Bullying is a serious issue in workplaces across Australia and a risk factor for anxiety, depression and suicide.
While we often think about bullying as an individual or interpersonal issue, beyondblue research (PDF) shows that broader environmental factors, such as poor organisational culture or a lack of leadership, are in fact the main drivers.
The most effective way to stamp out bullying is to stop it before it starts. This means creating a strong, consistent approach to prevent inappropriate behaviour from escalating, and a positive, respectful work culture where bullying is not tolerated.
However, strategies to manage workplace bullying, in case it does occur, should also be developed so the behaviour can be dealt with quickly and effectively.
- Manage workplace stress and risks: Poorly defined roles and systems of work are a risk factor for bullying. Ensuring your employees understand their roles and have the appropriate skills and resources to do their job helps to reduce issues and conflict that could lead to bullying.
- Promote positive leadership styles by training managers and supervisors in communicating effectively and engaging staff in decision-making.
- Educate all staff about bullying behaviour, so they understand what appropriate and inappropriate behaviours are. Empower staff to identify the source of any bullying and act promptly to resolve issues.
- Create or improve policies and protocols around workplace bullying, setting a zero-tolerance approach. Check out Safe Work Australia's workplace bullying policy (DOCX) to give you some ideas, or use Comcare’s bullying policy checklist to help identify any areas for improvement to your current bullying policy.
- Implement confidential reporting and response procedures for when bullying occurs, treating all matters seriously. Ensure policies and procedures protect anyone who reports or witnesses workplace bullying from victimisation. Ensure you communicate the policies and procedures to staff so they know where to go and what to do.
Further reading and resources