Workplace bullying is a serious issue that can have harmful consequences for both the victim and the bully. Bullying is a pervasive problem in our schools and workplaces. It can take many forms, from verbal abuse to physical violence. Many people think bullying is only something that happens to kids, but it can also be a problem for adults. It’s important to be able to identify bullying behavior, so that you can take steps to prevent it from happening in your workplace.
In this article, we’ll discuss what bullying is and how you can prevent it in your business. We’ll also provide some resources for dealing with bullying if it does occur.
What is workplace bullying?
Bullying is defined as repeated, unwanted negative actions or comments that are intended to hurt, humiliate, intimidate, or isolate someone. It can take many forms, including physical violence, verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, and social exclusion
While bullying can happen to anyone, there are some groups that are more likely to be targeted. These include people who are perceived as different, such as those of a different race or ethnicity, LGBTIQA+ people, people with disabilities, or those from a lower socio-economic background. Often young workers and apprentices are targeted by bullies.
Bullying is not a new problem, but it has gained increased attention in recent years due to high-profile incidents and the rise of social media. In fact, while in Australia bullying in the workplace have been addressed in anti-discrimination and equal opportunity law for many years, it was only in the past 10 years or so that the issue was specifically identified as a health and safety concern under workplace health and safety legislation. And, it has only been addressed specifically in a new model Code of Practice “Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work” put out by Safe Work Australia in August 2022.
What are some examples of workplace bullying?
Some examples of workplace bullying include:
- Spreading misinformation or rumours
- Verbal abuse, such as name-calling, insults, and put-downs
- Threats or intimidation
- Social exclusion or isolation
- Excessive monitoring or micromanagement
- Public humiliation or ridicule
- Unreasonable work demands or expectations
- Intimidation with respect to job security
- Not giving the correct tools, equipment or training to get the job done
- Making someone do their job in an unsafe way
- Changing someone’s roster or work hours without consultation
- Passing someone over for promotion or training opportunities
- Withholding information allowing for their work to be completed
These are just some examples of workplace bullying. It’s important to remember that bullying can take many forms, and it doesn’t always involve physical violence or threats. Sometimes, the most harmful bullying is subtle and hard to identify.
What is not workplace bullying?
While some workplace bullying can be hard to identify, there are also many things that are not considered workplace bullying such as:
- Reasonable management action undertaken in a reasonable manner in accordance with organisation policy and procedures
- A single incident of unreasonable behaviour that is not repeated
- Isolated incidents of playful banter or mild teasing between work colleagues
- Workplace conflicts that are quickly and appropriately resolved
- Differences of opinion
- Workplace violence
- Unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment
Remember, workplace bullying is defined as repeated, unwanted negative actions or comments that are intended to hurt, humiliate, intimidate, or isolate someone. So, if something is a one-off incident or is not done with the intention of harming someone, it’s not workplace bullying (yet).
How does workplace bullying affect a business?
Workplace bullying can have a detrimental effect on both the victim and the workplace as a whole. Victims of bullying often suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. They may also struggle to concentrate or perform well at work. This can lead to absenteeism, presenteeism (when someone is at work but not productive), and turnover. All of these things can have a negative impact on business productivity and profitability
In addition to the impacts on the individual, bullying can also create a toxic work environment. It can damage morale and lead to increased stress levels for all employees. This can impact productivity and performance, and lead to high staff turnover.
There is also the real costs to business in terms of legal fees and payouts, counselling costs, increased insurance premiums and other associated costs.
It’s important to create a workplace culture where bullying is not tolerated. This starts with management setting the tone and ensuring that all employees feel comfortable reporting any incidents of bullying. It’s also important to have clear policies and procedures in place for dealing with bullying. These should be communicated to all employees, and regularly reviewed and updated.
How does workplace bullying affect an individual?
As we mentioned, workplace bullying can have a detrimental effect on the victim’s mental and physical health. Victims of workplace bullying often suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. They may also struggle to concentrate or perform well at work. This can lead to absenteeism and presenteeism (when someone is at work but not productive) and then them leaving their job for another.
Workplace bullying can also have an impact on the victim’s physical health. Studies have shown that workplace bullying is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and gastrointestinal problems.
Workplace bullying doesn’t just affect someone while they are at work, it will also affect them in their personal life. Victims of workplace bullying often find it hard to relax or enjoy leisure activities. They may also struggle to sleep, and this can lead to further problems such as fatigue and irritability.
In short, workplace bullying can have a profound effect on the entire life of the victim. It’s important to create a workplace safety culture where bullying is not tolerated, and employees feel comfortable reporting any incidents.
What are the signs that someone is being bullied at work?
There are a number of signs that may indicate that someone is being bullied at work. These include:
- Changes in mood or behaviour, such as becoming withdrawn, anxious, or depressed
- Increased absences from work or coming in late/leaving early
- A decline in work quality or performance
- Increased errors or mistakes
- Avoiding certain people or places at work
- Requesting frequent time off
- Loss of confidence or self-esteem
- Unexplained aches and pains
If you are concerned that someone you work with is being bullied, the best thing to do is to talk to them about it. Let them know that you are there for them and offer your support. You can also encourage them to speak to their manager or HR if they feel comfortable doing so.
What are the signs that someone is bullying others at work?
There are a number of signs that may indicate that someone is bullying others at work. These include:
- Aggressive or intimidating behaviour towards others
- Verbal abuse or put-downs
- Unwanted physical contact, such as pushing or shoving
- Threatening behaviour, such as making threats of violence
- Property damage
- Malicious gossip or rumour-mongering
- Exclusion or isolation of others
- Withholding information that is vital for work tasks
- Intimidating body language, such as staring or glaring
- If you are concerned that someone you work with is bullying others, the best thing to do is to talk to them about it. Let them know that their behaviour is not acceptable and offer your support. You can also encourage them to speak to their manager or HR if they feel comfortable doing so. If they continue their behaviour, you should report it to your manager or HR.
What can you do to prevent bullying in your workplace?
There are a number of things you can do to prevent bullying in your workplace
- Encourage a positive and respectful workplace culture. This includes things like having a code of conduct that sets out the standards of behaviour expected of employees.
- Promote open communication and feedback channels. This will give employees the opportunity to speak up if they feel like they are being bullied, without fear of reprisal.
- Invest in training for managers and supervisors. They should be aware of what constitutes bullying, and how to deal with any incidents that may occur.
- Regularly review your policies and procedures. This will ensure they are up to date and relevant, and that employees are aware of them.
- Conduct toolbox talks about bullying
If you suspect that someone is being bullied at work, it’s important to take action. This may involve speaking to the person who is doing the bullying, as well as the person who is being bullied. It’s also important to document any incidents that occur, so that you can keep track of what is happening
This is a serious issue, and it’s important to take action to prevent it in your workplace. By encouraging a positive culture, promoting open communication, and investing in training, you can create a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected.
What does the law say about workplace bullying?
Every state in Australia has specific laws around workplace bullying, so it is best to contact your state regulator to find out the most relevant and up to date information. In general, however, workplace bullying is considered to be a form of unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety. This means that employers have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are not being bullied at work.
However; it’s also important to remember that workers also have a duty of care to take reasonable care that their acts don’t negatively affect the health and safety of others, and to follow reasonable safety requests, documents and training.
Workplace bullying toolbox talks
Because workplace bullying is such a serious issue, it’s important to have regular toolbox talks about it. This will help to raise awareness of what constitutes bullying, and how to deal with any incidents that may occur. Toolbox talks are a great way to engage employees in a discussion about a topic, and can be used to remind employees of your policies and procedures.
When conducting a toolbox talk about workplace bullying, some topics you may want to cover include:
- What is workplace bullying?
- What are the signs of workplace bullying?
- What are the consequences of workplace bullying?
- How can we prevent workplace bullying from happening?
- What should we do if we witness or experience workplace bullying?
When conducting a toolbox talk, it’s important to ensure that all employees are given the opportunity to participate. This may mean dividing employees into groups, or conducting the talk during different shifts. You should also make sure that employees feel comfortable asking questions, and that they know they can speak up if they have any concerns.
If you are unsure of how to conduct a toolbox talk, there are many resources available online, or you could speak to your state regulator for advice. Or you can read our tips for conducting a toolbox talk.
By conducting regulartoolbox talks about workplace bullying, you can help to create a workplace culture where bullying is not tolerated. This will help to ensure that your employees are always aware of your policies and procedures, and that they know what to do if they witness or experience bullying at work.
Conducting regular toolbox talks about workplace bullying will help to create a workplace safety culture where bullying is not tolerated, and employees feel comfortable speaking up if they witness or experience it.
Toolbox talks are also an important way to show inspectors and lawyers that you are managing your obligations as a business owner.
How often should I do workplace bullying toolbox talks?
There is no definitive answer to this question, as it will depend on the needs of your business. However, it is generally recommended that you conduct a toolbox talk on workplace bullying at least once a year. This will help to ensure that employees are always aware of your policies and procedures, and that they know what to do if they witness or experience bullying at work.
Toolbox talks are an important way to raise awareness about workplace bullying, and to remind employees of your policies and procedures. However, it’s also important to remind them that workers have a duty of care to take reasonable care that their acts don’t negatively affect the health and safety of others, and to follow reasonable safety requests.
Keep a record of any workplace bullying training or incidents
It is really important as a business owner to keep records of any workplace bullying training that you conduct, as well as any incidents that occur. This will help you to track what is happening in your workplace, and to identify any trends.
Keeping records will also be useful if you need to take legal action against a bully, or if you are investigated by a regulator. In many cases of prosecution and/or significant fines the business owner had no evidence that they had processes, training or documents to support their claim of a positive culture or managing the issue.
If you have an incident of workplace bullying, make sure you document it by doing the following:
- Speak to the person who witnessed the bullying, and get their account of what happened.
- Speak to the person who was bullied, and get their account of what happened.
- Make a note of any relevant details, such as dates, times, locations, and names of people involved.
- Keep all documentation in a safe place, so that you can refer to it if necessary.
Make sure you investigate all allegations of bullying , and take appropriate action. This may involve disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
Workplace bullying is a serious issue that can have a negative impact on the health and safety of employees. As a business owner, you have a duty of care to ensure that your employees are not being bullied at work.
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