Workplace bullying and harassment costs the Australian economy over 10 billion dollars per year. And this amount does not even include the hidden costs, such as hiring and training employees to replace those who left as a result of workplace psychological injuries.
Bullying isn’t an issue that can be ignored by employers, the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. Workplace bullying is becoming one of the major social issues in Australia, with the number of claims and enquiries doubling in the last twelve months as reported by the personal injury law firm Trilby Misso in Queensland.
In 2008, a scientific study lead by Dr Judy Fisher-Blando, American expert in Workplace Bullying, determined that almost 75 per cent of US workers have been affected by workplace bullying, either as the bullied or as a witness to abusive behaviours towards a colleague.
In Australia, even though each state has its own legislation, The Productivity Commission reported that 2.5 million Australian workers, 23 per cent of the current workforce, have experienced some aspect of bullying during their working life.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, women are at greater risk to become the target than men, who are more likely to participate in violent bullying behaviour. However, when the bully is a woman, it is more likely for her target to be a woman as well.
As an employer, you are accountable for your staff health, wellness and safety and have the responsibility to take proactive steps to help preventing, recognising, assessing, and controlling workplace hazards, such as bullying behaviours.
There are a few actions you can take to prevent such behaviours in your workplace while decreasing the corporate health costs and increasing your productivity:
Step 1. Make sure you have a workplace bullying policy in place. Such a policy should be available and applicable to all staff, should be part of the induction program, and should be reviewed periodically.
Step 2. Obtain commitment from senior managers and leaders to help implementing and improving preventive procedures and policies.
Step 3. Increase your staff awareness through appropriate training, to leaders, managers and employees. The training program should include information on what is bullying; how to recognise it; why it is not acceptable in the workplace; what are managers’ and employees’ responsibilities; what actions to take as a manager and as an employee; and who to contact if extra support is needed. Some organisations also include, as part of their training program, a few cases study and role plays based on real life bullying cases.
Step 4. Provide internal and external support to employees, such as Employee Assistance Program, external professional mediation, telephone help lines, peer support programs, communication committees and Human Resources contacts.
Step 5. Undertake regular and ongoing risk assessments, that include but are not limited to launching an anonymous employee climate survey; monitoring performance management processes and 360 degrees feedback; carefully listing to feedback from your staff and managers; reviewing feedback from exit interviews and focus groups.
Step 6. Constantly evaluate and review the strategies and plans in place. By reviewing your strategies in preventing incidence of workplace bullying, and by adjusting them to make sure they are tailored to your organisation needs, you prevent workplace bullying from recurring.
For more information on preventing bullying in the workplace, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888) or contact us.