bullying complaint, that the details will go on their file, and won’t look good for their future career progression, and ask if that’s what they really want to happen. This is negligence and can lead to far bigger issues for the bullied worker and for the organisation.
- Not believing the complaint or taking it seriously
Bullies are often very clever, and their tactics will often not be obvious to management. To management they appear to get things done. When complaints are made about them they are likely to question the validity of the complaint.
Every complaint must be taken seriously and handled effectively – this may best be done by independent professionals who specialise in the area of workplace bullying complaints.
- Telling the worker who complains of bullying, to sort it out themselves
Whilst it can be possible for some people to speak up to a bully, those who have been emotionally impacted by bullying, often cannot speak up effectively.
You can ask them if they may be able to speak directly to the person who is allegedly bullying them, and coach them to do so, if they seem capable, if it is appropriate and safe to do so. Be prepared to handle the complaint using local level resolution, if it is low level bullying. If it is a very serious complaint, you will need to keep the workers apart, separate their work stations or shifts to prevent escalation, whilst you investigate quickly (should be done within 72 hours).
- Protecting an alleged bully
Is the alleged bully a protected species? Perhaps they are very senior, hold a position of reverence or are a top performer in sales etc. Bullying is not a management style, nor is it acceptable from top performers. There is never an excuse for bullying and every worker, regardless of their position, must respectful of others and be held accountable for their actions.
Education for all workers at all levels, from the CEO to the most junior, is imperative and readily provided on line or face to face to a large or small workforce group or individual basis. Consequences for bullying must be known. Those who do not stop bullying, must leave the organisation.
- Investigating the complainant
Complaints of bullying highlight a problem in the organisation. The worker making the complaint should be thanked for bringing issues to the attention of management, not regarded as the problem. When management investigates the person making the complaint, they are likely to be escalating the bullying.
Proper handling of the situation, following effective policy and procedures is vital.
Every organisation requires policies and procedures for effective handling of complaints of workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination. Managers who receive complaints need to be properly educated, and trained so that their workers are protected. They need to become skilled to prevent harm to their workers and mitigate risks for their workplace.
Unless there is education and effective training to help workers to Identify, Prevent and Manage Workplace Bullying and Harassment, most workers will not recognise the overt and covert actions of bullying from the clever bully – whether they are a target, a bully or a bystander.
It is known that education about the legalities, policies, procedures and codes of conduct alone, do not stop bullying, harassment and discrimination. Employees have made it very clear that it sometimes is very boring, detailed and easily forgotten. Education and specific bespoke training which promotes behavioural change, personal responsibility and resilience will help keep your workers safe, your organisation productive and mitigate your risks of expensive litigation.
interMEDIATE Dispute Management can transform your current training with our How to Identify, Prevent and Manage Workplace Bullying and Harassment program to become efficient and effective in improving your workplace culture and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
For more information contact us now to discuss your specific workplace needs and arrange a complimentary Initial Assessment meeting.