How to beat workplace bullying

Every business has experienced workplace bullying, says Mick Cosgrove of HR and IR services company Rivercity Consulting. And he has a plan to stop it that you can follow.

There are various definitions of workplace bullying, but for those who are uncertain, it can be described simply as “the repeated, less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice.”

Now that I’ve got the definition out of the way I’ll scare you a little more.

There would not be a business in Australia that at some stage has not had a workplace bullying incident.

Examples of bullying consists of behaviour that intimidates, degrades or humiliates, includes abuse of power, isolates and alienates employees, or inappropriate comments about an employee's appearance, work performance or sexual orientation.

With the details of the new Brodie’s Law now public, and enforceable, employers can now no longer afford to dismiss bullying as playful banter between employees.

The cost of “turning a blind eye” or dismissing the heated conversations about personal issues as “nothing to do with the boss”, is unmeasurable.

Now I am sure that most people have seen movies where at some point, someone is bullied.

Unfortunately to the trained eye there is not a movie that goes by that doesn’t contain at least one incident of bullying.

The fallout from this is that bullying now seems to be somewhat of an accepted part of Australian workplace culture.

Now in dealing with workplace bullying it is crucial to remember 3 simple rules.

  1. Never dismiss any complaint.
  2. Never be afraid to intervene.
  3. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Due to the minefield of legislative obligations that are placed on employers it would seem that any sign of anything remotely resembling disharmony or conflict in the workplace would have you reaching for the panic button right? Well this is simply not the case.

There are a number of simple processes that a business can put in place to minimise the incidents of bullying, and to give them a solid basis from which to deal with any issues that may arise. Such a plan should:

  1. Ensure that all existing, and new employees, are made aware that bullying and harassment is not acceptable, and that there is consequences for their actions should they participate in bullying and harassment incidents.
  2. Ensure that all existing, and new employees, are made aware that at any time they feel as though they have been a victim of tactics that they themselves feel fit the above criteria, then your door, and ears, are always open.
  3. Seek professional independent third party advice before proceeding with any interventions.

The key to effectively dealing with any incident is choosing the right intervention.

Choosing the wrong one could lead you up that other garden path, or up that creek without a paddle.

Bullying in the workplace is not a new behaviour, but it is now widely recognised as being an unacceptable behaviour.

The bullying behaviour may be a result of a number of factors, all of which must be taken into account when dealing with it, and always deal with the issue as being not only an individual, but a workplace issue.

Michael Cosgrove is the Director of Rivercity Consulting a company that provides Human Resources and Industrial Relations services.

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